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St Jude Classic Preview

   by Matt Fargo - 06/08/2010

The final tuneup before the U.S. Open takes place this week as the PGA Tour heads to Memphis and the TPC at Southwind for the St. Jude Classic. This stop has been a mainstay on the PGA Tour schedule for years but for the second straight year, there is no title sponsor and the future of this event is in jeopardy. This isn’t the first time however as back in 1977, there was no television contract and it was almost certain that the stop in Memphis was dead.

However during the pro-am that year, former President Gerald Ford aced the par three fifth hole and then on Friday of the tournament, Al Geiberger shot a 59, the first ever on tour, and the rest is history as CBS came back calling and has televised the tournament ever since. FedEx was the sponsor from 1986 to 2006 and then Stanford Financial stepped in and signed a deal through 2016 but the fraud scandal with the company ended that deal and it is once again time to scramble.

TPC at Southwind was opened in March 1988 and has played host to the St. Jude Classic since 1989. The course has 10 water hazards making accuracy in the fairway and greens in regulation extremely important. Two years ago, Southwind played the toughest of all non-majors on the schedule but it was a lot easier last year as it ranked 20th out of 51 courses in difficulty. The par three 11th is considered to be a smaller version of the famous 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass.

Because of the U.S. Open being played next week, a lot of players are taking the week off to practice and rest but the field still has some bite to it. The field includes 23 of the current Top 50 on this year’s PGA Tour money list, including 10 players from the top 25 in the OWGR. Top Ten players include Lee Westwood (3), Ian Poulter (6) and Rory McIlroy (10). The field also includes ten winners of major championships including three-time winner Padraig Harrington and two-time winner Retief Goosen.

While this article typically previews who looks good, this week we need to look at whom to avoid. Eighteen golfers who made the cut at the Memorial are in the midst of quite a grind as they played in the Colonial two weeks ago, then the Memorial, Monday’s 36-hole U.S. Open qualifier, and then the St. Jude Classic. Included in that list are Brendon de Jonge, Spencer Levin, Chad Collins, Tim Petrovic, John Merrick, Woody Austin, Tom Pernice Jr., D.A. Points, Andres Romero and D.J. Trahan.

Trying to defend his championship is Brian Gay (+3000) who won by five strokes last year over Bryce Molder and David Toms. He posted sensational rounds of 64, 66, 66 and 66 and was one of only eight players to shoot all four rounds in the 60’s. He had done well in Memphis prior to that as he posted top five finishes in 2004 and 2007. He has made 11 of 15 cuts this year with two top tens including a T2 at the Byron Nelson.

The favorite this week is Lee Westwood (+1200) who is making his first start in the U.S. since his T4 at THE PLAYERS. He has four top tens in six medal play events over here and has yet to miss a cut. Going back to last season, he has six top tens in his last eight stoke play events on U.S. soil so he will be a factor. His game fits the style that is needed to win at Southwind but this is his first ever start at the St. Jude.

Rory McIlroy (+1500) has vaulted up the world rankings in a short time. He has made only four of seven cuts on the PGA Tour but two of those are top tens including a win at the Quail Hollow Championship after that Sunday 62. He finished T10 at the Memorial last week as Thursday and Sunday rounds of 72 and 71 respectively pushed him down the board. He is 189th in both total driving and ball striking, not a good combination.

The top U.S. player in the field on the money list is Ben Crane (+2000). He has been outstanding this season with five top ten finishes in 13 events including three straight. This includes a win at the Farmers and a T3 at the Colonial in his last start. He is atop the Tour in all-around ranking which takes everything into account and his T14 in Memphis last year shows he likes the course.

David Toms (+2500) has won in Memphis twice (2003 and 2004) and he is the all-time money leader at the St. Jude. His 2010 season has been anything but consistent as he has missed four cuts in 11 stroke play events. He has just three top 25 finishes but his best came in his last event when he ended T13 at the Colonial. He hasn’t won here in six years but he had a T2 last year so he still loves Southwind.

Robert Allenby (+2000) missed the cut at the Memorial last week which was his first start in the U.S. since his T2 at THE PLAYERS. In 12 medal events, he has seven top 25 finishes including four top tens and two top threes. He has had a great history in Memphis without winning as his last two starts in 2008 and 2009 resulted in T2 and T4 finishes respectively. He has five top 20’s in seven starts at the St. Jude.

A big sleeper pick this week is Paul Goydos (+8000). He has only two top tens this year and both of those came in February but he has just one missed cut in his last four starts. He has to be feeling a lot of confidence right now after shooting 66, 67 on Monday at Germantown Country Club to qualify for the U.S. Open. He finished T4 here last year after an opening round 72 but came back with consecutive 64’s to get in the hunt.

Recommended Tournament Win Six Pack at the St. Jude Classic

Brian Gay (+3000)

Lee Westwood (+1200)

Ben Crane (+2000)

David Toms (+2500)

Robert Allenby (+2000)

Paul Goydos (+8000)

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