The PGA Tour and European Tour travel to Memphis this week for the first World Golf Championship since the season restart, the WGC – FedEx St. Jude Invitational at TPC Southwind.
Seventeen of the world’s top 20 golfers are in the field including newly crowned World No.1 and current Race to Dubai and DP World Tour Championship winner, Jon Rahm.
Last year’s Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Award winner, Robert MacIntyre, makes his first appearance since the restart while Sebastian Soderberg, who defeated Rory McIlroy and four others in a play-off to win the 2019 Omega European Masters, features in a WGC event for the first time.
Here we take a look at some players who could challenge for one of the game’s biggest prizes outside the Majors.
The Englishman has been in fine form since he returned to action following wrist surgery late last year. In his four events since the operation he has not finished outside the top six, with a T6 at the WGC – Mexico Championship in February before earning his first PGA Tour triumph at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Then, after the PGA Tour’s restart in June, the 28 year old came close to winning in consecutive starts after a T3 finish at the RBC Heritage before a T4 at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, which moved him up to 14th in the Official World Golf Ranking. Hatton currently ranks as the PGA Tour’s best putter and slots fifth in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and birdie average. He co-leads in par-4 scoring.
In his last five events before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Rory McIlroy did not finish outside the top five, but in his four events since the restart he has finished outside the top 30 on three occasions. However, great players don’t stay down too long and having lost the No.1 spot to Jon Rahm, he will be fired up. With the year’s first Major Championship fast approaching McIlroy will look to hit the ground running in Memphis and the Northern Irishman has pulled off the WGC-PGA double before. Can he repeat his heroics of 2014?
The World No.28 got straight back into the swing of things after defeating Colin Morikawa in a play-off at the Charles Schwab Challenge, the first PGA Tour event following the three-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In his three starts before the pandemic hit he finished inside the top ten on all three occasions and he also enjoyed a T3 at the RBC Heritage, a week after his triumph in Texas. The 27 year old has good form at TPC Southwind with his first two PGA Tour victories coming at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in 2016 and 2017.
The American star has enjoyed some good form since the restart having finished inside the top 20 in four of his last five events, including a runner-up finish at the Workday Charity Open where he lost out to Colin Morikawa in a play-off. The 27 year old has been 12th or better in six of the last seven WGCs and won this event in 2018 at Firestone CC in Ohio. No reason he can’t do the same at TPC Southwind.
Since his runner-up finish at the event last year, Webb Simpson has been flying. In the 14 events he has featured in since he last teed it up at TPC Southwind he has finished in the top ten on eight occasions, with five of them inside the top five and two of them victories at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and last month’s RBC Heritage. That superb run of form has also seen him rise up to fourth in the Official World Golf Ranking, up from 20th this time last year.
LPGA Tour returns
Meanwhile the LPGA Tour’s restart begins with the three-day Drive On Championship at Inverness Club – the venue for next year’s Solheim Cup.
A 144-player field will tee it up from Friday for the fist time in 166 days and compete for a $1m purse.
Notable absentees include World No.1 Jin Young Ko and No.3 Sung Hyun Park, who both have confirmed they will miss the first four events on the tour’s restart, including next month’s AIG Women’s Open at Royal Troon.