- A full preview of the FedEx St. Jude Classic at TPC Southwind, including tee times, odds and picks.
Someway, somehow, we are just eight days away from the United States Open. But before the golfing world turns its eyes to the Hamptons and Shinnecock Hills for the sport's toughest test, the PGA Tour stops in the home of the blues for the FedEx St. Jude Classic.
We're talking about Memphis, to be clear.
This the final year that TPC Southwind will host this tournament as its currently constructed; next year, this will be converted into a World Golf Championship and take the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational's spot on the schedule, meaning it will almost certainly be in August.
As we saw in the Houston Open, the tournament that immediately preceded the Masters, a number of the world's best players are sitting out this week to ensure they're fresh for next week. All majors, but particularly the U.S. Open, are just more draining than the average Tour stop. Harder golf course, more fans, more media, etc.
Still, there are a number of guys who do choose to play the week before majors, whether that's to please sponsors or because they like to be in a rhythm or for another reason entirely. Two of the top 10 players in the world are in the field this week—Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka—as are some fan favorites like Phil Mickelson and Kiradech Aphibarnrat. But if you're here looking for Tiger Woods or Justin Thomas or Jordan Spieth or Rory McIlroy, you're out of luck.
Daniel Berger is going for the ultra-rare three-peat this week, as both of his PGA Tour wins have come at this event.
Here's everything you need to know ahead of Thursday's first tee shot.
The golf course
TPC Southwind is a Tour-owned course located in a gated community within Memphis' borders, and its played host to this event since 1989. The course will play 7,244 yards and, like Shinnecock, will be set up as a par 70. The course record is 61, set by Jay Delsing in in 1993 and equaled by Bob Estes in 2001. The greens this week are Bermuda, which is grainier than the bent grass that makes up the Shinnecock putting surfaces.
TPC Southwind has a ton of water, and that water claims more balls than any other course on Tour...and it's not even close. Since 2003, 5,269 balls have found water hazards at Southwind, with TPC Sawgrass the next closest at 3,707. The par-3 12th and par-4 18th account for a good portion of those balls, as 12 has water all around the green and 18 is a dogleg left that has a hazard running along the left side the entire way.
Accuracy is key this week; it's imperative to avoid all that water if you're to have a chance on the back nine come Sunday.
As discussed earlier, plenty of the world's best are sitting this one out. In fact, a lot of them are already in the Hamptons prepping for next week. Rory McIlroy is there, as is Tiger Woods and his 155-foot yacht. World No. 2 Dustin Johnson and No. 9 Brooks Koepka headline the players who are teeing it up. Henrik Stenson, Phil Mickelson, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Tony Finau will also be there. Two-time defending champion Daniel Berger will attempt to become the first guy to pull off a three-peat since Steve Stricker won the John Deere in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Tennage phenom Joaquin Niemann will compete one week after playing in the final group and finishing T-6 at the Memorial. Byeong Hun An, who lost in a playoff to Bryson DeChambeau in the Memorial, is playing, as is Braden Thornberry, the world's third-ranked amateur who is deciding whether to return to Ole Miss for his senior year. John Daly will be there for those fond of that sort of thing, as will Steve Stricker, who qualified for the U.S. Open the old fashioned way (in a 36-hole sectional qualifier).
John Peterson, who is giving himself two more starts to make enough money to keep his PGA Tour card, is playing. If he doesn't, he's said he'll retire at the age of 29.
A full list of tee times can be found here, but here are a few of the notable groupings:
Henrik Stenson, Brooks Koepka, William McGirt - 7:40 a.m.* Thursday/12:40 p.m. Friday
Phil Mickelson, Tony Finau, Luke List - 7:50 a.m.*/12:50 p.m.
Dustin Johnson, Austin Cook, Daniel Berger - 12:50 p.m./7:50 p.m.*
James Hahn, Shane Lowry, Padraig Harringon - 7:50 a.m./12:50 p.m.*
The past champions
2017 - Daniel Berger
2016 - Daniel Berger
2015 - Fabian Gomez
2014 - Ben Crane
2013 - Harris English
2012 - Dustin Johnson
2011 - Harrison Frazar
2010 - Lee Westwood
2009 - Brian Gay
2008 - Justin Leonard
Dustin Johnson +650 - Hasn't won since that season-opening triumph at Kapalua
Brooks Koepka +900 - Tied for second in last start at Colonial, will defend title at Shinnecock
Henrik Stenson +1100
Phil Mickelson +1600
Tony Finau +2000 - Six top-25s in seven starts, ankle feels better after Masters snafu
Billy Horschel +2200
Charl Schwartzel +2800
Daniel Berger +2800 - Vegas doesn't seem to high on Berger's three-peat chances
Luke List +2800
Byeong Hun An +3300
Joaquin Niemann +3500 - Former World No. 1 amateur has what it takes to win...now
Kiradech Aphibarnrat +3500 - If/when he wins stateside, he'll immediately be a huge star
Peter Uihlein +4000
Chez Reavie +4000
Charles Howell III +5000
Steve Stricker +5000 - He's 51, played 36 Monday to qualify for the U.S. Open...fatigue?
Kevin Chappell +5000
J.B. Holmes +5500
Brandt Snedeker +6600
Chris Kirk +6600
It's gotta be someone who keeps the ball in play, and I'm going to stay away from any of the guys who played in a Monday sectional, particularly those who made it through. I'm going with Henrik Stenson, who will 3-wood this place to death.