FedEx St. Jude Classic
Par: 70 (35-35)
Greens: Bentgrass; 5,240 square feet on average.
Rough: Bermudagrass at 2.5”
Water Hazards: 11
Course Architect: Ron Prichard (1987)
Winner’s Share: $1,044,000
FexExCup Points: 500 to the winner
Dates: June 5-8
Notes: This is the 57th edition of the tournament since 1958. The tournament moved from par 71 to par 70 following the 2004 edition.
Recent History Lessons
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won 21 of 29 events in 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson (TWO), Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every, Matt Kuchar, J.B. Holmes and Brendon Todd have won for the USA.
Adam Scott, Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have cashed five victories. Matsuyama joins Seung-yul Noh as the Asian representatives and Martin Kaymer is flying the flag for Europe with his victory.
S.Y. Noh, Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler, Chesson Hadley Matt Jones, Brendon Todd and Matsuyama are the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had nine in 29 events so far in 2014. #onpace
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. He has been joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia, Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua, Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and Bubba Watson (35), joined them at Riviera. Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30) and Matt Jones (33), all first-timers, flew the flag before Watson picked up victory No. 2 of the year at Augusta. Since the first major, Matt Kuchar (37), J.B. Holmes (32) and Adam Scott (33) have also added to the Prime Timers total.
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) Seung-Yul Noh (22), Martin Kaymer (29), Brendon Todd, 28 and now Matsuyama, 22, are the twenty-somethings who have made large noise this year.
Australian John Senden, 42, won at Tampa Bay for the only W for the “Old Guys” this season.
Pay Attention: It’s FREE!
The FESJC opened up for business in 1958. It moved to TPC Southwind in 1989 and was heavily renovated in 2004. I will go back to 2005 for any relevant scoring comparisons.
There have only been seven first-time TOUR winners in 56 previous editions. Interestingly, three of those have happened in the last four years as Dustin Johnson (2010), Lee Westwood (2011) and Harris English have won in their debuts in Memphis.
Since 1993, only Dickie Pride (1994), Harrison Frazar (2012) and English have made the FESJC as their first win on TOUR. #experiencepays
In 56 events, only four, foreign-born players have been victorious. Westwood was the last to accomplish this. Before him it was Gary Player, Greg Norman and Nick Price. #bigcompany
In the last six seasons, three Sundays have gone to extra holes to determine a winner.
Harris English, 23, is the youngest champion. He’s only one of three players since the turn of the century to win in his 20s. He joins Notah Begay and Dustin Johnson. #experiencepays
Woody Austin was 43 when he won in 2007. Jeff Maggert was 42 when he won in 2006.
Since the renovation in 2004, only Justin Leonard (2005, 2008) has multiple victories on this track.
David Toms went fourth, WIN, WIN, second, T10 and third, T37 and second from 2002-2009. #landlord Toms is one of three players (Lee Trevino, 1971-72; Dave Hill 1969-70) to accomplish this. #rare
The course record, since the renovation, is 62, last set by Woody Austin in 2007.
Brian Gay fired 262 (-18) to set the tournament record in 2009.
Gay and Austin (2007) have won this event by five shots, the largest margin of victory.
There have been only four wire-to-wire winners. Between 2001 and 2009 three of those took place. Brian Gay was the last player to accomplish this.
Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed and Bubba Watson are the only players on TOUR with multiple victories in the 2013-14 season. Patrick Reed is the only player of this triumvirate that is teeing it up this week.
This Will Win You a Bar Bet
No player has ever won the week before the U.S. Open and the U.S. Open.
Only eight players in history have won the week before claiming a major championship:
Byron Nelson: 1945 Chicago Open; PGA
Ben Hogan: 1946 Winnipeg Open; PGA
Sam Snead: 1949 GGO; Masters
Art Wall: 1959 Azalea Open; Masters
Lee Trevino: 1971 Canadian Open; The Open Championship
Sandy Lyle: 1988 GGO; Masters
Phil Mickelson: 2006 Bell South; Masters
Tiger Woods: 2007 WGC-BI; PGA
Phil Mickelson: 2013 Scottish Open; The Open Championship
Past Champions Since 2005
2013: Harris English -12
2012: Dustin Johnson -9
2011: Harrison Frazar -13
2010: Lee Westwood -10
2009: Brian Gay -18
2008: Justin Leonard -4
2007: Woody Austin -13
2006: Jeff Maggert -9
2005: Justin Leonard -14
Inside the Ropes
When TOUR players and fantasy gamers see the letters “TPC” in the title of a course on TOUR, it usually means “birdie fest”. TPC Southwind in Memphis is the exact opposite of this thought as the tough, windy, crooked layout can play havoc on the TOUR’s best players. After being redone in 2004, the days of 59 and massive scores under par have passed. The course now plays annually as one of the toughest on TOUR.
Recent Course Ratings
2005: 9th-most difficult in relation to par
Phil Mickelson suggested after his T2 last year that TPC Southwind would be an excellent tune-up for Pinehurst in 2014. Here we are and Mickelson is in the field as he tries to sharpen up before Pinehurst. The smallish greens in Memphis, although not as crowned as No. 2, will be an excellent opportunity to get a feel for some of the target golf that will have to be played next week. I don’t think that TPC Southwind goes to the extremes that SHO does to make it “like Augusta” but the challenges are there. This course requires players to work the ball both ways off the tee and from the fairway which isn’t usually the case each week on TOUR. It’s also another reason why higher scores win and veterans prevail as patience and placement are just as valuable as power. Putting will be another P I’ll take a look at this week as well as players like Justin Leonard and Jeff Maggert have lit up the greens here in their victories.
With over 90 bunkers and 11 water hazards affecting decision making around TPC Southwind, the FESJC will play similarly to the Honda Classic. Players will have to be aware of the wind, water and sand as they tee it up and as they approach the green. The smallish greens will reward the accurate ball-strikers and will provide a benefit to the scramblers. With only two par-five holes, the pros will have to make birdies on the par-four and par-three holes as well. With four of the five most difficult holes in the final seven, it’s imperative to not throw away shots on the front side.
I’m looking for ball-strikers this week that can take advantage of their length and hit GIR to have multiple birdie chances. Par will be a decent score this week as well and the more bogeys avoided, the better the chances. This would suggest the getting up-and-down is important as well. Winner Harris English made 10 bogeys last year. Ryan Palmer was T4 and only made four, including only one in his last 54 holes. #morethanonewaytoskinacat
Call to Order
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Dustin Johnson (B): The first time he played this event in 2012 he lifted the trophy. Last year he finished T10 and that was with bogeys on holes Nos. 71 and 72. All eight of his rounds are par or better in those only two appearances. He’s No. 2 in the all-around category but I’m most interested in how well he has played on small greens throughout his career. And if the wind blows, he’ll be right at home as well. His double-double finish last week that knocked him out of the top 20 might sour gamers but not this one.
Matt Kuchar (A): I only have one start left on him and I’ll gladly burn it this week on a tight driving track where players with sweet short games are rewarded. He fits the profile to a T so I’m going out guns blazing. I’m not sure the rationale of holstering the guy with the most top 10s on TOUR and who is also second in scoring average. WD Tuesday morning
Ryan Palmer (C): He only has posted four rounds over par in his last five on TOUR and only had one of eight during the Dallas-Ft.Worth swing. His last time out he fired 68-67 at his home course, Colonial, en route to T5. Here’s another big hitter off the tee who finds tons of greens and makes a boatload of birdies. In six starts at TPC Southwind he’s racked up three top 10s. Check this out: The last two years he’s opened with 72 and 74. He shot 11-under in the final two rounds each year to finish T3 and fourth last year. Oh, he made ONE bogey in his final 54 holes here last year as well.
Phil Mickelson (A): LOOK WHO’S BACK! As the only player in THE HISTORY OF GOLF to win TWICE the week before a major, not even an FBI investigation for alleged insider trading can sway me from rating Mickelson this week. Neither can the fact that he hasn’t had a top 10 on TOUR this season. I’m fading myself this week as I believe he’ll be hyped up after his two days of practice at Pinehurst No. 2. He finished T2 here last year also after shooting 11-under in his final three rounds. The more chaos around Mickelson, the better I say.
Lee Westwood (A): Here’s another big-time ball-striker that has fired at 63 on this track and has a win and a T11. Anytime fairways and greens are a premium, Westwood goes in my lineup. Last time out in the States he made his annual trip to the top 10 at THE PLAYERS (T6). He won in Malaysia in April after finishing seventh at Augusta, his other annual springtime top 10.
John Senden (C): He kept his excellent 2014 going during the last Texas swing as he carded T11 and T5. He sits eighth in the all-around category and the key to his success this season has been his putter. He checks in eighth in total putting and that has helped him to his first win since 2008. It doesn’t hurt that he’s made 10 cuts on the bounce either.
Harris English (C): The defending champ will always get a look from me but English has more going for him than that. I’ll never forget that he remarked that enjoys playing tree-lined courses because they keep him focused throughout the round. Bob Estes mentioned on Twitter that he believes that English will be back in action once the right-to-left courses end. I’m listening Bob! English has MC in three of his last five and his other finishes are T31 and T30. English has plenty of ties to Tennessee and should be quite comfortable defending his title. He’s third in GIR and seventh in the all-around ranking.
Paul Casey (C): He bounced right back from his MC at Colonial with T13 last week at Memorial. He would be higher on this list if he didn’t finish 76-73 after opening up 66-66 to lead by two after 36 holes. In his last five starts he’s racked up T18, T11, T16, MC and T13 last week. His killing of par fours doesn’t hurt either.
Charley Hoffman (C): It’s hard to leave out a guy who’s made 16 of 17 weekends this season so I won’t. After a quiet May, Hoffman bounced in the right direction last week with bookend 69s to finish T19. He’s a birdie machine with an excellent short game.
Graeme McDowell (C): He’s been lightly raced as he’s spent time with his expecting wife but he fired 63 on this track before. He’ll hit all of the fairways and should give some great looks. He’s eight of nine with five top 10s this season so in a light field, I’ll head over to the class section. He’s never minded a grind either!
Zach Johnson (B): Yeah, yeah, yeah, one top 25 in his last five starts, I know but I’ll stick with the proven vet in a light field. He crushes par threes and fours and a tough, tight course should cater to his strengths of painting fairways and greens. He has T5 and T12 in four trips to Memphis.
David Toms: This is a recording: David Toms went fourth, WIN, WIN, second, T10 and third, T37 and second from 2002-2009. He’s also made six on the bounce including T5 his last time out at Colonial.
Freddie Jacobson (B): He was T3 two weeks ago at Colonial on a course where guys have to be on their toes so I would expect another solid effort on another tight course again this week. He’s second on TOUR in total putting and 19th in scrambling and that helps EVERY week. This will be his 12th consecutive trip to Memphis and he’s played seven of nine weekends after the renovation.
Billy Horschel (B): He co-led the field in GIR last week at Memorial and that led to only five bogeys on the week (second-least). He racked up 50 pars and got up-and-down from the beach every time. His putter didn’t cooperate but he still found a way to finish T15. He’s sixth in ball-striking and was T10 here last year.
Michael Thompson: He was T10 at Colonial, T11 at Wells Fargo and he won at Honda last year so “Slick” knows his way around tough tracks where par is a decent score. He has been quite decent in the ball-striking department and is T13 in strokes gained-putting.
Martin Flores: He’s made seven cuts on the bounce including his career-best solo third at WFC. In those seven events, four finishes have gone for T19 or better including last week’s T19 at Muirfield. He’s plenty long and has put four of his last eight rounds here in the 60s.
Robert Streb: Another solid young player on TOUR, Streb has made 10 of 11 cuts this season and was just four back on Sunday at Memorial before 76 dropped him to T28. He’s a solid ball-striker and putter who has been destroying par fours all year.
Russell Knox: His ball striking should be an advantage on this layout and he leads the TOUR in par three scoring. He currently sits 18th in the all-around ranking.
Robert Allenby: This is the only course on TOUR that I would consider using Allenby as his record here is immense. T12, T2, T4, WD, T13, T7 and T10 over the last seven years is sturdy. He had made five weekends in a row before just missing out last week at Memorial.
Horses for Courses/Long Shots
Scott Langley: He was in the final group last Sunday, one shot out of the lead. He fired 79. He’s made four cuts in a row so I’ll take a flier on his momentum continuing.
John Merrick: He’s had a round of 66 in four of his last five starts in Memphis. He was just five shots out of the lead last year before a final round 77 knocked him way back. He was second the year before that and 11th in 2011. His form entering the week (T75, WD, MC) doesn’t inspire but there’s no doubt this set-up fits his eye.
Justin Leonard: He’s the only two-time winner on here since the redesign but he hasn’t flashed any top 25s on TOUR since Humana. One for your course history buffs…
Shawn Stefani: He was the 54-hole leader in 2013 before shooting 76 and finishing T7. The last time he teed it up he was T11 at Las Colinas as he closed 66-67-67. He’s made five of his last six cuts on TOUR.
Camilo Villegas: With top 10s in three of his last four starts in Memphis I would have thought he would have been more enticing this week. His T37 at Memorial last week broke a four-tournament run of MC and he only has one top 25 in 19 starts this year.
Retief Goosen: With finishes of T29, T15, T3 in his last three from 2009-2011 Goosen could be used as a calculated flier this week. He’s made five cuts on the bounce and even threw up a 65 last time out at HPBNC.
Padraig Harrington: Goosen and Harrington both fit into the Austin-Maggert category this week as the 40-somethings who might make some noise. David Toms is in his own category so pipe down. With finishes of T13 and T10 last year, the Irishman has flashed some course form in Memphis. He was eight-under and lurking at HPBNC before a final round 74 did him the last time out. That was his first top 25 since last year’s U.S. Open on U.S. soil. THIS IS YOUR ONE CHANCE PEOPLE!
Jonathan Byrd: He’s five-for-five since the redesign and they have gotten better each time out, including T10 last year. He’s only hit two weekends from his last five so he’s down here.
Justin Hicks: He was T7 last year as he put four rounds in the 60s. He’s ninth in ball-striking and 24th in total putting yet he only has one top 25 in seven April-May starts. #puzzled WD Tuesday
Matt Every: Nothing better than 72 in his last four outings and he’s 0-1 at TPC Southwind.
John Rollins: The course history buffs might try and sell but I can’t buy a guy who is 10 of 20 with one top 10 this season. #icecold
Webb Simpson: Welcome back, Webbers. I’ll let my competition shake Simpson out of his quiet spring. He’s missed three of the last six weekends and his best finish is T38.
The Man with his Own Section
The section usually reserved for Phil Mickelson has a brand-new occupant, Patrick Reed. Since he claimed to be one of the best five players in the world, he hasn’t done much except become a father and miss three of five cuts. His two finishes were T52 and T48 but with the first kid on the way, I can understand why he was distracted. He distracted himself by creating the media storm but he gets a pass on the kid!
He qualified on Monday in 2012 and shot 78-68. He backed that up last year with 69-69-64-70 to finish T5 so that’s five straight rounds under par. The talent is unquestionable but I get edgy pulling the club back on a guy who’s been off four weeks in a row.
Jordan Spieth of the Week Last Week
The column was taken over and thrashed by the kid from Texas last year. Out of respect, I’m not changing the title of it for 2013-14. It will remind me just how good Spieth was in the last three months of the season. This year, we’ll still identify an up-and-coming player and/or rookie that fantasy players should have on their radar.
Frys.com: Hideki Matsuyama, T3; Brooks Koepka, T3; Max Homa, T9.
SHCO: Ryo Ishikawa is only 22, don’t forget, T2; Chesson Hadley, T5.
CIMB: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 24, might have enough money after this week to earn Special Temporary Membership. Pay attention!
WGC-HSBC: Jordan Spieth was 17th. Tommy Fleetwood (T18) is only 22 and plays in Europe. Matsuyama WD with a bad back.
McGladrey: Scott Langley turned 24 last April and is in his second season on TOUR. He finished T22 last week and No. 124 last season. #slimpickinngsthisweek
OHL Mayakoba: Harris English turned 24 last July. He won.
HTOC: Er, Jordan Spieth, solo second.
Sony: Hudson Swafford and Will Wilcox both finished T8. Both played on the Web.com Tour last year and are rookies on TOUR this season.
Humana: Patrick Reed won. He’s 23. You need to pay attention.
FIO: Ryo Ishikawa, 22, bagged another top 10 finish. That’s his sixth in his last 10 events on TOUR or the Web.com Tour. He’s an alternate this week as of Monday afternoon.
WMPO: Hideki Matsuyama is 21. In 11 events the last two years, he’s hit the top 25 in NINE of them, including T4 last week. #ALLRIGHTYTHEN
Pebble Beach: Er, Jordan Spieth, T4. Patrick Reed, 23, finished T13 and he’s won twice since August. Golf is good hands, again.
Riviera: Harris English won’t be 25 until July. He was T10; Spieth was T12.
WGC-Match Play: Victor Dubuisson is 23 and was second. Jordan Spieth was T5. #youthmovement
Honda: Russell Henley is now the fourth player on TOUR under 25 with two wins. He joins Patrick Reed, Harris English and Rory McIlroy in this very elite club of pups.
WGC-CC: Patrick Reed is 23. He’s now won three times in eight months on TOUR.
Puerto Rico Open: Rookie Chesson Hadley, 26, took home his first title on the big boy circuit.
Valspar: Chesson Hadley backed up his first win with T14 on a tough, tough Copperhead Course. Scott Langley, a second year player from Illinois (see above) was third.
API: The young Japanese lad Ishikawa racked up another top 10 (T8) this week. Yep, he’s still just 22.
Valero: He’ll be remembered for all of the wrong reasons but Andrew Loupe, 25, finished T4 in only his eighth start on TOUR. #slowgolfclap
Shell Houston: Russell Henley’s T7 shows him heating up before heading back for another crack at Augusta.
Masters: That Jordan Spieth guy was T2.
RBC Heritage: John Huh, T3, is a TOUR winner but is only 23 years old. Remember?
Zurich: The winner was 22-year old Seung-Yul Noh. He fits this column to a T.
Wells Fargo: Defending champ Derek Ernst was T30. He’ll turn 24 on May 15.
THE PLAYERS: That pesky Spieth was tied for the 54-hole lead and finished T4.
HPBNC: T16 was the best the youth could muster with John Huh, who turns 24 on Wednesday.
Colonial: Second-year player David Lingmerth poked his head up again with T5 to lead the youngsters. Hideki Matsuyama, who co-led after 54-holes, finished T10.
Memorial: Matsuyama must be a quick study. He was the 54-hole leader at Colonial yet finished T10. He took it deep this week with his first victory on TOUR, in a playoff, nonetheless. #impressive
Coming Later TUESDAY Afternoon
Playing the Tips will be up and running this and every Tuesday afternoon and will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game and my One-and-Done feature. Look for it around 5 ET every Tuesday for the rest of the season.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at NOON ET. We will be breaking down the field at the FESJC and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.