Odds and Ends: Jon Rahm can deliver as FedEx Cup race heats up in Memphis

Jon Rahm finished joint-second in The Open at Royal Liverpool last month and could go one better when he lines up in the FedEx St Jude Championship in Memphis this week Picture by PA
Jon Rahm finished joint-second in The Open at Royal Liverpool last month and could go one better when he lines up in the FedEx St Jude Championship in Memphis this week Picture by PA

AFTER a bit of a breather golf’s top dogs are back in action this week as the mindset moves from Major glory to FedEx Cup riches.

The Open Championship threw up an unheralded winner in Brian Harman at Royal Liverpool just over a fortnight ago, meaning the Major season ended in frustration for the likes of Rory McIlroy and Scottie Scheffler, with the top two players in the world rankings failing to add to their tallies in the game’s biggest events in 2023.

The beauty of the golfing calendar, however, is that sights are constantly readjusted, and those assembling in Memphis for the FedEx St Jude Championship will all be dreaming of winning the $18 million prize for topping the season-long standings.

McIlroy clinched the FedEx Cup for the third time last term and heads into the three-week play-off series handily placed in third behind Masters champion Jon Rahm and Scheffler.

The Holywood man really seems to warm up at this time of year, having won six different play-off events in his career, a number matched only by Dustin Johnson.

It is little surprise to see him jostling for favouritism for the St Jude at TPC Southwind, a course where he was fourth in 2019 and 12th in 2021, but missed the cut a year ago.

TPC Southwind has been on the PGA Tour rota for a long time, but it used to be the pre-US Open destination in June and the fields didn’t tend to have much depth.

That changed in 2019 when it became a World Golf Championship venue in the height of summer, and the fact it now hosts a play-off event ensures all of the tour’s top men are in attendance.

Indeed, the new look to the play-offs means only the top 70 on the FedEx standings are eligible this week, with Justin Thomas, Adam Scott and Shane Lowry amongst those missing out.

There will be no cut with that reduced field, giving anyone who has a slow first day a bit of time to recover, as Will Zalatoris did here last year on his way to a first PGA Tour title thanks to a play-off win over Sepp Straka.

Zalatoris misses out this time around as he recovers from back surgery, but Straka has to be of real interest as he goes from strength-to-strength.

As ever, the betting is dominated by Scheffler, McIlroy and Rahm, with the American just about the favourite at 7/1.

Southwind should be right up his street as a test that is more about placement than power, with water everywhere and big numbers always a distinct possibility.

Scheffler has led the rest a merry dance this term with regards to tee-to-green play, but his putter continues to let him down.

He finished 23rd last time out at Hoylake, and yet his putting ranked 74th of the 76 players who made the cut.

He will run away with an event soon enough, but I can’t trust him just yet and would suggest that Rahm is by far the most likely winner here.

The Spaniard goes in this week looking to strengthen his position at the top of the FedEx Cup standings, and will hope to still be leading when the top 30 head to East Lake in Atlanta for the Tour Championship a fortnight from now.

A win in Memphis would almost make sure of that, and there is little reason to think he can’t get it after pushing Harman hardest of all at the Open last time out.

After being unsettled by the entourage following playing partner McIlroy for the first two days, Rahm put on a tour de force over the weekend but was never going to catch the inspired winner.

He was in confident mood afterwards, and looks well placed to finish off his season in style, having won four times earlier in the year.

While Scheffler has been breaking all sorts of records with his long game, Rahm isn’t far behind at all, while he has far more good days on the greens.

He also has plenty of pedigree at TPC Southwind, finishing seventh in 2019 and fifth last term, and has to be backed at 8/1 here.

Of course, that price won’t interest everyone and to that end I’ll return to Straka (right), who shared second alongside Rahm at Hoylake and is surely nailed on for a Ryder Cup debut for Europe at this stage.

The Austrian missed the cut at the 3M Open the week after the Open, but that’s easily forgivable and he has been in red-hot form generally of late, winning the John Deere Classic before heading to Liverpool.

His success has been built on brilliant iron play, and he was second at Hoylake in approach play and fourth from tee-to-green, assets that will shine this week given the small putting surfaces in play at Southwind.

Zalatoris led the field in approach play last term on his way to defeating Straka in the play-off, and the vanquished man then could easily go one better now and he certainly looks overpriced at 55/1 (Paddy Power).

Tony Finau could get back to winning ways in Memphis after a frustrating summer so far
Tony Finau could get back to winning ways in Memphis after a frustrating summer so far

Tony Finau has endured a difficult summer since winning in Mexico, missing the cut at Hoylake and failing to land a significant blow at the Majors.

However, he was far more like his old self on the way to a share of seventh in defence of his 3M Open title the week before last and could well build on that in Memphis.

Finau was fifth here last term while in the middle of a stunning run of form, and his long game has remained impressive despite a poor run of results of late.

He is seventh on tour for approach play this term, and while his putter has been cold at times, it’s not to the extent of Scheffler’s.

The Utah native is due a good week with the flat stick and at 33/1 is well worth a bet.

Finally, Lee Hodges succeeded Finau as 3M champion, romping to a seven-shot victory in Minnesota 10 days ago, and he should give a good account of himself against the big boys in Memphis.

Hodges was first for approach play and tee-to-green performance en route to his first PGA Tour title, and played very well two starts before that when 12th at the Scottish Open on terrain that was far from familiar.

He should feel far more at home in Memphis, just 200 miles from his native Athens, Alabama, and he showed a liking for Southwind on debut last term, opening and closing with five-under rounds of 65 on his way to 13th.

At 100/1 he is worth a small bet to get in the mix, although the competition has gone up a notch or two with the big guns coming back out to play.


Jon Rahm, 8/1 (General);

Tony Finau, e/w, 33/1 (Sky Bet)

Sepp Straka, e/w, 55/1 (Paddy Power)

Lee Hodges, e/w, 100/1 (Paddy Power); top 20 finish, 11/4 (Unibet)