St. Jude Classic
TPC Southwind, Memphis, TN
7,244 Yards, Par 70
The TPC Southwind
went through a major renovation back in 2004 and the scores have dropped ever since. Fairway improvements (narrowed, re-contoured) and completely redone greens with new Bermuda grass were a major part of the project. More sand bunkers were added with a total of 96 along with 10 water hazards. The new design offers players more options, however approach shots are more difficult and better quality shots are required to get the ball close to the flagsticks. In 2009, 11 holes played over par, with Nos. 17 and 18 ranking among the top-100 toughest holes on Tour last year. In 2008, 15 holes played over par.
Keys to success
– Hitting greens (GIR) and a strong short game and scrambling. Accuracy from the tee has also been a big factor, as recent winners Brian Gay, Jeff Maggert, Justin Leonard and David Toms are all strong in that category. The par 3 No. 14 is 239 yards and carries over water to a severely sloped green. It is annually one of the most difficult par 3’s on Tour. The fairways are tight but the landing areas are still fairly generous. Players missing fairways will struggle in GIR while playing from thicker rough. The greens are firmer, faster and have more roll offs. Despite added length in the redesign, the course is not designed for power. Distance control into the greens is what will separate the contenders from the pretenders, along with those able to handle the hot and humid conditions. Over 90 degree temperatures with 50 percent chance of rain/thunderstorms are forecasted for this year’s tournament.
The last four winners were Brian Gay (-18), Justin Leonard (-4), Woody Austin (-13) and Jeff Maggert (-9). Note that a number of players are going through some heavy play in recent weeks while also trying to qualify for the U.S. Open this past Monday. Players that played in the heat in Texas at Colonial, made the cut at The Memorial last week and then went through U.S. qualifying on Monday include: Woody Austin, Chad Collins, Brendon de Jong, Spencer Levin, John Merrick, Tom Pernice Jr., Tim Petrovic, D.A. Points, Andres Romero and D.J. Trahan.
Other player notes
– Retief Goosen is back in action for the first time since The Masters. He’s been recovering from a broken toe. He also incurred a hand injury in mid-May. Goosen has two top-30 finishes and a missed cut the last three years at TPC Southwind. Charles Howell is also back for his first tournament since The PLAYERS. His wife gave birth to the couple’s first child in late May. Howell missed the cut here in both 2008 and 2009 with all four rounds over par. England’s Ian Poulter has been dealing with a left knee injury since late April and is playing poorly. No doubt he’s trying to get right in preparation for next week’s U.S. Open. Padraig Harrington is also trying to prep for the U.S. Open and coming off knee surgery less than three weeks ago. Zach Johnson reported on Twitter that he was sick Monday and Tuesday and had to see a doctor. He is apparently feeling better after rest and fluids. I’m not convinced Johnson will be in top form. Despite coming off a victory two weeks ago at Colonial, he had three rounds over par at The Memorial last week. I don’t expect nearly as much success this week as he’s matched up against Robert Allenby, who continues his strong play despite a missed cut last week. Allenby shows strong swing stats and has the best record here over the past three years with a pair of top-5 finishes.
Stay on course this week and see you at Pebble Beach next week for the U.S. Open.
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Fairway’s favorites: Robert Allenby, Ben Crane
Fairway’s chip-ins: Rory McIllroy, David Toms, Camillo Villegas
Fairway’s fades: Padraig Harrington, Charles Howell, John Merrick, Ian Poulter
Fairway’s long shots: Heath Slocum