Preview: PGA Tour’s FedEx St. Jude Classic

Preview – PGA Tour – FedEx St. Jude Classic – TPC Southwind – Memphis, TN –

With the 114th U.S. Open on deck next week at Pinehurst in North Carolina, this week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic creates the final opportunity for some of the world’s best players to ready their games.

The event serves as an opportunity for other players to earn a two-year PGA Tour exemption and valuable FedEx Cup points.

Headlining the 156-player field this week at TPC Southwind is World Hall of Famer Phil Mickelson, who enters this week trying to prepare for the U.S. Open while answering questions regarding a federal insider-trading inquiry. Mickelson, one of the favorites for the U.S. Open, has yet to record a Top 10 this season.

The par 70 layout reaches 7,239 yards when playing all the way back at TPC Southwind. This is the 26th time TPC Southwind hosts the tournament, which challenges players off the tee and then into the greens. Look for accurate drivers and those finding greens in regulations to have the upper hand.

The field also includes an international flavor with the likes of Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Graeme McDowell and Padraig Harrington.

2013 Recap:

  • Harris English (12-under) captured the title by two shots holding off Mickelson and Scott Stallings. English opened the week 66-64 to set the pace. Ryan Palmer was fourth at 9-under, while Patrick Reed finished at 8-under. Dustin Johnson and Billy Horschel logged Top 10s.

Mid-60s rounds are usually needed at TPC Southwind to compete. The list of recent champions includes Dustin Johnson (2012), Harrison Frazer (2011), Westwood (2010), Brian Gay (2009) and Justin Leonard (2008). The tournament flashback moment dates back to 1977 when Al Geiberger carded the tour’s first 59 – when the event was held at Colonial Country Club.

FANTASY: English, the rookie of the year in 2012, enters this week fourth on the PGA Tour in Final-Round Scoring. He is also 8th on the Money List and has six Top 10s this year. For an international pick, Casey is the guy. Although making his debut here, Casey contended last week (before ending up T-13) and has six Top 20s in 10 starts on the PGA Tour in 2014. Ryan Palmer is a consistent threat to win here in Memphis.

BETTORS: Dustin Johnson (14-to-1) is the betting favorite at Westwood (16-1) won here in 2010 and logged a T-11 in 2012. Clearly gearing up for the U.S. Open, Lee could win here as he has Top 10s in three of his last five worldwide starts including a T-6 at THE PLAYERS. For a long shot, take Horschel (40-1), who was T-15 at the Memorial a week ago when led the field in Greens in Regulation. Although he is not in great form, Stallings (100-1) is a great long shot pick. He was T-2 last year and won on the PGA Tour earlier this season.

The Golf Channel has coverage Thursday and Friday with CBS Sports handling television Saturday and Sunday.

Other Golf News:

  • Several familiar names earned tee times at the U.S. Open next week through Sectional Qualifying earlier this week including David Toms, Leonard and Casey.
  • Matt Kuchar, 5th in the world ranking, withdrew earlier this week from the St. Jude Classic.
  • Thomas Bjorn continues to lead the European Tour’s Race to Dubai standings followed by Rory McIlroy, Jamie Donaldson, Louis Oosthuizen and Miguel Angel Jimenez. Jimenez headlines the field this week at the Lyoness Open in Austria. Joost Luiten, at 4-1, is the overall betting favorite.
  • The LPGA Tour hosts the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic this week. Stacy Lewis, the new Rolex Ranking No. 1, headlines the field. She has 10 Top 10s in 12 starts in 2014 including two victories.
  • Bernhard Langer leads the Champions Tour’s Charles Schwab Cup followed by Colin Montgomerie, who won the Senior PGA Championship two weeks ago. Jay Haas, Fred Couples and Kenny Perry round out the Top 5.
  • Dustin Johnson, 15th in the Official World Golf Ranking, has six Top 15s in 2014. He last won on tour in November at the World Golf Championships – HSBC Champions in Shanghai, China.