The World Golf Championship St Jude Invitational: Punter’s pointers

The third WGC event of the year returns to TPC Southwind in Tennessee.

Once a slightly unlikely prep for the US Open, two years ago what was the St Jude Classic at TPC Southwind became the World Golf Championship St Jude Invitational and moved into a post-Major Championship slot.

It replaced the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone CC and the move was perhaps not especially popular among punters.

That event, and the course, were well-liked and, while the annual visit to Southwind also was, it had the reputation as being something of an opportunity for the PGA Tour's journeymen rather than its finest performers.

Indeed, 10 years ago Harrison Frazar won there and he was succeeded by Fabian Gomez.

But the WGC era has not disappointed. Brooks Koepka prevailed over Rory McIlroy in the first edition in 2019, then Justin Thomas pushed the defending champion, Phil Mickelson, and course specialist Daniel Berger into a share for second 12 months ago.

What's in store this week? Let's take a closer look.

Olympic hangover?

How will Xander Schauffele deal with the highs of last week's Olympic triumph?

Tour golfers are remarkably adept at coping with the vagaries of long haul flights, crossing time zones, and just dealing with the business of recovering from a week of emotional, mental and physical stress.

But last week in Tokyo will have been unlike anything Schauffele has experienced. He was pumped to win the tournament for his father and his grandparents. He was also determined to succeed for himself.

To achieve it he went right through the physical and mental mill, but the emotional spend might have been even greater.

He needed to make par at the 72nd hole and after completing it, via the rough, a hack out and a courageous long-distance up and down, he didn't hide from the realities of what he went through.

"I usually look very calm but there's something terrible happening inside at times," he admitted. "I was able to learn from those moments when I've lost coming down the stretch.

"Just in shock now and very relieved. Hit a terrible drive on 18, had to make a sort of sloppy par. But, man, it was stressful. Making that putt was just a huge weight lifted off my shoulders."

He's a relentlessly reliable performer, but it would be entirely understandable if the efforts of last week, allied to the extra attention that he'll be dealing with this week, prompt a rather less intense performance in Tennessee.

DJ chasing win #3

How often is Dustin Johnson the seventh favourite?

Moreover, how often would you expect to see that on a course where he has two wins?

Valid questions because that's the exact situation this week.

On the one hand it makes absolute sense because the man who started the season as the World No. 1 clearly lost his way in the early part of the year, going seven appearances without a top 10 finish.

But he was tied eighth at the Open two starts ago and before that was bang in the hunt at either the 35 or 54 hole stage in three consecutive events.

If he's simmering this week gives him a great opportunity to come to the boil.

Not only is it track he likes, it's also true that four of the top six in the betting are returning from the Olympics. They might have their eye off the ball.

Triple Berger

Daniel Berger really likes TPC Southwind.

He won there on his debut in 2016 then successfully defended the title in 2017. True, he couldn't complete the three-peat in 2018, but the next time he visited, 12 months ago, he finished second.

The stats rubber-stamp the idea that the course fits his eye: he ranked first for Strokes gained Tee to Green in his pair of victories and then eighth last year.

He's also recorded 14 top 10 finishes in the last two calendar years, an improvement in form he credits with an improved scrambling game.

Two of those efforts have come in his last three starts, at the US Open and Open.

So he's bang in form and on a course he loves.

"I like everything about it," he said in 2017. "It really just fits my eye. The grass is the same grass I grew up on playing in south Florida and the greens are perfect.

"When you get perfect Bermuda and people are worried about grain, this is 15 years that I've putted on this stuff. These players that have played out here for many years, it feels like I'm more of a veteran out on these particular greens."

The WGC link

Billy Horschel is probably a frustrated golfer right now.

He had his heart set on making a Ryder Cup debut later this season and when he finished second in the WGC Workday Championship, then added victory in the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play, that seemed a real possibility.

But for some reason he has never got along with Major Championship golf.

In 32 career starts in them he has landed just one top 10 finish and even that came in just his second appearance way back in 2013. This year he made three cuts, but recorded just one top 50 and his best was a mere T23rd.

His only remaining Ryder Cup hope is for a great week here and then an exceptional month at the FedExCup PlayOffs.

He's won the latter so it's not entirely out of the question and no-one has played the WGC better than him this year.

So what of his record at TPC Southwind? More good news: he's landed five top 10 finishes in his last seven starts there.

READ MORE: Olympic title secured but can Xander Schauffele win a Major in 2022?

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