Sobel’s Favorite WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational Matchups: Will Rory Ride Momentum in Round 2?

Credit:

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Rory McIlroy hits his tee shot on the first hole at TPC Southwind.

  • One week ago, Rory McIlroy's missed the cut at The Open Championship despite a spirited second-round effort.
  • Jason Sobel analyzes if he can bring the same energy this Friday at TPC Southwind.

Well, first of all, low scores are possible, as overnight leader Jon Rahm proved with a 62.

And secondly, TPC Southwind is going to yield some crazy scorecards, from Jordan Spieth shooting even-par 70 with two triples to Rafa Cabrera Bello posting the same number with only four pars.

Then there’s Rory McIlroy, who might have gained some momentum heading into Friday, which is where I’ll start my three favorite matchups for the second round.

Rory McIlroy (-115) over Brooks Koepka

There was a potentially pertinent stat making the rounds earlier this week: In his last four starts after a missed cut, dating back 16 months, McIlroy twice won, once finished runner-up and once T-12.

The pattern seemed to be losing steam when he was 3-over through 13 holes Thursday, but four birdies in his last five not only moved him under par, it should give him momentum into the next round. It feels just like last week, when a poor start led to a strong second round — only this one won’t end in a missed cut.

Thorbjorn Olesen (-120) over Phil Mickelson

I liked Mickelson entering this tournament and I still like him after an opening 2-under 68, but I can’t ignore ThunderBear’s ball-striking numbers.

In the first round, he ranked first in strokes gained tee to green, driving accuracy and greens in regulation. Mickelson putted better Thursday, but Olesen was superior in every other area, which should continue in the second round.

Kevin Na (+110) over Sergio Garcia

Something isn’t right with Sergio. As I wrote before the tourney started, there’s a level of frustration that could suggest issues beyond his golf game. His opening 69 was fine, but Na’s 70, fresh off missing time due to an injury, might have been more impressive.

I’ll take Na to keep improving, while García remains a great unknown.

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