Saturday, October 1, 2022

2022 St. Jude Championship leaderboard: J.J. Spaun, Si Woo Kim lead early as FedEx Cup Playoffs get underway

An unlikely duo sits atop the FedEx St. Jude Championship leaderboard after Round 1 at TPC Southwind on Thursday. Si Woo Kim and J.J. Spaun both shot 62 in the early wave, a stroke better than Sahith Theegala. They’ll take the lead into Friday with many of the biggest stars in the field struggling to work their way up the leaderboard and some of those lower down in the FedEx Cup standings taking advantage of that.

There was a lot of movement in the FedEx Cup standings — both in the middle and at the bottom — as the first of the three playoff events began Thursday, and that has implications not only for the three-week stretch which pays out $75 million but also for the rest of this week as golfers who were not necessarily expected to contend for this championship are now in position to do so.

Let’s take a look at Kim, Spaun and the entire first round in Memphis, Tennessee.

The leaders

T1. J.J. Spaun, Si Woo Kim (-8): Kim obviously has big-time chops when it comes to winning tournaments of girth, but Spaun has never finished better than 62nd in the FedEx Cup. Now both are projected all the way up to the top three with 2,000 FedEx Cup points at stake for the winner Sunday. While their scorecards looked different — Spaun was flawless throughout, Kim shot 28 on the back nine — they both performed at the highest level when it comes to the most important skill in winning a golf tournament. Kim finished first in approach shots and Spaun finished third, which led to the dueling 62s they shot to lead the way early on at this event.

Other contenders

3. Sahith Theegala (-7)

T4. J.T. Poston, Tony Finau, K.H. Lee, Sepp Straka (-6)

T8. Troy Merritt, Tyrrell Hatton, Sam Burns, Lee Hodges, Rickie Fowler, Ryan Palmer, Michael Thompson, Jason Day, Lucas Glover, James Hahn (-5)

This doesn’t exactly scream “Super Bowl of golf” like some might have imagined, but there’s one guy to key in on here, and it’s a guy who I think might end up winning the entire FedEx Cup. Tony Finau shot a 64 on Thursday, which — somewhat incredibly — is barely below his 10-round average after he won both the 3M Open and the Rocket Mortgage Classic in back-to-back weeks.

He’s the new favorite to win this week as well and given how he’s been playing, he should be. What’s interesting about Finau’s round is that he didn’t even unleash his biggest weapon, ranking outside the top 40 in driving distance and doing most of his damage with elite iron play. I’m pumped to see if Finau can make it three straight this weekend. Also, his shoe game was huge in Round 1.

Fowler pops off

Rickie Fowler shot his second best round of the year with a 65 (he shot a 63 in Round 3 of the CJ Cup, which he nearly went on to win). Fowler narrowly sneaked into the playoffs in the last spot at No. 125 in the FedEx Cup standings. He took advantage of that opportunity in Round 1.

“I felt like I got some good stuff in and in a way kind of coming in, nothing to lose,” Fowler said. “Being 125, I need to play well to just make it to next week, but it would be a big bonus if we can do that and move on. Kind of leave it all out there, see what happens, but definitely happy with the start, especially with not making a whole lot.”

Fowler and longtime caddie Joe Skovron parted ways after last week’s Wyndham Championship, and though that had to be odd after over a decade of partnership, Fowler said the history helped even in Skovron’s absence.

“I felt great,” Fowler said. “It was more so going into this week not having Joe with me, obviously an amazing partnership over the years, but it was going to be more about me taking ownership and putting more of a workload on myself and more accountability. I still had plenty of his voice and one-liners and stuff in my head, so he wasn’t on the bag but he was definitely present.”

Despite the good day, Fowler still has a lot of work to do — he’s only projected to get to 85th in the FedEx Cup standings — but a feel-good story for somebody who’s been struggling for the last two years is starting to bubble up a bit.

Unintended slight?

Scottie Scheffler had one of the worst putting rounds of his life and shot 71 because of it (he finished 120th in the field in putting). The more interesting story — at least on Twitter — was that it seemed like at one point in their rounds, Scheffler walked directly in front of Cam Smith as Smith was setting up to putt. Was it a signal to Smith, who is reportedly headed to the LIV Golf League after the playoffs, that he’s no longer welcome on the PGA Tour? I didn’t really see it that way — it seemed quite unintentional and completely harmless — although Smith’s reaction to Scheffler walking in front of him engendered all kinds of commentary from folks watching on TV. One man walking in front of another on a circular patch of grass stirring up fans at home is, by the way, a very “normal sport” moment.

Biggest FedEx Cup movers from Thursday

Patrick McDonald started this look two weeks ago at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, and now the implications are getting to East Lake, the Tour Championship and the guaranteed $500,000 that comes with that. The top 70 make it to the BMW Championship before the top 30 move on to the Tour Championship and the last round of the playoffs. Here’s who jumped up on Thursday.

Si Woo Kim

48

3

Yes

Lucas Glover

121

77

No

Jason Day

113

73

No

Rickie Fowler

125

85

No

James Hahn

108

69

Yes

Ryan Palmer

110

72

No

Michael Thompson 103

68

Yes

Lee Hodges

99

64

Yes

J.J. Spaun

25

2

Yes

Sahith Theegala

39

16

Yes

2022 FedEx St. Jude Championship updated odds and picks

  • Tony Finau: 7-1
  • Sam Burns: 12-1
  • Si Woo Kim: 12-1
  • Sahith Theegala: 16-1
  • Patrick Cantlay: 18-1
  • Cam Smith: 20-1
  • Justin Thomas: 20-1
  • Jon Rahm: 22-1
  • Matthew Fitzpatrick: 22-1

It’s easy to believe in Kim given how well he hit the ball in Round 1, and Spaun at 25-1 is interesting as well. However it’s Burns at 12-1 and Fowler at 80-1 that intrigue me the most. Fowler hit the ball quite well Thursday, and if he continues to putt a bit I think he could be in it until the end. Burns finished 6th from tee to green and is consistently underrated as one of the 10-12 best players in the world. He should be a menace over the next 54 holes, and I love him at 12-1.

Rick Gehman and Kyle Porter recap Thursday’s action at the 2022 FedEx St. Jude Championship. Follow & listen to The First Cut on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.  

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