Johnson, Koepka, Day face potential million dollar shootout
July 24, 2019
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Inside the PGA TOUR
WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational preview
Jason Day expects he’ll be praising Brooks Koepka’s layup game as the pair get closer to the par-5 16th at TPC Southwind this week.
The 530-yard hole will be a pivotal one in the World Golf Championships – FedEx St. Jude Invitational, but also doubles as the site for a potential $1 million showdown.
The pair are in a battle with Dustin Johnson, and potentially a few others, for the season long Aon Risk Reward Challenge – worth $1 million to the winner.
Paired with Day over the opening two rounds, Koepka laughed that he won’t fall for the Australian’s reverse psychology and has his driver, along with his verbal jab game, warmed up if he needs it.
While Ian Poulter, Jason Kokrak, Justin Thomas, Alex Noren, Gary Woodland and Cameron Smith all have mathematical chances of winning over this week and next, the odds suggest a three-man showdown in Memphis.
The Aon Risk Reward Challenge has seen players on the PGA TOUR (and LPGA Tour) record their best two scores on the designated hole of the week throughout the season and an average-to-par calculated.
Players must have played 40 rounds at the eligible events to qualify, a feat Day and Koepka have already achieved, while Johnson will hit that mark this week.
As it stands, all three are tied at the top, with an average of exactly 1-under par.
If they make at least two birdies in their four rounds on the 16th hole this week, their average will stay on that mark. If either of them can make an eagle and a birdie as their best two scores, or perhaps even two eagles, they’d go a long way to securing the title.
None of the three have committed to the Wyndham Championship next week, meaning this is their last chance to improve their average unless they join the field in Greensboro by Friday afternoon.
Those behind would need to play exceptionally well on the 16th this week, and again at Sedgefield Country Club’s par-5 15th next week to track them down.
While the birdie average over the entire season has been impressive by the trio, they have a better score in mind this week. The dogleg left 16th is certainly reachable in two in Memphis.
“I think I’ll need at least one eagle and a birdie to get it done and to have four cracks at it is nice. I’m definitely thinking about it,” Day said.
“The reality is I just have to put it to one side though and execute some good shots. In the last month or two I noticed I was leading and paid more attention to it.”
Playing for $1 million on a hole is not something taken lightly by Day. His first golf club came from a landfill, and he often had to bathe with water heated by kettle in his childhood. His mother infamously cut the lawn with scissors, as they couldn’t afford a lawnmower.
“It’s amazing the opportunities we get on the PGA TOUR and I am extremely grateful,” Day added.
“It should create some good banter between Brooks and I in the opening few rounds, and I’ll be watching DJ for sure also.”
Koepka, the FedExCup leader, is deep in a battle to win the $2 million season-long Wyndham Rewards battle also, and as such, promises to be switched on mentally. But he expects the 16th will provide some light-hearted moments.
“I'm sure if myself or Jason makes eagle, I'm sure it will ring in the other person's head,” Koepka said.
“Anytime you can get a little bit of jabbing going on on the course where it's lighthearted, it makes it fun, it makes it enjoyable. I like to be jabbed on the course, poked fun of, whether it be a bad shot, great shot, whatever. So it's fun. Jason's a good dude, he can laugh and joke and have a good time and that's what you want.”
Should there be a tie at the top, a tie-breaker scenario would be imposed. Only the rounds where the players played in the same tournament would be taken into consideration in the tiebreaker.