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This is fun. After connecting on Jhonattan Vegas at the 3M Open, Sepp Straka was able to follow suit at the Olympics with a hefty price tag of +10000. We now shift our attention to the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational where a similar strategy may be prudent as we go for our third straight first-round leader selection.
With only 66 players in the field at TPC Southwind, the first-round leader market at Points Bet Sportsbook is extremely bunched as half of the field comes in at +5000 or below. As such, we’ll keep the same thought process that led us to success at the Olympics where we targeted those players a bit further down the odds board.
At just about 7,200 yards, TPC Southwind plays host this week and has long been a staple on the PGA Tour. Just recently has it taken the guise of a World Golf Championship as it continues to produce quality winner after quality winner.
One of the more difficult stops on Tour, trouble lurks around every corner as numerous penalty areas present themselves. Not only do these have the potential to derail a player’s round, but also our first-round wagers. As such, keeping the ball in the short grass, and ball-striking as a whole, is paramount as you can infer from the previous first-round leaders.
In only two years, two elites have shot out of the gates on Thursday, with Jon Rahm firing an 8-under 62 in 2019 and Brooks Koepka doing the same in 2020. That doesn’t bode well for us as we tend to stay away from players of their caliber, but I am hopeful we can find someone to buck this trend.
Gold medalist, Xander Schauffele, leads the way in the first-round leader market at +1800 at Points Bet. He is followed close behind by Brooks Koepka at +2000, who in two WGC events at TPC Southwind has only lost to one person, that being Justin Thomas last year.
Odds to Lead After the First-Round (Odds Via PointsBet):
+1800: Xander Schauffele
+2200: Dustin Johnson
+2500: Louis Oosthuizen
To Lead After the First-Round (Odds Via PointsBet):
Sergio Garcia (+5000):
Garcia has found his way into this article once again and it’s not without good reason. The Spaniard put together a ball-striking clinic in Minnesota, yet it was a faulty putter that held him back, losing north of seven-strokes on the greens for the week. While a performance like that is hardly something I am eager to back, for the purposes of a single round, I’ll be able to stomach it.
All I know is if he carries that tee-to-green prowess to Memphis, in all likelihood he’ll get off to a fast start. Garcia has done a great job recently of avoiding those big numbers, especially when it comes to the first-round. This is evidenced by his last four first-round performances here in the United States as they read 70-71-63-65.
That should translate to success at TPC Southwind as Garcia is one of the best drivers of the golf ball of the last decade. In two outings at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, he’s been able to break par on both Thursdays with rounds of 69 in 2019 and 67 in 2020. This provides me enough hope that Garcia’s putter may be up to the challenge, at least in the first-round.
Garrick Higgo (+8000):
The lone Olympian that I’ll be going to the well with is Higgo. Truth be told, Tokyo was ugly for the young South African as he lost –10.03 Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. Chalk it up to nerves or extended travel, whatever it may be, I’m hoping Higgo will shake off such an outlier of a performance as he makes his WGC-FedEx St. Jude debut.
Unlike Garcia, Higgo is prone to mistakes, but he makes up for it with his ability to convert his birdie opportunities. While the ball-striking was less than ideal in the Olympics, it has held its own when teeing it up on the PGA Tour, and even more so in the first-round alone.
At the Palmetto Championship, Higgo posted +4.9 SG: Ball-Striking in Round 1. He then posted +1.5 SG: Ball-Striking at the U.S. Open and +3.2 SG: Ball-Striking at the Travelers Championship. While the putter let him down in two of those first-rounds, that area of Higgo’s game was actually the lone bright spot of his Olympics, having gained 2.29 strokes on the greens of Kasumigaseki Country Club.
Max Homa (+8000):
Hand up, I probably back Homa a bit too much, but he’s proven he can compete with the world’s best. Victories in big-time events like the Wells Fargo Championship and the Genesis Invitational aren’t by accident. While his summer has been extremely volatile, he has shown that when he is firing on all cylinders, he can go plenty low.
A quote from Jim “Bones” MacKay always creeps into the back of my mind when discussing Homa. When he was on his bag at the PGA Championship, he was adamant that Homa was a top-10 ball-striker on the PGA Tour. The facts back Bones’ sentiment, and even more so in the first-round, as the two-time PGA Tour winner ranks second on approach over the last two months in Round 1 alone.
The issues with Homa arise as he progress closer to the green. The short-game has been holding him back over the past couple of months, but he may have turned the corner with his chipping at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. If that’s proves to be true, he’s just strong putting performance away from a quality showing in the first-round.
Martin Laird (+10000):
This may be where I lose some of you, but Laird’s ball-striking over the past three months has actually been quite good. Dating back to the PGA Championship, where he posted +11.7 SG: Approach, Laird has only lost strokes with his irons once.
While the putter has been uncooperative, he’s now posted positive results on the greens in his last two first-rounds. Making his fifth appearance at TPC Southwind this week, Laird has gained with the flat stick in his previous four outings in Memphis. If he can repeat such a performance on Thursday, the Scot could find himself with the early lead.
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Robert Streb (+12500):
Outside of his victory in November at the RSM Classic in Sea Island, it’s been a forgettable season for Streb. With zero top-10 finishes and only two top-20's to his name, this one may come as a bit of a shocker, especially when considering the strength of this field.
Yet three-fourths of his game appear to be in a good enough spot, with his approach play lacking. However, that is of no fault to his play in Round 1 as he has now posted positive results with the irons in three out of his last four first-rounds. Not only that, but Streb has shown an ability to play the par-4's better than most. Playing to a par-70 that should serve him well at TPC Southwind.
Jim Herman (+15000):
We are officially at the bottom of the barrel as Herman checks in with the longest odds to lead after the first-round. In a limited field, I figure it’s worth a small investment, given the fact that Herman is playing some of the most consistent golf of his career. Having made four consecutive cuts and connecting for top-30 finishes in each of them, Herman’s ball-striking has been great.
With performances of +4.7, +4.3, and +6.8 SG: Ball-Striking in his last three tournaments, the only thing holding Herman back has been his play from around-the-green. While that appears to be his bugaboo for a full-tournament, on Thursdays it’s been competent, as he has gained strokes in said category in three of his last four first-rounds. If that continues this week, the putter has been more than cooperative as of late, making Herman worthy of your Round 1 considerations.
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