This was to have been the week of the tournament for the Summer Olympics in Japan, but Justin Rose's chance to defend the gold medal was tabled until 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In its stead is an appropriate gathering for the aptly titled World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.
Seventy-eight golfers representing 19 countries from six continents will be competing in the traditional 72-hole, stroke-play competition. For just the second year, TPC Southwind will play host. There is no cut.
For a review of how the familiar course challenged in its first spin for the WGC, what this week's field should expect and more, scroll past the extended list of projected contenders.
POWER RANKINGS: WGC-FEDEX ST. JUDE INVITATIONAL
RANK PLAYER COMMENT 20 Michael Thompson 19 Matthew Wolff 18 Patrick Reed 17 Tommy Fleetwood 16 Ian Poulter 15 Billy Horschel 14 Tony Finau 13 Jason Day 12 Viktor Hovland 11 Rory McIlroy 10 Collin Morikawa 9 Matthew Fitzpatrick 8 Xander Schauffele 7 Patrick Cantlay 6 Daniel Berger 5 Webb Simpson 4 Tyrrell Hatton 3 Bryson DeChambeau 2 Jon Rahm 1 Justin Thomas
Tuesday's Fantasy Insider will include reviews of defending champion Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Gary Woodland, Rickie Fowler, Marc Leishman, Henrik Stenson and other notables.
In part to ensure proper depth for the tournament during this unprecedented time, the field for the WGC-St. Jude was increased to 78 during the hiatus. Coincidentally, 63 automatic qualifiers were committed as of midday Monday. That matches the field of last year's pre-pandemic edition without the field-expanding initiative.
Shugo Imahira, Francesco Molinari, Thomas Pieters, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Lee Westwood and Tiger Woods all passed on spots for various reasons, so 15 golfers from outside the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking on July 20 gained entry in order of position. (A similar accommodation was introduced at the 2019 WGC-Mexico Championship so that its field was 72 deep.)
In its debut as host of the WGC-St. Jude a year ago, TPC Southwind surrendered a scoring average of 69.504. It never scored that low as the site of the FedEx St. Jude Classic (1989-2018). It's been a stock par 70 since 2005.
As directly proportional to the bump in talent that the scoring average reflected, improvements in fairways hit, greens in regulation, average distance of putts made, putting: birdie-or-better percentage, par-4 scoring and par-5 scoring were noticeable. Although it yields low scores, TPC Southwind remains a complete test, which is to say that it reveals who's on his game against the best competition.
Distance off the tee is a bonus, not a prerequisite. New tees at the par-5 third hole and par-4 17th have stretched those holes by 25 and 15 yards, respectively, but overall length of TPC Southwind remains a gettable 7,277 yards. Those are not insignificant changes, but the bulk of what's different this year are the bunkers. Each was renovated and/or moved for strategic defense purposes. Champion bermudagrass greens are dialed to roll 12 feet on the Stimpmeter.
It's the middle of the summer and this is warm and sticky Memphis, so rain and storms are all but guaranteed to impact any four-day event. The WGC-St. Jude is no exception as an elevated threat of inclement weather greets the field on Thursday. It tapers into the weekend, but it doesn't disappear. Winds could be gusty with the greatest energy in the air.
Whoever survives the elements and the broader field will earn 550 FedExCup points and a three-year PGA TOUR membership exemption.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
TUESDAY*: Power Rankings (Barracuda), Sleepers (WGC-St. Jude), Fantasy Insider
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.