The WGC Invitational was one of for World Golf Championship events co-sanctioned by both the PGA Tour and the European Tour.
It was the third WGC event in the calendar following the WGC Championship in February, the WGC Match Play in March, and before the WGC Champions in October. From 2022, only two WGC events were to be played – the WGC Match Play and the WGC Champions, with this tournament and the WGC Championship scratched from the calendar.
This had been newly named as the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational in 2019, replacing the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. It was a little more complicated than that however. Effectively, this was a promotion of the now defunct FedEx St. Jude Classic to a World Gold Championship event.
The tournament was played at the TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee, and was named after the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital located in the same city. Since 1970 the hospital had been the benefactor of the St. Jude Classic’s charitable fundraising efforts, a relationship which had continued with the new tournament. The St. Jude name has since transferred to the FedEx St. Jude Championship, which is now played at TPC Southwind, the previous host of this event.
|TPC Southwind||Memphis, Tennessee||7,244 Yards||$10,500,000|
WGC Invitational Recent Winners
|Year||Winner||To Par||Winning Margin|
|2020||Justin Thomas||-13||3 Strokes|
|2019||Brooks Koepka||-16||3 Strokes|
The list below shows the previous most recent winners of both the FedEx St. Jude Classic and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Although the St. Jude Classic was technically a different event, it was played at the same course as the St. Jude Invitational so the comparisons were stronger than with the Bridgestone Invitational. It is worth noting however that the FedEx St. Jude Classic was played the week before the US Open so the strength of the field was nothing like at WGC event.
|Year||St. Jude Classic Winner (Par/Margin)||WGC Bridgestone Invitational Winner (Par/Margin)|
|2018||Dustin Johnson (-19 / 6 Strokes)||Justin Thomas (-15 / 4 Strokes)|
|2017||Daniel Berger (-10 / 1 Stroke)||Hideki Matsuyama (16 / 5 Strokes)|
|2016||Daniel Berger (-13 / 3 Strokes)||Dustin Johnson (-6 / 1 Stroke)|
|2015||Fabian Gomez (-13 / 4 Strokes)||Shane Lowry (-11 / 2 Strokes)|
|2014||Ben Crane (-10 / 1 Stroke)||Rory McIlroy (-15 / 2 Strokes)|
|2013||Harris English (-12 / 2 Strokes)||Tiger Woods (-15 / 7 Strokes)|
|2012||Dustin Johnson (-9 / 1 Stroke)||Keegan Bradley (-13 / 1 Stroke)|
|2011||Harrison Frazar (-13 / Playoff)||Adam Scott (-17 / 4 Strokes)|
|2010||Lee Westwood (-10 / Playoff)||Hunter Mahan (-12 / 2 Strokes)|
|2009||Brian Gay (-18 / 5 Strokes)||Tiger Woods (-12 / 4 Strokes)|
|2008||Justin Leonard (-4 / Playoff)||Vijay Singh (-10 / 1 Stroke)|
|2007||Woody Austin (-13 / 5 Strokes)||Tiger Woods (-8 / 8 Strokes)|
|2006||Jeff Maggert (-9 / 3 Strokes)||Tiger Woods (-10 / Playoff)|
|2005||Justin Leonard (-14 / 1 Stroke)||Tiger Woods (-6 / 1 Stroke)|
|2004||David Toms (-16 / 6 Strokes)||Stewart Cink (-11 / 4 Strokes)|
|2003||David Toms (-20 / 3 Strokes)||Darren Clarke (-12 / 4 Strokes)|
|2002||Len Mattiace (-18 / 1 Stroke)||Craig Parry (-16 / 4 Strokes)|
It was little confusing keeping track of the changing names of this tournament. In effect, in 2019, the St. Jude Classic was promoted to become a World Golf Championship event hence the birth of a (sort of) new tournament, the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, with FedEx replacing Bridgestone as the sponsor of the WGC tournament. Got that? Fortunately, the course remained the same with TPC Southwind staying as the St Jude host venue, replacing Firestone, which was the former home of this leg of the World Golf Championship.
The challenging course always had a strong reputation amongst PGA Tour players who respect the fact that it was difficult yet fair. Scoring well was a difficult task as setting up birdie chances demands a combination of accuracy off the tee and quality approach shots. A certain amount of power was necessary but the key was having a well thought out strategy as players needed to remain patient on the tough holes (most notably the long par fours) before taking their chances on the two par fives and the more scoreable par fours.
The other difficulty for the players to overcome was the weather. The shift back to August for this event meant that the field would have to cope with some hot and sticky conditions.
About the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational
Founded in 1999, the WGC FedEx St Jude Invitational had become a big event on the golfing calendar. Since starting out as the WGC-NEC Invitational in 1999, the tournament was held at Firestone in Ohio every year, except in 2002 when it took place in Washington State. However, the event moved to Southwind in Tennessee in 2019.
The WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational was one of the four annual World Golf Championships events. The others were the Mexico Championship, the Dell Technologies Match Play and the HSBC Champions. These were reduced to just the WGC Match Play and WGC Champions from 2022, with the WGC Invitational and the WGC Championship cancelled. The winner of this particular tournament used to take home the Gary Player Cup.
Previous Venues & Current Course
The WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational had not been held at many courses during its 20+ years of existence. In fact, Firestone Country Club in Ohio hosted 19 of the 23 St Jude Invitationals over the years.
From the inaugural event in 1999 to the 20th in 2018, Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio was the event’s host for all bar one St Jude Invitational. The only exception was in 2002, when the Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Washington played host, with Australian Craig Parry coming out on top in that one.
In 2019, a new venue for the WGC FedEx St Jude Invitational was introduced. TPC Southwind – which is located within the gated community of Southwind, in Memphis, Tennessee – took over from Firestone. Brooks Koepka won the first event at Southwind, Justin Thomas the second, with Abraham Ancer winning the final tournament in 2021.
Sponsorships of the Tournament
Over the years, there had been just three sponsors of the WGC Invitational. From its first in 1999 to 2005, the tournament was known as the WGC-NEC Invitational. Bridgestone then took over until 2018, extending their partnership in 2013.
FedEx were the last sponsors, with the event immediately moving from Akron to Memphis between 2019 and 2021. All four of the World Golf Championships events at the time had their own sponsors – HSBC (Champions), Grupo Salinas (Mexico Championship) and Dell Technologies (Match Play).
Tiger’s Eight Victories
Of all the great players to compete in this one, it is perhaps the greatest of them all, Tiger Woods, who had the record number of wins in the St Jude. The American superstar won the WGC Invitational an amazing eight times, with the last of those victories coming in 2013. Tiger won the first event way back in 1999, beating Phil Mickelson by a single stroke.
Woods dominated the early years of the WGC Invitational, winning each of the first three. Tiger has also, quite astoundingly, won three in a row on two separate occasions. His eighth and final victory came in the 2013 event, when Woods cruised to an emphatic win in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Tiger beat fellow American Keegan Bradley and Swede Henrik Stenson by a whopping seven strokes.
However, Woods came under some criticism in 2014, after he was caught swearing at a cameraman. The then 38 year old was annoyed after slipping down the leaderboard, leading to Woods snapping at the snapper for allegedly not being given enough space.
Tiger Woods’ WGC Invitational Victories
|1999||WGC-NEC Invitational (Firestone)|
|2000||WGC-NEC Invitational (Firestone)|
|2001||WGC-NEC Invitational (Firestone)|
|2005||WGC-NEC Invitational (Firestone)|
|2006||WGC-Bridgestone Invitational (Firestone)|
|2007||WGC-Bridgestone Invitational (Firestone)|
|2009||WGC-Bridgestone Invitational (Firestone)|
|2013||WGC-Bridgestone Invitational (Firestone)|
Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend
One of the stranger WGC Invitational moments happened in 2014: it involved Spanish player Sergio Garcia, a woman and her ring. On the third hole of the final round, Garcia hit a wayward shot that landed in the crowd. Unfortunately, Garcia’s shot struck a lady on the hand, knocking the diamond out of her ring as a result.
Thankfully, after some extensive looking, the woman eventually found it. Still, “I was prepared to buy her one”, had she not found the diamond, Garcia later said. The Spaniard went on to finish runner-up to Rory McIlroy by two strokes at Firestone.
Koepka Edges Out Webb
The 2019 WGC FedEx St Jude Invitational, which was the first at Southwind, was a real thriller of a tournament and one of the most memorable for years. Everyone was gearing up for a tight finale between Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy, but a terrific Sunday by Koepka did the business on the way to his first World Golf Championships title.
Leading up to that Sunday, Rory played some terrific golf, as did Webb Simpson, who finished runner-up in the first Tennessee WGC Invitational event. However, Koepka hit three birdies in a four-hole stretch on the front nine to cruise to a three-stroke victory in the end. McIlroy ended in joint fourth with English duo Matthew Fitzpatrick and Tommy Fleetwood, while Australian Marc Leishman finished in third place.