Many of the world's top players have chosen to skip The FedEx St. Jude Classic but for those in the field, it will be the final test before next week's U.S. Open, our second Major.
TPC Southwind and The FedEx St. Jude Classic will once again provide this year's final tune up before the second Major Championship of the season, The U.S. Open. However, many of the world's finest players are taking the week off to do their own preparation. Only five players from the Top-50 in the world are here; Dustin Johnson, who won this event in 2012, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, Daniel Berger, and Harris English, who won here in 2013.
TPC Southwind, located in Memphis, Tennessee, was designed by Ron Prichard with player consultation being provided by Fuzzy Zoeller and Hubert Green. The golf course opened in 1988 but has since been tweaked by adding more trees, more bunkers, and more length. The course has a number of water hazards, smaller than average greens, and plays to a Par 70. The skill sets that have proven successful at TPC Southwind are Driving Accuracy, Strokes Gained Tee to Green, Greens in Regulation, Putting, and Scrambling...and with it being a Par 70, scoring on the Par 4's will be important as well. Given this, The FedEx St. Jude Classic does look like it will translate well in being a good test leading up to Oakmont for The U.S. Open next week. Oakmont is widely considered the most difficult golf course in America. Southwind has been no pushover in recent years either, ranking as high as the 9th hardest course on Tour in 2015. What may be the area that provides the best preparation for the U.S. Open though, is the weather this week in the Memphis area. Temperatures will be in the mid 90's and it will be humid. With all of the water on this golf course, figure for it to be pretty swampy. Oakmont does have some thunder showers in the forecast for Open Week, humidity, and temperatures in the high 80's. Summertime has arrived. Let's see who can stay cool when things get hot.
Dustin Johnson (6-1) DJ had to withdraw from this event last season but in following up his win in 2012, he finished 10th and then 24th in 2014. He comes in off of a 3rd at The Memorial, a 12th at The Byron Nelson, and a 28th at The Players. The man who three putted the 72nd hole at The U.S. Open last year to lose to Jordan Spieth, looks primed and ready to make another run in 2016.
Brooks Koepka (12-1) This will be the third consecutive trip to The FedEx for Koepka who finished 3rd last year and 19th in his rookie effort. He hits it long, hits greens, and is an excellent putter. This will be his first trip back into action since a very disappointing loss in a playoff at The Byron Nelson four weeks ago.
Phil Mickelson (12-1) Lefty is of the sort who has always played the week before a Major Championship throughout his career and obviously that has been a pretty good recipe for success. Here in Memphis, he has finished 3-11-2 in the last three seasons. The last tournament Mickelson won was the 2013 British Open. The week prior to that Major, he won The Scottish Open.
Harris English (20-1) As mentioned, Harris English is a former winner in Memphis and it was just two weeks ago that he finished 2nd at Colonial. He has been a bit inconsistent this season and at this course but he has the putter to win here again.
Gary Woodland (20-1) Going back to his former instructor, Butch Harmon, has produced immediate results for "The Woodler," who turned in very impressive 4th place finish last week at The Memorial. He has only missed one cut all season and hasn't finished worse than 33rd since April.
Graeme McDowell (40-1) Speaking of wind and humidity, that is exactly what McDowell faced earlier this year in Cancun when he won at Mayakoba. He's extremely accurate off of the tee, has a great iron game, and is an excellent scrambler. This will be his fifth trip to TPC Southwind. He has two missed cuts, a 7th, and a 24th place finish.
The Long Shots
Charles Howell III (40-1) Charles Howell has a very good season going, one in which he has only missed three cuts, has thirteen Top-25 finishes, and has earned nearly two million dollars. His game translates well to Southwind as well as he recorded a 17th at Mayakoba, a 13th in Hawaii at The Sony, and a 5th at The Valspar in Florida.
Boo Weekley (60-1) Weekley is of course, from the South, so the warm and wet conditions will be nothing new for him. He finished 8th here last year and has made the cut in seven of his nine trips to the tournament. Boo finished 10th in Cancun earlier this season and 16th at The Players just five weeks ago.
Scott Stallings (80-1) The often injured, Scott Stallings is the local flavor this week on Tour and he loves this golf course. His season has seen him miss ten cuts but only one in his last five events, which included two Top-15 finishes. Stallings finished runner up to English here in 2013.
Ryan Palmer (20-1) In 2006, Ryan Palmer recorded a 10th place finish here before missing the cut in his next three trips to the tournament. He rebounded in 2012 and has since been on run, finishing 3-4-32-and-22nd last season. The warm weather and humidity will be no stranger to the Texas native and in recent weeks, we have seen him finish 3rd at Colonial, 28th at The Players, and 4th at The Valero. He has also won before in Florida and Hawaii, places where one can also battle wind and humidity, like TPC Southwind. He's excellent off of the tee and from tee to green. If he can get his putter going this week, our pick just may be a winner.