This week’s WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational will be the first time Jon Rahm has started an event as world number one – and it will be interesting to see how he reacts to that elevated status.
It has been a lifelong dream of Rahm to reach the rankings’ summit and he has wobbled badly when in with a chance in the past. A three-shot Memorial Tournament victory, though, got the job done and maybe the Spaniard will go on to dominate from here.
The Memorial success would have been by a five-shot margin had Rahm not suffered a two-shot post-round penalty for moving his ball while addressing a chip on the Sunday – his golf was incredible throughout – and confidence must be coursing through the veins of the 25-year-old.
Rahm made his TPC Southwind debut last year and opened with a 62 to go clear, before eventually ending up in seventh spot. He is obviously dangerous on his return to Memphis this week, but he has only one appearance to his name at a PGA Tour venue which has staged events since 1989, so maybe that lack of Southwind experience will handicap him. He is
10/1 for victory this week.
McIlroy Eager to Assert Authority
Perhaps this is the moment that Rory McIlroy emerges from a quiet spell and throws down the gauntlet to Rahm. McIlroy threatened to win the WGC-St Jude Invitational last year, firing a third-round 62 before eventually finishing fourth, and TPC Southwind is a layout which suits the Northern Irishman’s rock-solid tee-to-green game.
That near-miss last year was impressive, given it came immediately after he had agonisingly missed the cut by a shot in his home Open at Royal Portrush, and this time he can approach Memphis in a better frame of mind.
McIlroy has been steady if unspectacular in his four post-lockdown PGA Tour outings, twice carding a 63 but failing to contend, and there must be a great chance he steps up a gear over the next fortnight with so much at stake.
The four-times Major champion, desperate to add to his haul in next week’s US PGA Championship, topped the par-four scoring stats in the Memorial last time out. With 12 par fours to gun at Southwind, McIlroy could reward backers at
11/1 and claim the perfect pre-PGA fillip.
Cantlay Could be Next in Line for Glory
If McIlroy fails, then
18/1 shot Patrick Cantlay could be the man to take advantage. Cantlay faded out of contention over the weekend of the Memorial, but post-lockdown form figures of 11-7-32 are solid, and the world number ten can be expected to sustain a greater challenge at Southwind. His debut there ended in a share of 12th spot last year.
Cantlay is one of the strongest all-rounders on the circuit – he has no obvious weakness – and Southwind is a course which puts demands on every department of your game.
*All odds correct at time of writing