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The PGA TOUR heads to TPC Southwind this week for a no cut, WGC Invitational featuring a great majority of the top 50 players in the world with a field of just 78 players. The most notable exception is Tiger Woods who chose to rest up for the major next week at Harding Park.
This will be the second year in a row that TPC Southwind has hosted this event, after the prior versions were held at Firestone CC (important note if looking at past results of this WGC, only 2019 applies to TPC Southwind).
Brooks Koepka will come in looking to defend last year’s title as he took the lead from Rory McIlroy in Sunday’s final pairing, with a bogey-free 65 to ultimately cruise to a 3-shot victory. In this article, we will take a look at the course, some key stats to target, and the players who have strong course history at TPC Southwind.
TPC Southwind has been a host to events on the PGA TOUR dating back to 1989. Over the years, it has hosted tournaments from the Memphis Open to the FedEx St. Jude Classic, and as mentioned, it is now in its second year holding the FedEx St. Jude Invitational as part of the WGC.
The course is a 7,277 yard Par 70 with 2 Par 5s, 14 Par 4s and 4 Par 3s. The Par 5s, holes 3 and 16, were the two easiest courses on the course in 2019 each playing under par. The 16th saw a 48.9% birdie rate last year with a 3.2% eagle rate and only 5.4% bogeys. Scoring on both of these holes will be imperative to the success of players throughout the week.
All of the other holes on the back nine played over par in 2019, and only 4 other holes on the course played under par. Even with those seemingly tough scoring numbers, Koepka finished 16-under beating Webb Simpson by three shots with Marc Leishman one back of him in third and a tie for fourth between Tommy Fleetwood, Matthew Fitzpatrick and McIlroy at 11-under.
Looking back through the years prior to the WGC version of this event, winners ranged from 9- to 19-under-par, so the course seemed to play fairly similar last year. The main protection of the course is wind and water, as the rough is not much of a factor.
Most years, TPC Southwind sets the pace on tour for the most water balls, with holes 12 and 18 accounting for the majority of that damage. The keys this week will be to take advantage of the easier holes and Par 5s, while avoiding damage and big numbers in other spots.
Hitting fairways has proven to be both difficult and extremely important at these tournaments in Memphis each year. Length can certainly be helpful, if you are on dry land — as we’ve seen with the final grouping of Brooks and Rory last year, and 2018 champion Dustin Johnson — but hitting fairways has also kept players like Andrew Putnam and Fitzpatrick in contention in past years.
Either way, you must be spot on with your iron game in order to score around TPC Southwind, as Strokes Gained: Approach consistently ranks as the most important statistic on this course. The players will be hitting their approaches into small, Bermuda greens, and finding the surface in regulation consistently will allow for better scoring.
Birdies are available but as noted, big numbers are lurking on the course as well. I will certainly factor in both Birdie or Better % and Bogey Avoidance, in my models this week. Lastly, Strokes Gained: Par 4 can be a separating factor on the scoring side with 14 of the 18 holes being Par 4s.
This is a week where I will weigh the scoring statistics a little heavier because you are guaranteed to get four rounds from all of your players (unless Oosty forgot his mattress, or there are more back issues for DJ) making the ability to post birdies, find streaks or bogey free rounds even more important for DFS scoring than usual.
Key metrics: Strokes Gained: Ball Striking, Strokes Gained: Approach, Birdie or Better%, Bogey Avoidance, Strokes Gained: Par 4.
When this tournament played as a standard stop on the PGA TOUR schedule, several of the big names would skip the event, but there are a few players who appear to like this course quite a bit, none more than my first horse for the course.
Daniel Berger $9,600 DK/$10,500 FD
Prior to a wrist injury that derailed what was a promising start to Daniel Berger’s career, he won back to back FedEx St. Jude tournaments in 2016 and 2017 at TPC Southwind. It certainly helps now that Berger seems back into that great form posting top-10 finishes in five of the past six events including a win at the Charles Schwab to kickoff the PGA TOUR restart in June. There isn’t much available for DFS ownership right now, but I expect him to be popular, especially on FanDuel where he is a little further down the board in pricing.
Dustin Johnson $9,300 DK/$10,300 FD
This is where I note that this portion of the article is intended to point out players who have done well on this course, rather than suggesting them as plays on either site. DJ has two wins here — in 2012 and more recently in 2018 — where he cleared the field by six shots. He finished 20th at this WGC last year.
That being said, he has shot 80-80 and 78 in his past three rounds, which included a missed cut at The Memorial and a withdrawal due to back issues at last week’s 3M Open. Clearly something has been off since his win at the Travelers, but if you have the stomach to click it, you should get low ownership and four rounds on a player who knows this course and historically plays well on it. Even still, I doubt I will do it.
Brooks Koepka $9,200 DK/$10,700
See above under Johnson, Dustin regarding the purpose of this portion of the write-up. Brooks has similar form issues to DJ where he has missed two of the past three cuts, with a 62nd sandwiched in between. As mentioned, he won the 2019 version of this WGC at TPC Southwind by three shots and also has a runner-up finish to Berger in 2016 and a third at the 2015 St. Jude. The course clearly fits his eye and he should come in under-owned despite this course form, especially on FanDuel where he is higher priced.
Phil Mickelson $6,600/$8,100
We can drop way down the pricing board for the last course horse. Obviously, this is a different version of Phil than prior years as he’s gotten older, focused more on his calves, “hitting bombs”, and has some strange putting drills, but he still has an impressive resume at TPC Southwind.
Dating back to the 2013 St. Jude he has the following finishes in sequential order second, 11th, third, second, ninth, and 12th before a 57th at last year’s WGC. Phil can still score enough to be relevant, especially at this DraftKings price, and he gets four rounds guaranteed at a course he clearly likes. You could certainly do worse than a flyer on Phil here.
Pictured above: Dustin Johnson
Photo credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images