Final Tune Up – The FedEx St. Jude Classic

Lee Westwood Defends at TPC Southwind (Photo:  PGA Tour/Getty Images)
Lee Westwood Defends at TPC Southwind (Photo: PGA Tour/Getty Images)

The United States Open Championship looms next week and with that players are getting in their final preparation for Congressional.  Many are choosing to tune-up on the PGA Tour in Memphis while more than a few are taking the week off.  That includes fourteen players who were in the field for this week’s PGA Tour event but have withdrawn and made room for those further down the status list.

Few can forget the 2010 FedEx St. Jude Classic which had one of the strangest endings you will ever see in a tour event.

Third-round leader Robert Garrigus entered the final hole of regulation with a three-stroke lead but drove in the hazard down the left side of the hole, hit his third shot in the trees to the left and had to pitch out before wedging to the green and making a triple bogey to force a playoff with Lee Westwood and Robert Karlsson. The 32-year-old native of Nampa, ID, native was then the first player eliminated after driving his ball behind a tree and making bogey on the first extra hole.

Westwood eventually won on the playoff with a birdie three on the fourth playoff hole (No. 18) to defeat Karlsson.  Last year’s playoff was the 13th in FedEx St. Jude Classic history and longest at four holes.  Prior to 2010, the last playoff at TPC Southwind was in 2008.

In a fun twist, tournament organizers have pairs the three players together for the first three rounds this year.

This event has a new name this year with FedEx stepping in as the title sponsor.  Memphis-based FedEx announced its return as title sponsor of the FedEx St. Jude Classic for 2011 in December of 2010 and last month announced a three-year extension, securing title sponsorship for the event through 2014.  It’s great security for a tournament that players find to have one of the most laid-back atmospheres on the entire tour, bring with it a ton of entertainment and food possibilities away from the golf action.

Six former winners of the tournament are in the field this week including, as mentioned, Lee Westwood.  He is joined by two-time winner David Toms.  Also in the field are past winners Brian Gay (2009), Woody Austin (2007), Len Mattiace (2002) and Bob Estes (2001).

Toms has to be considered a favourite with his recent play that included a win at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. He is one of nine players in the field who have also won on the PGA Tour in 2011.  Those players include Jonathan Byrd (Hyundai Tournament of Champions), Michael Bradley (Puerto Rico Open presented by seepuertorico.com), D.A. Points (AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am), Brandt Snedeker (The Heritage), Brendan Steele (Valero Texas Open), Jhonattan Vegas (Bob Hope Classic), Johnson Wagner (Mayakoba Golf Classic at Riviera Maya), Keegan Bradley (HP Byron Nelson Championship).

Those players don’t give the event a lot of marquee value but the presence of Westwood, the current Number 2 ranked player in the World, should take become the point of focus.  Westwood has yet to win a major championship and the preparation provided by this week might be a good indication on whether he is ready to top the field at Congressional.  He will look to join Dave Hill (1969-70), Lee Trevino (1971-72) and David Toms (2003-04) as the only players to win consecutive titles at the FedEx St. Jude Classic.

Unfortunately for Westwood history is not on his side.  No player has won a PGA TOUR event and then gone on to win the U.S. Open the following week.  A total of eight players have won the week before and then gone on to win a major championship the following week, most recently Tiger Woods in 2007 (WGC-Bridgestone Invitational – PGA Championship).

– Canuck Watch

Canadian golf fans will have a lot to watch this week.  Five Canadians are in the field at Memphis – David Hearn, Stephen Ames, Graham Delaet, Chris Baryla, and Matt McQuillan.  None of those players will be playing at Congressional next week where Adam Hadwin, Wes Heffernan, and Jon Mills will be the three Canadian players in the field.

2011 FedEx St. Jude Classic

Dates:  June 6-12, 2011

Where: TPC Southwind, Memphis, TN

Par/Yards: 35-35—70 / 7,239

Field: 156

Defending Champion: Lee Westwood

FedExCup Points: 500

Purse: $5,600,000; Winner’s Share: $1,008,000; Format: 72-hole stroke play

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