The FedEx St. Jude Classic traces its roots to 1958 when Billy Maxwell clipped Cary Middlecoff by one stroke at Colonial Country Club in Memphis. Colonial's run ended in 1988. Once Ron Prichard put his signature on TPC Southwind, it assumed host duties, so this week's edition marks its Silver Anniversary on the PGA TOUR.
TPC Southwind has served as the last stop before the U.S. Open since the FedExCup was introduced in 2007. Because of the migratory nature of the major, this week's host course doesn't pretend to mimic the challenges of next week's tournament, but that angle can't be ruled out every year. Such is the case this week.
Measuring 7,239 yards, TPC Southwind played as the most difficult par 70 of 13 in non-majors last year. Its scoring average of 71.240 was its highest since 2008. Contributing to that figure was the fact that the field hit the fairways just 51.71 percent of the time. That set a tournament-record low and plays into one of the annual prerequisites for the season's second major.
Finding putting surfaces that average 5,420 square feet was no bargain yet again in 2012 as TPC Southwind maintained a stodgy defense, surrendering a greens-in-regulation percentage of just 57.49, sixth lowest all year. As a result, the par-breakers split of 16.64 percent ranked ninth-lowest. Par-3 and par-4 scoring placed inside the top 15-hightest compared to respective sets, but the pair of par 5s averaged 4.62, which was comfortably within the top half lowest splits. It is perhaps no surprise then that long hitters like Lee Westwood, Harrison Frazar and Dustin Johnson have won the last three editions. Recent runners-up Robert Karlsson (twice) and Robert Garrigus are also known for their distance off the tee.
Aside from the par 5s, another area where the field of 156 can find solace is getting up and down for par. Thanks in part to the smaller greens, TPC Southwind's scrambling percentage has been relatively high. Last year's clip landed at 57.09 percent, good for 23rd on TOUR.
If there's one hole where par is truly coveted, it's the par-3 14th. Capable of measuring 239 yards, the green is protected by water along the right side, but the pin could be positioned behind the pond as well. Not only was this the most difficult hole on the course in 2012 (averaging 3.318), but it ranked as the fifth-hardest par 3 in a non-major all year. A season-high 38 double bogeys or worse (on a par 3) were penciled in here.
Rain is nearly certain to fall at some point during the tournament, and Memphis is nothing if not a popular location for humidity. In addition to juicy air, temperatures could rise into the upper 80s throughout the event. Winds are not forecast to be an issue, at least early on.
NOTE: For similar characteristics among recent winners, please look for Stats Suggest in The TOUR Report on Wednesday.
|Power Rankings: FedEx St. Jude Classic|