The pressure on the PGA Tour just got ramped up.
This week’s stop, the FedEx St. Jude Championship being held at TPC Southwind in Memphis, TN, is the first stop in the FedEx Cup playoffs’ three-week run.
The 70 players teeing it up this week accomplished the first goal simply by getting into the field.
Now comes the tough part for most of the players: Playing well enough to be in the top 50 in the FedEx Cup standings come Sunday afternoon and moving on to round two.
It sounds simple enough, but now with just 70 players in the field, all of a sudden the caliber of play has gone sky-high.
And so will the point totals as the winner this week receives 2,000 FedEx Cup points, which is quadruple the usual 500 points for a normal PGA Tour event.
There will also be 2,000 points available for next week’s winner at the BMW Championship but that’s where the points race finishes.
In the finale, the top 30 players will then battle it out for that bonus cash available. No FedEx Cup points will be on the line.
All told, there’s $75 million up for grabs during the playoff run.
One more thing to remember is that after the Tour Championship finale, the PGA Tour reverts back to a calendar-year battle rather than the wraparound season that has been played the last few years.
That means players in the seven tournaments in the fall portion of this year won’t receive FedEx Cup points.
But, there’s still plenty of incentive for players to win during these events as the champions of each of those tournaments will be eligible for the 2024 Tournament of Champions in Maui.
They will also get the first-place prize money along with the usual two-year exemption on the PGA Tour.
That’s still a lot to play for but before we get to that point, let’s check out this week’s playoff opener and try to figure out which players will make the biggest moves as the season winds down.
Read more: FedEx Cup playoffs odds and predictions
Odds to Win FedEx St. Jude Championship
There Won’t Be a Repeat Champion This Year
Will Zalatoris, who won last year’s St. Jude event in a playoff over Sepp Straka, is still dealing with back woes and won’t be in the field.
That opens the floodgates for a lot of players to step in and win this title.
While the Tour’s top players — Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, and Rory McIlroy — are in the field, we are going to back just one of them as our second pick. And we’re making that pick because that player has two axes to grind. More on that in a minute.
The reasoning is simple. As the top players, they have enough FedEx Cup points to ensure they will be playing all the way to the finale.
That doesn’t mean they won’t win. It just means there are other players in the field, particularly those in the 50-70 range of the standings, that need a win — or at least a great finish — to be able to keep their season going.
And with 2,000 points on the line for the winner… anything can happen.
We’re Going to Back the Man on the Move
The top three players at the top are a given year in and year out.
But the guy who is sixth in the FedEx Cup points race, Brian Harman, came out of nowhere and now is looking at a career year.
At +4500 this week, he’s way down the odds list but that really piques our interest.
Add in the fact he’s coming in hot after a more-than-impressive win at the Open Championship, and there’s no doubt his mindset and game are in a great place.
One more note that is a huge plus for Harman’s chances this week is he was T-3 here last year.
He wound up making it to East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta last year and he’s going to make it back there again — this time much higher in the points standings.
Picking One of the Favorites
It’s tough to admit, but Scottie Scheffler, at +750 this week, has something to prove.
Actually, two somethings to prove.
In his last 11 events, he’s posted eight finishes in the top five. And right before that stretch came his last win as he won the WM Phoenix Open in February.
All that being said, the reason we feel like he’s got something to prove is he missed the cut in last year’s playoff opener right here.
We don’t feel like a missed cut has any chance of happening again and he’s going to want to move back into that top spot in the FedEx Cup points race (he’s currently right behind Rahm) with just two events remaining.
A win and 2,000 points does just that.
Around the Props Scene
We’re going to go with a pair of top-10 finishers this week using Caesars‘ odds.
The first one is Jason Day at +275.
Day is back… at times. He’s coming into this week’s tournament off a T-2 at the Open Championship. He also won earlier this spring at the AT&T Byron Nelson.
But, in between those top finishes, are three missed cuts.
It’s feast or famine for Day and we think with the pressure of the playoffs, he will step up and seize the moment.
Right behind him is Straka at +300.
He lost in the playoff last year to Zalatoris so he’s comfortable on this course.
He’s also coming in off hot-and-cold events. He won the John Deere event in early August and followed that up with a T-2 at the Open Championship.
But in his most recent outing, he missed the cut in the 3M Open.
We’ll see which Straka shows up at the playoff opener.