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Tom Jacobs is back with some more first round leader selections, as the PGA Tour moves into the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Here are his first round leader selections for the FedEx St. Jude Championship.

FedEx St. Jude Championship First Round Leader Picks & Predictions: Back Cantlay For a Hot Start

TPC Southwind has played host to an event since 1989, but it has gone through a change in recent years. First it was a regular TOUR event, right up until 2019.

In 2019, this became a WGC event, known as the WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational. Now, it is had rebranded again, as a FedEx Cup playoff event, now known as the FedEx St. Jude Championship.

Still with me? Good, because that is going to be an important foreword when looking at recent first round leaders on this COURSE.

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FedEx St. Jude Championship First Round Leader Strategy

Here are the last ten first round leaders at this course, their tee times and what event they were playing in. 2019-2021 was when they started playing the WGC FedEx St Jude Invitational here. It hosted the FedEx St. Jude Classic from 1989-2018. This will give you context as to who performed well at each event, when the field strength differed. All times are local.

  • 2021 - Harris English - 62 (-8) - 10:43 am
  • 2020 - Brooks Koepka - 62 (-8) - 12:50 pm
  • 2019 - Jon Rahm - 62 (-8) - 11:53 am
  • 2018 - Seamus Power - 65 (-5) - 8:30 am
  • 2017 - Scott Brown, Stewart Cink, Matt Every, Sebastian Munoz - 64 (-6) - 1 AM/3PM Tee Times
  • 2016 - Seung-Yul Noh, Shawn Stefani, Tom Hoge - 65 (-5) - 1AM, 2PM
  • 2015 - Brooks Koepka, Greg Owen, Ryan Palmer - 64 (-6) - 2AM, 1PM
  • 2014 - Ben Crane - 63 (-7) - 12:00 pm
  • 2013 - Davis Love, Glen Day, Harris English, Nathan Green, Martin Flores, Stuart Appleby - 66 (-4) - 1 AM, 5 PM
  • 2012 - Jeff Maggert (AM) John Merrick (PM) - 66 (-4) - AM/PM Split

As you can see in 8 of the past 10 events here at TPC Southwind, someone from the morning wave has either led or co-led here. In two of the past three years, when the field strength was ramped up for the WGC, it was morning starters who led, with Koepka breaking the mould teeing off early afternoon.

It seems to be a quiet wind day on Thursday as it stands with 4kts gusts at 7am and 6kts at 4pm the highs throughout the day. If you wanted to really target a window mid-morning to early-afternoon looks good, but I think you can target both waves.

Who In This Field Has Started Fastest On Tour This Season?

Here are the 10 fastest starters in this field based on the current Round 1 Scoring Average in the 2021/22 PGA Tour season.

  • Rory McIlroy - (1st overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 67.92) - Low Opening Round - 62 (Travelers)
  • Matt Kuchar - (2nd overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 68.33) - Low Opening Round - 64 (Sony)
  • Joaquin Niemann - (3rd overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 68.42) - Low Opening Round - 63 (Genesis)
  • Russell Henley - (4th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 69.27) - Low Opening Round - 62 (Sony Open)
  • Cameron Smith - (5th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 68.53) - Low Opening Round - 64 (RSM)
  • Aaron Wise - (6th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 68.71) - Low Opening Round - 63 (Mayakoba)
  • Patrick Cantlay- (7th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 68.80) - Low Opening Round - 62 (Amex)
  • Scottie Scheffler - (7th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 68.80) - Low Opening Round - 63 (RSM)
  • Wyndham Clark - (9th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 69.00) - Low Opening Round - 63 (Canadian Open)
  • Cameron Young - (10th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 69.10) - Low Opening Round - 63 (Heritage)
  • Sungjae Im - (10th overall in 2021/22 - Scoring Average 69.10) - Low Opening Round - 63 (Shriners and Wyndham)

What Score Is Required To Lead After Round 1?

Since this turned into a FedEx Cup event and moved to this part of the year (previously June), the first round leader has shot 62 in each of the past three seasons. That has been enough for an outright lead each time, so if someone doesn't go deep enough to get to -8, a couple may share at 63. It definitely appears that 62 should be the target on this Par 70 though.

The Favorites in This Week's First Round Leader Market

Here are the odds for the top-10 in FedEx St Jude Championship First Round Leader Market. Here we will give you the best price and the implied chance on each of the top-10 in the market.

PlayerOddsImplied Chance
Rory McIlroy+26003.7%
Scottie Scheffler+29003.3%
Cameron Smith+30003.2%
Jon Rahm+35002.8%
Justin Thomas+35002.8%
Matthew Fitzpatrick+35002.8%
Patrick Cantlay+35002.8%
Tony Finau+35002.8%
Xander Schauffele+35002.8%
Cameron Young+40002.4%

First Round Leader Selections

Patrick Cantlay +3500

The Official World Golf Ranking website has had a facelift, and part of that includes a strokes-gained world ranking. Patrick Cantlay sits behind only Rory McIlroy on this list, and he's not finished outside the top-14 in his last six starts.

This is a good course for Cantlay despite his finishing positions suggesting otherwise, over the past three years.

He opened with a round of 65 to sit 2nd here on debut in 2019 and matched that score in round 3 back in 2020.

He finished the Rocket Mortgage with rounds of 65-66-66 and in the last birdie-fest, he hit rounds of 63 and 64 at the Travelers Championship, before a final-round collapse saw him fall down the leaderboard.

Cantlay ranks 7th on Tour in Round 1 Scoring, 4th in Birdie or Better percentage and 5th in Scoring Average, so he's built for a low round.

He has held four first-round lead in his career, and been within two of the first round lead a further 23 times.

Cantlay loves this time of year and he can show it here again, in an event he would love to win, while in this form.

Patrick Cantlay will tee off #1 tee at 1:00 pm with Rory McIlroy and Xander Schauffele

Matt Fitzpatrick +3500

It was really close for me between Patrick Cantlay and Matt Fitzpatrick, so guess what? I went with both!

Matt Fitzpatrick has finished 4th and 6th here among his three attempts and in both of those top-5 finishes, he posted a second round 64. Sure we need him to move that scoring to Thursday, but otherwise he looks primed to take advantage of this course once again.

His ball-striking has gone backwards recently, and that may be cause for concern, but I will give him the benefit of the doubt given it was links golf, and came in a two-start stretch since winning the U.S. Open.

23 times in his career, Fitzpatrick has been within two of the first round lead and 4 of those have been round 1 leads. Two came at the PGA/WGC level and two on the DP World Tour, but Fitzpatrick has had a knack of leading leader stronger events on day one, and he can do so again here.

Matt Fitzpatrick will tee off #10 at 7:59 am with Jordan Spieth and Max Homa

Russell Henley +5500

Russell Henley opened with a 68 here in 2015, which was good enough to sit two back of the opening-day lead. With conditions better to shoot lower rounds on this course, since the move in the calendar, Henley is someone who can benefit.

Henley has twice been within one of the opening-day lead at the Sony Open, including when firing a 62 earlier this year, and I like that course as a comp, given some of the crossover here.

His record in general on the opening-day of tournaments is phenomenal, sitting within two of the first round lead 30 times in his career, leading on 8 of those occasions.

He is flying from Tee-to-Green right now, ranking 3rd in each of the past two events, and was 7th and 1st in Approach as well. When Henley is hitting the ball as he has this past fortnight, you stand up and take notice, and this course looks primed for him to continue the run of form.

Henley has an early tee time and a suitable course, so its green light time for him in this market.

Russell Henley will tee off #1 tee at 08:10 am with Keegan Bradley and Maverick McNealy

Seamus Power +8000

I really like Seamus Power here this week, as this looks like a course that perfectly suits him. With his recent uptick in performances against strong fields, I trust him to, so that isn't a concern these days.

When people look for correlating courses, the following have come up - the Sony Open, Mayakoba and the RSM Classic. These are a trio of standout courses, and in this season alone, Power has finished T3 at the Sony, 11th at the Mayakoba and 4th at the RSM.

At this golf course, Power has played twice, when it was the FedEx St Jude Classic, and he has finished 27th and 12th, and he was nowhere near the player he has been this season, back then.

When 27th on debut, Power shot a second-round 65 here, to sit 6th at the halfway stage and a year later he finished 12th, opening with a round of 65 to lead on day one. That second round 65 on his debut was bettered by one shot, and it was obviously the lowest round on day one the following year, so he is capable of getting hot at TPC Southwind.

Add in his increased skill level and the fact he has finished 27th, 9th and 12th in the first three majors this season, and you clearly have a player on the rise.

Power has been within two of the first round lead a total of 20 times in his career, converting three of those into first round leads, including here in 2018.

This season alone he has been within two, three times on a Thursday, and he sits 33rd in Round 1 Scoring this season.

Seamus Power will tee off #1 tee at 12:33 pm with Collin Morikawa and Davis Riley

Ryan Palmer +12500

Ryan Palmer has been boom or bust of late, but you could probably attribute that to his career as a whole, to be honest.

Here at TPC Southwind though, he's been a fairly steady presence, peaking with 3rd and 4th place finishes when a regular event. Since it became a WGC in 2019, he's finished 15th and 26th over the past two renewals, and that is a great sign.

In both of those starts, Palmer has shot a round of 64 in each, and something close to that would be good enough on Thursday.

47 times in his career, Palmer has been within two of the first-round lead, including three times in 2020 and three times in 2021, so he's due another hot start.

1 of his 12 first round leads came on this golf course, when co-leading in 2015, and another came at the Sony Open, which we like as a bit of a comp.

Ryan Palmer will tee off #1 tee at 8:43 am with Greyson Sigg and Nick Watney

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Article Author


Tom Jacobs is the host of the Lost Fore Words golf podcast and has been writing betting articles on golf for the past decade. Tom also co-hosts the DP World Tour Picks & Bets show on the Mayo Media Network, so has his finger on the pulse on all the major Tours. A long-suffering Nottingham Forest fan, Tom also enjoys watching Soccer at the weekend, and was delighted to see his Forest team win promotion this season!


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