In the heart of the FedEx St. Jude Championship's intense leaderboard competition lies another battle - the struggle for survival within the FedExCup Playoffs at TPC Southwind. As projections shift by the second, a single stroke can determine whether a player progresses to the next week's BMW Championship or concludes their season prematurely. This precarious scenario was underscored by Justin Thomas' recent experience.
While there is no conventional cut for the 70 competitors vying for victory in Memphis, Tennessee, the motivation to ascend the ranks holds varying degrees of urgency for different players.
Jon Rahm, leading the FedExCup, endured a forgettable round, carding a 3-over 73, yet his firm standing in the FedExCup standings remains thanks to his dominant regular season. Rahm is poised to push forward, although the balance between exertion and energy conservation becomes crucial given his commitments to both the BMW Championship and the TOUR Championship.
In contrast, some players lack such luxury. Here are three contenders who are expected to display unwavering determination in their pursuit of progress over the upcoming three days:
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA (-3, T15) ODDS: Win: +3500; Top 5: +650; Top 10: +260: Top 20: -110
The former Masters champion posted a respectable 67 on Thursday. While he commenced the week in 55th place in the FedExCup standings, Matsuyama finds himself in a predicament despite his T15 position. Tied with 18 other players, he must surge ahead in the next rounds to move within the top 50. Matsuyama's strong ball-striking could be his key asset if he can regain his prowess off the tee.
HAYDEN BUCKLEY (-3, T15) ODDS: Win: +18000; Top 5: +2500; Top 10: +900: Top 20: +280
Like Matsuyama, Buckley's initial round of 3-under 67 positions him within a congested T15. Starting the week 53rd in the FedExCup standings, he's projected 56th. However, Buckley's performance might secure a spot in the BMW Championship with just a modest finish. His powerful drives and impressive Strokes Gained statistics could potentially propel him to Chicago.
PATRICK RODGERS (Even, T47) ODDS: Top 20: +600
While Rodgers initially seemed secure in 43rd place in the FedExCup standings, his opening 70 shifted his projections, placing him just outside the cutoff. Ranked 52nd in current projections, he's a few shots away from the safety zone. Despite his slow start, Rodgers has the resilience to bounce back. Drawing from his near misses in the past, Rodgers aims to regain his form and possibly clinch a place among the top 20.
As the FedEx St. Jude Championship progresses, keep a keen eye on these determined contenders as they battle not only for a prestigious victory but also for a chance to advance in the FedExCup Playoffs.