FedEx St. Jude Preview: Weather Forecast, Impact on Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy & Jon Rahm

FedEx St. Jude Preview: Weather Forecast, Impact on Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy & Jon Rahm article feature image

Pictured: Scottie Scheffler. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

The story on Wednesday at the FedEx St. Jude Championship revolved around the torrential rain falling down on TPC Southwind, making an already soft golf course much softer entering the opening round.

It’s been a rainy summer here in Memphis and even before the weather rolled in late-morning — forcing a suspension of the pro-am round — players were in agreement that conditions were softer than in previous years.

What they weren’t so in unison about was how these conditions will affect scoring.

“The rough is a bit thicker than I remember it being,” Scottie Scheffler said. “Gotten some really, really nasty lies around the greens, so that's a little bit of a change for this year. I mean, the rough has always been pretty penal here, but it seems to be a lot thicker than it has been in years past. … Bermuda rough going into Bermuda greens is always a challenge, just judging how the ball is going to come out.”

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Speaking minutes later, Rory McIlroy had a different perspective toward the rain’s impact on the leaderboard.

“I think when it's wet like this, we're probably going to play preferred lies the first couple days just with the amount of mud balls that we're getting out there, and then I almost feel like the wetness of the rough makes it a little bit easier because you're not in two minds whether it's going to come out soft or whether it's going to jump,” McIlroy said. “It usually just comes out soft. It takes a little bit of the guesswork out. I think with the softer conditions, I feel like it's going to play a little easier, especially the first couple days if it retains all that rain that we've had over the last few days.”

It’s worth noting that last year’s first-round leaders, Si Woo Kim and J.J. Spaun, posted matching rounds of 8-under 62, while Will Zalatoris and Sepp Straka reached a playoff at 15-under three days later.

If there’s a benefit to tracking the weather for bettors, it might be a similar one to that edition of the event. Zalatoris trailed by nine strokes after the first day, only to post scores of 63-65-66, making him a tasty live outright for any buyers going into Friday’s second round.

The thought here is that we should invest in those who can go super low early in the tournament, then potentially add those who don’t necessarily prefer a birdie-fest once — or perhaps if — the course dries up a bit on the weekend.

According to BetMGM, the highest ticket percentages for this tournament so far belongs to the three favorites: Jon Rahm (8.1%), Scheffler (8.0%) and McIlroy (6.3%).

That screams public-money favoritism in an event that shouldn’t be too ripe for it.

Following a three-week stretch that included longshot winners Brian Harman, Lee Hodges and Lucas Glover, it might be asking too much to expect a triple-digit winner in a 70-man field with odds shortened up in the top- and mid-tiers, but it’s similarly a bit curious that so many tickets are being played on the top of the board, considering this event should take on a marathon-not-a-sprint mentality.

With three straight weeks of competition coming up for the top players, they’re each hoping for their games to peak at the end of that run, not the beginning.

Don’t just take my word for it, though. Listen to them.

“Obviously, you want to win every time we tee it up, but yeah, the goal is to try to get to East Lake [site of the Tour Championship] as No. 1 and enjoy that two-shot lead,” said Rahm, who enters as No. 1 on the FedEx Cup points list. “It's always made a difference. It made a difference when I finished second place.”

Scheffler, currently ranked second, was even more conspicuous in his mindset for these events.

“I'm treating this year more as trying to build up for East Lake,” he explained. “I feel like if I go out and have a great week at East Lake with the position I'm in now in the FedEx Cup, I can't fall too far away from the lead. I am kind of trying to build my way into that tournament and make sure I'm rested just because it's the Playoffs. The fields are really good. You don't want to be tired going into the weekend at East Lake just because those are going to be the two most important — the four most important days of the playoffs.

“I could win both these tournaments and I still only have a two-shot lead at East Lake. It's a different format, and [I’m] just trying to be ready for that tournament.”

Reigning FedEx Cup champion McIlroy, who erased Scheffler's six-stroke starting lead in last year’s finale, has a similar attitude.

“For me, I sort of treat it like a 12-round tournament. You've got 12 rounds to play, and you're trying to go out there and get the best out of yourself for those 12 days,” he said. “I missed the cut here last year and then was able to bounce back with a good finish at the BMW and then go on and win the Tour Championship. If you're up there in the standings, at least you know you've got a little bit of wiggle room.

“Every week you want to go out there and play well. I think at the end of the day, going into the Tour Championship, if you're sort of within four of the lead starting on Thursday, I think you're in a really good spot.”

When the world’s best players — and the top three on the odds board — are speaking about success more in terms of a few weeks from now than this week specifically, it feels like a good time to look further down the board.

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