FedEx St. Jude Championship First Round Leader Picks: Tony Finau Back in Form for Playoffs

The FedEx St. Jude is the first no-cut event in quite some time. The 70-man field features players starting from around 9 a.m. ET until 2 p.m. ET. It is not quite as big a gap between the first and last starters as it would be in a bigger field, but it is still relatively large. That means that weather could come into play, and it is actually the afternoon that looks calmer. There is rain set for the early morning and the day before, so it is very likely there will be a wet course for the entire day, which should allow a lot of flag hunting. Last year, the course gave up a pair of 62s in Round 1 but then toughened up as the week went on. Expect a similar progression this year given the early week rain. This event had an eclectic leaderboard last season, and with so much water on the venue, great iron players and those coming in with good form on approach should be respected for FedEx St. Jude first-round leader picks.

For the bets, we mixed it up in terms of where the players tee off but also included some longshots, including one with really solid top-10 odds. As always, this column will use OddsShopper’s golf betting tools to identify the best value options for the FedEx St. Jude Championship first-round leader selections. In a field with just a few big names, it will be beneficial to look for a few longshot bets to add to cards.

FedEx St. Jude Championship First-Round Leader Bets

Tony Finau First Round Leader (+3500) at DraftKings

Finau has had an up-and-down season and surely will not be happy with his major results. The playoffs do represent one last chance to make amends, and the fact that he comes in off a solid start in Minnesota — where he finished seventh and gained strokes in every major category — makes him a target. Finau got off to a good start at this event last season, firing a 64, and he also putted well on this course last year, gaining four strokes putting for the week. If the course plays somewhat softly, the way Finau was hitting it in Minnesota suggests he will be in for a low round or two again. Targeting him for a fast start at +3500 this Thursday is a nice way to start off first-round leader cards and get some exposure to a six-time PGA winner.

Harris English First Round Leader (+5500) at BetMGM and First Round Top 5 (+1000) at BetMGM

English is a former winner at TPC Southwind, capturing the title here when it was just a regular PGA event back in 2012. He only managed a 33rd last week at the Wyndham, but he excelled on approach there, gaining 5.8 strokes for the week. That is significant given TPC Southwind’s layout, which puts tons of pressure on the approach game thanks to small Bermuda greens and plenty of water traps. While his results do not jump off the page since the U.S. Open, English has had himself a solid year, posting an eighth at that major, a third at the Arnold Palmer and a fifth at Wells Fargo. He is the type of player who can get hot with his putter at any time, and he makes for a savvy first-round leader target given both his experience on this course and the uptick he saw in his approach game last week.

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FedEx St. Jude Championship First Round Longshot Bets

Longshots often hit in the first-round market and are worth adding to betting cards. You can always use OddsShopper’s tools to check out and compare odds across the major sites.

Andrew Putnam First Round Leader (+6500) at DraftKings and First Round Top 5 (+1200) at DraftKings

Putnam is another elite putter who makes sense as a first-round leader target on this venue. He has had some low rounds on TPC Southwind over his career and went off in the final group on this venue back in 2017. Putnam also comes in with some solid form. He gained over three strokes on approach last week and remains an elite putter who has gained over 2.5 strokes on the greens seven times in his last 12 starts. Putnam actually goes off in the same group as English on Thursday (just after 11 a.m.), which is right when the winds are slated to start dying down. This late-morning group seems like a good one to target, as Putnam is a solid starter who ranks 19th in first-round scoring this season and has solid +1200 top-5 odds for the first round on BetMGM.

Davis Riley First Round Leader (+10000) at BetMGM and First Round Top 10 (+700) at BetMGM

Riley is a hard player to lean on at the best of times, and no one wants to have to rely on him for four solid rounds unless forced. However, Riley has popped up with solid first rounds numerous times this season, most recently in Scotland when he finished the first round in second place at 7 under par. Riley is +700 for a top-10 first-round finish on BetMGM, which looks like a fantastic risk/reward scenario. While he has missed a couple of cuts of late, Riley still managed to gain multiple strokes on approach last week, which suggests his poor play at the Wyndham was mostly putter-based. That is a club that can get hot for Riley at any point, and he did gain strokes putting on these greens last season. At triple digits for an outright, Riley is worth a sprinkle in that market, but the main target here is the top-10 odds, which seem wildly generous given his overall one-round upside in a 70-man field.

Geoff Ulrich

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