TPC Southwind hosts the final stop for the PGA Tour before the US Open with the St Jude Classic taking centre stage. The tournament has been held as the Memphis Classic until being renamed as St Jude Classic in 1986. It is the only PGA Tour tournament to be held in Tennessee and in its 54 year history and was held at Colonial Country Club in Memphis until 1971 when the tournament moved with the club to Cordova. From 1989, the tournament has been held at TPC Southwind, a par-70 course designed by Ron Pritchard which was redeveloped in 2004 replacing the bent grass greens with Bermuda grass greens and Bermuda rough.
There is little to be gained from looking at recent winners for guidance on what attributes are required to win at Southwind. The last three winners have been longer hitters yet before that short hitters had prevailed more regularly. TPC Southwind is of average length and the event is normally greeted with hot temperatures so length off the tee shouldn’t be a nominal advantage. One common theme with the past winners of this event is that the vast majority of winners have strong links to a southern state, normally either residential or collegiate links. This is has been consistent in all winners since 2005 which would stand to reason with the move to Bermuda surfaces which are more commonly found in southern states.
Past winners of this event include Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Raymond Floyd, Larry Mize, Fred Couples, Tom Kite, Nick Price, Greg Norman and Gary Player. Esteemed names indeed yet since Nick Price’s second victory in 1998, only two winners have been subsequent or future major champions, David Toms & Justin Leonard. A sign of a tournament heralding new talent or of a tournament that is suffering from scheduling moves which see it with weaker fields due its proximity to bigger tournaments? Perhaps a mix of the two in truth but its place as the prep event for the US Open seems to have renewed its field quality with two of the last three winners being established names in the form of Lee Westwood and Dustin Johnson.
The victory here by Dustin was his 6th PGA Tour victory and in doing so he matched Tiger Wood’s record of winning in each of his first six seasons as a touring pro, a streak he took to seven in January of this year with victory in the season opening event. He is extremely talented, and I am a well known admirer of his game, however his persistent back injuries and ability to allow his game to implode on the biggest stage is a major worry. Having won on his first start at Southwind, he will be looking for a boost ahead of Merion, particularly after his disappointing return from injury last week at Memorial. As a back to back winner of the AT&T Pro-Am, he knows what it takes to defend a title but in my eyes I think it is much to ask of him to do so this week, his eye’s (and mine) could well be focused on prize in south-east Scotland next month already.
5 For the Win
Robert Karlsson – I highlighted Karlsson a few weeks back as a surprise package at
Colonial where after an encouraging opening two rounds, he fell away at the weekend. However he is coming to a course which he has finished as a runner up twice following playoff defeats in 2010 & 2011 so a victory here wouldn’t be considered a surprise. It is worth noting that his best week off the tee at Memorial and this is an area that Karlsson is not renowned for so if he can bring that form off the tee to Memphis he could trend quite highly. He also qualified for the US Open on Monday.
Tim Clark – Another player I have previously highlighted, Tim Clark has shown a return to
form that shouldn’t be underestimated. What also shouldn’t be underestimated is strong par-70 form; he has two 2nd place finishes at Waialae & Colonial and finished inside the top five at both TPC River Highlands and Sedgefield CC last year. He comes into this week off the back of top ten at Colonial and a hot putter which topped the stats at Colonial. He would rate as my top pick from my five this week and as a potential for next week, he is very much in my thinking for Merion.
Russell Henley – There has been a great deal of talk about the potential of Henley since
winning on his professional PGA Tour debut back in January at Waialee, His 72 hole total of 256 is the third lowest in PGA Tour history and he played the par 4’s a total of 17 under par for the four rounds. He has followed that victory up with some eye-catching performances most recently his tied sixth place finish at Muirfield Village despite a second round 77, He has strong par 70 form; his second win last year on the Web.com tour was on a par-70 layout as well a tied thirteenth place finish at PGA National. He has been very accurate off the tee on the whole this year and that will be strength this week.
Freddie Jacobson – Freddie is on a streak of 9 straight cuts made which includes 2 top
tens and 4 top 25 finishes. His best performance of the season came at the Northern Trust Open where he finished tied third but he also had notable finishes at Doral and Augusta. He claimed his maiden PGA Tour win on a par-70 track in 2011 and in his 10 visits to TPC Southwind he has registered two top five finishes, one top ten and one top 25. He has also only missed one cut in his ten visits and on the back of an improved tee to green game at Colonial he could be a big factor this week.
Ross Fisher – This week could see Fisher reap the benefits of a two week visit to
European Tour events which culminated in a final round 64 to see him finish 8th in the Nordea Masters in Sweden. Striking in that performance was his putting performance which had shown signs of improvement over the first two days at Wentworth; he averaged 28 putts per round, contrast that with his PGA Tour putts per round average for the season of 30.58. Those putting numbers from Europe if replicated this week would see Fisher in very good stead when you consider he ranks 7th in GIR and Ball Striking on the PGA Tour. A big week is expected
2 Surprise Packages
Robert Allenby – Allenby is the embodiment of surprise package material this week as
he is in the midst of a woeful season where he has missed ten cuts in thirteen appearances on tour. In the three cuts he has made, he has recorded a best finish of tied 27th at Quail Hollow in May. So why on earth is he a pick this week? Well in his 9 appearances at TPC Southwind, he has form lines of 7-13-4-2-12-MC-17-9-55; which represents very solid course form. Allenby won’t have any of the distractions that an impending appearance at the US Open can bring, even a win this week wouldn’t move into the world’s top 60. He will be hoping to rediscover his form on a course that has been favourable to him in the past. It’s a bold call but I can see him having a good week.
Trevor Immelman – The curse of the 2008 major champions is still very much in play for
Immelman; who has not won a tournament since is Masters victory in 2008. Despite signs of an upturn in form during August of last year, 2013 has not started well. The reason for this in the main has been a weak putter; he is 171st in Total Putting compared to 63rd in GIR. He showed an improvement in putting last week when he finished 29th in strokes gained putting and 5th in GIR. I am happy to take him to progress further this week as Muirfield Village’s greens where lightning quick last week and he finished second at Southwind on his sole 2008 appearance
- The St Jude Classic Preview 2013 (gridofsports.wordpress.com)
- FedEx St. Jude Classic Golf tips 2013 (bobbysgolfblog.wordpress.com)
- Ranking the 10 Most Difficult Courses on the PGA Tour (bleacherreport.com)
- FedEx St. Jude Classic™ Chooses Spotless Swing Golf Towel for Their Monday Pro-Am (prweb.com)