3-Ball Betting Picks For the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational: McIlroy Among Thursday Plays
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images. Pictured: Rory McIlroy.
- Jason Sobel examines the best 3-ball betting picks for Thursday's opening round of the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.
Two years ago, when the FedEx St. Jude Classic was still a full-field event, played one week before the U.S. Open, Seamus Power took the Thursday lead with a 5-under 65, while a total of 55 players broke par for the round.
Last year, when it became the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, Jon Rahm posted an opening 62 to lead 35 players in the 63-man field who went under par for the round.
Moral of the story? Even if the wind blows, even with so much water lurking throughout TPC Southwind, we should expect some low numbers to kick off this week’s event.
That ostensibly includes, of course, from the dozen players in the PGA TOUR’s four featured groups, any and all of whom are capable of posting something in the mid-60s on any given day.
Let’s break down these three-ball groups — and which player might come out on top in each.
WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational: 3 Ball Picks
Rickie Fowler (+280) over Bryson DeChambeau & Jon Rahm
This is one of those picks you’ll have to make while holding your nose and closing your eyes, because if you enter into this one with senses fully aware, there’s little chance you won’t take one of the favorites.
Prior to missing the cut at the Memorial Tournament in his most recent start, DeChambeau’s opening-round scores during the restart were 65-67-65-66. Whether you love him or hate him for this event — he won’t be on my card — those numbers are tough to ignore. So is this one: 62. That’s what Rahm posted in last year’s first round, giving him FRL honors by three strokes.
So why am I going with Fowler here?
First off, I think his game was starting to round into form before an opening 81 at the Memorial (which was followed by a 68, by the way). Secondly, he’s a favorite of mine when the wind is blowing, and it’s supposed to be a sustained double-digit mph breeze throughout Thursday in Memphis.
At this longer price, I’ll take my chances on the three-ball ‘dog.
Rory McIlroy (+105) over Webb Simpson & Jordan Spieth
This one isn’t as clear-cut as it seems in taking the world’s No. 2-ranked player, but I expect Rory to have a little extra fire in his belly this week.
Remember: This is where he played the final round in the last pairing with Brooks Koepka, only to get lapped, lending to the narrative that Koepka can handle the pressure while McIlroy can’t. He’s also just over a week removed from losing his top spot in the world ranking to Rahm, which should make McIlroy hungry to reclaim it.
Simpson is a candidate for a low-opener anytime he tees it up and, let’s face it, if there’s one player burning for some redemption this week more than McIlroy, it’s Spieth. But I still believe talent wins out in this one, with Rory being the play in what could (and should) go down to the wire.
Viktor Hovland (+175) over Patrick Reed & Brooks Koepka
Since none of us know what it feels like to be able to show up at major championships and self-motivate our way to a title, then none of us really know what Koepka “needs” in order to play his best golf again. But I’ll attempt a guess anyway: How about giving the 155th-ranked player in the FedEx Cup points standings a week off from the featured groups?
Through his relatively poor play, Koepka continues to have a spotlight shined on him. While I do think we’ll all get burned when he turns it around at some point, I have a tough time believing it’ll happen this Thursday — even if he is the defending champion.
Reed’s recent M.O. has been similar to that of his idol, Tiger Woods: lurk for two days, then pounce on the weekend. I like him for a back-door top-5 or -10 wager, but that leaves Hovland as the opening-round play. He’s broken 70 in four of his last five Thursday rounds, including a 63 at the Travelers and a 65 at the RBC Heritage.
Stick with the hot hand here.
Collin Morikawa (+225) over Hideki Matsuyama & Justin Thomas
Full disclosure: Thomas is my favorite outright bet this week, even at his short pre-tournament price. I love how he plays the WGCs and think he’s trending toward a big week.
That said, I also know that JT has played opening rounds much worse than he has the other three; his R1 scoring average of 69.69 pales in comparison to those of R2 (67.92), R3 (68.60) and R4 (68.50).
Looking elsewhere, it’s obvious that Matsuyama needs a great putting performance to go super low and I’d certainly rather not bank on that. All of that leaves Morikawa as a nice consolation prize on this process of elimination game. Almost all of his best results start with a low Thursday round, so if it happens, expect him to keep it going for a few more days.