Round 1: St. Jude Classic presented by FedEx

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Phil Mickelson will have plenty of fans pulling for him in Thursday's first round of the St. Jude Classic presented by FedEx.
June 11, 2009
PGA TOUR staff
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The St. Jude Classic
PGATOUR.COM's The Live Report has all the news and notes from the St. Jude Classic presented by FedEx, and we'll be providing updates from TPC Southwind all day long for each round, so check back often. (All timestamps are Eastern Time.)
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WRAPPING UP ROUND 1 (7:45 p.m.): No one was able to go really low at TPC Southwind, though Brian Gay's 6-under 64 was more like a 62 at a par-72 course that's how difficult things were.

Late in the day, Jimmy Walker made a run at the lead, opening his round with three birdies in a four-hole stretch. He managed just one birdie the rest of the day, however, to finish one back of Gay.

There's a lot of golf to be played, but this isn't the first time we've seen Gay play well this year. Aside from his victory at the Verizon Heritage, he finished in a tie for fifth at the Sony Open in Hawaii and tied for sixth at the FBR Open. He's also played well at TPC Southwind before, having finished fourth two years ago.

Gay has come a long way since that fourth-place finish and proved he could get the job done earlier this season. There's certainly a lot of golf ahead, but he put himself in position A today. -- Brian Wacker

TALE OF TWO ROUNDS (6:30 p.m.): It was a day of contrast at the St. Jude Classic presented by FedEx, where Phil Mickelson and John Daly returned to the golf course under very different circumstances and had largely different results.

Mickelson, playing for the first time since THE PLAYERS Championship and the announcement that his wife has breast cancer, fought all sorts of emotions, but steadied himself enough to make six birdies on his way to a 2-under 68 on a very difficult course.

Daly, on the other hand, playing in a PGA TOUR event for the first time since last October, was less spectacular with just one birdie and three straight bogeys to open up the back nine. That left him with a 72 at day's end, but not in terrible position by any means. -- Brian Wacker

TWEET OF THE DAY (5:55 p.m.): Got a "tweet" from Ian Poulter a little while ago that he's going to the Magic-Lakers game tonight. He's also predicting the Magic will win by eight. That's not surprising considering Poulter lives in the area and is a regular at Magic games when he's home, which he is this week as he prepares for next week's U.S. Open. Poulter, who's fairly new to Twitter, also said he loves it, so much so that he drained the battery on his cell phone today. You can follow Poulter on Twitter at Twitter.com/Ianjamespoulter. For more news from the PGA TOUR, you can follow its Twitter at Twitter.com/pgatour and for more news and analysis follow me at Twitter.com/pgatour_brianw, where you can find a lot of info that you won't see anywhere else. -- Brian Wacker

NEW LEADER (5:40 p.m.): There hasn't been a whole lot of movement near the top of the leaderboard this afternoon given how difficult TPC Southwind is playing, but we do have a new leader (for the moment) in Brian Gay.

Gay has strung together six birdies and made just one bogey through 15 holes and he's done it by hitting a good amount of fairways and a lot of greens in regulation while taking just 22 putts.

This is the fourth time this year that Gay has been in contention with him having won once already at the Verizon Heritage. -- Brian Wacker

Player Tournament win
Michael Bradley 2009 Puerto Rico Open
Brian Gay 2009 Verizon Heritage
Richard S. Johnson 2008 U.S. Bank Championship
Jerry Kelly 2009 Zurich Classic of New Orleans
Will MacKenzie 2008 Viking Classic
Parker McLachlin 2008 Legends Reno-Tahoe Open
Marc Turnesa 2008 Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospital Open

WIN AND YOU'RE IN (5:10 p.m.): There are 155 players currently in the U.S. Open field -- with one spot left open for a multiple PGA TOUR winner since last year's U.S. Open. The seven players in the St. Jude Classic field looking to earn a second win to gain entry in the U.S. Open are below. -- Joel Schuchmann

Major Championship winners who have won the week prior on the PGA TOUR:
Player Victory the week before a major Major
Tiger Woods 2007 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational PGA Championship
Phil Mickelson 2006 BellSouth Classic Masters
Sandy Lyle 1988 Greensboro Open Masters
Lee Trevino 1971 Canadian Open British Open
Art Wall 1959 Azalea Open Masters
Sam Snead 1949 Greensboro Open Masters
Ben Hogan 1946 Winnepeg Open PGA Championship
Byron Nelson 1945 Chicago Victory PGA Championship

MOMENTUM? (4:45 p.m.): No player has won the week prior to the U.S. Open and followed it up with a victory in the second major of the year. Will that change this week? OIt's doubtful, but there was a time when the same could be said about other major championships. Check out the chart below for those who have won a PGA TOUR even the week prior to a major, then gone on to win that major. -- Brian Wacker

Doug Barron: T25 in 2000 best finish in 11 career starts in Memphis.

John Daly: First start of 2009 on the PGA TOUR; T5 in 2001 is lone top-10 in 17 St. Jude Classic starts; top European Tour finish thus far in 2009 was T2 at the Italian Open.

David Gossett: Former John Deere Classic winner (2001) making first PGA TOUR start since 2007; last top-10 on TOUR was T3 at the 2003 MCI Heritage; In seven previous Memphis starts, has posted one top-25 (T20 in 2003).

Shaun Micheel: Former PGA Champion playing on Major Medical Extension this season due to left shoulder surgery on June 10, 2008 to repair a torn labrum; Posted two top-25s in 15 previous St. Jude Classic starts.

Loren Roberts: Playing in record-setting 25th St. Jude Classic, with four top-10s in previous 24 starts; missed the cut in last TOUR start at the 2009 Sony Open in Hawaii; primarily a Champions Tour player, with eight career Champions Tour victories (including the 2007 Charles Schwab Cup title) to match his eight TOUR wins.

Vance Veazey: Finished T10 at 2007 St. Jude Classic, best finish in eight Memphis starts.

Casey Wittenberg: TOUR rookie looks for first top-10 of 2009; lone career top-10 in 38 TOUR starts was a T4 at the 2008 Viking Classic; five career Memphis starts, best finish being T52 in 2005.

LOCAL FLAVOR (4:05 p.m.): There are seven players in the field this week with connections to the Memphis area. Here's a breakdown of each player with local ties. -- Joel Schuchmann

LEADERS HERE (3:50 p.m.): Take this as you will for leaders Jose Maria Olzabal, Mathias Gronberg and Chris Stroud, but the first-round leader has won the St. Jude Classic presented by FedEx 12 times in the tournament's 51-year history. Justin Leonard was the last to do so in 2005, when he parlayed an opening-round 62 into his 10th PGA TOUR title with a wire-to-wire victory. -- Joel Schuchmann

LOTS OF GOLF FOR GRONBERG (3:35 p.m.): Mathias Gronberg's last few days went something like this: 25 holes, 36 holes, win the weather-plagued Nationwide Tour's Melwood Prince George's County Open, drive a couple hours home Sunday night from Maryland to New Jersey after the victory, sleep 3 1/2 hours, drive two hours north to Purchase, N.Y., to the U.S. Open qualifier at Old Oaks, play 36 holes.

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"Tuesday I was dead," said Gronberg, who was so tired he didn't even arrive at the St. Jude Classic presented by FedEx until Wednesday afternoon.

Not that it affected him apparently. Gronberg had five birdies and just one bogey on his way to a 4-under 66 in today's first round.

"I know the golf course, I know where you should hit the golf ball, but I think it was a very good decision to stay at home Tuesday and rest," Gronberg said. "Obviously just playing 18 holes feels so little. It didn't feel like -- I actually was walking up 17 fairway and I was thinking, 'Oh, I feel really good,' especially when I knew that I didn't have to play another round of golf."

Though he didn't play well in the qualifier, shoot 4 over, Gronberg did come into this week in good form with two bogey-free rounds of 67 and 65 to finish at 19-under to win last week's Nationwide event. -- Brian Wacker

WELCOME BACK BOO, BRANDT (3:07 p.m.) -- We haven't seen Boo Weekley since he injured his shoulder in the third round of THE PLAYERS Championship, but it is obvious the injury isn't having any long-term effects.

Weekley quickly birdied three of the first four holes at TPC Southwind on Thursday to threaten the lead, despite the disadvantage of a late tee time. Weekley has made 11 cuts in 12 starts this year, but he's only finished in the top 10 once (tie for ninth at the Sony Open in Hawaii).

Brandt Snedeker is also making his return to the PGA TOUR this week. The Nashville resident has been out of action with a rib injury since the Verizon Heritage, and the injury accentuated a slow start to the season (only three cuts made in 10 starts). -- Ryan Smithson

OLAZABAL INTERVIEW (2:55 p.m.): It's been a bittersweet year of sorts for Jose Maria Olazabal, who has played well at times, but not consistently enough after battling injuries the last couple of years. Yet he was also voted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, validating a career that has seen two major victories and 29 wins around the world.

Jose Maria Olazabal interview
Q: Can you just talk about the ups and downs of the last couple of years, struggling?

OLAZABAL: It's been tough. I'm not going to -- I don't want to say otherwise. It's been a tough two years, very painful. Haven't been able to do much at all. Haven't been able to exercise for two years now. I couldn't do much for a year and a half, just lay down and -- you know, quite unpleasant. It's something that I don't wish on anybody.

Q. What it's like then to come in and play a very good round like this, given --

OLAZABAL: It's encouraging without a doubt. But I have to be realistic, and this is my sixth event this year. Last year I only played like three, four. I haven't played, you know, much golf at all, and I know that my game, you know, is not where it should be. Obviously to have a round like today or to have a tournament like at Hilton Head, those things help. It helps you to be positive, to go to the driving range, to do whatever is needed for you in trying to be as prepared as possible, and, you know, it's important.

Q. Can you talk about getting into the Hall of Fame and kind of your emotions about that?

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL: That is very special. Seve was there. It's been part of it for me. Seve, he's been an important figure, but to be -- to belong or to be at least a part of such a select group of people that have achieved obviously great things in the game of golf, but at the same time, people that have done so much for the game of golf and have opened so many doors and, you know, they put the game of golf that it is today, you know. The game of golf is what it is today because of them. To be part of that select group, I mean obviously is very, very special and it's a huge honor for me to be part of that.

Q. Can I ask what the last contact you had with Seve and how he's doing?

OLAZABAL: Yeah. Last week. You know, he's doing well. He's in high spirits. Obviously the fact that Jack called him and, you know -- I think it came at the right time. You know, I think he's working hard, he's doing two hours of rehab every today, hour and a half everyday at least. He's not giving up. He's in high spirits, and I think these little things for him, they mean so much that, you know, it's wonderful.

He talked about that, his opening-round 68 and more just a little while ago. Here are some highlights. -- Brian Wacker

FREDRIK FEELING IT (2:30 p.m.): Fredrik Jacobson has been a busy guy of late. Aside from splitting his season between here and Europe, he played in both 36-hole qualifiers for the British Open and the U.S. Open.

While he only qualified for the British Open, he has shown signs of playing well this year, especially on the PGA TOUR, where he has a pair of fifth-place finishes at The Honda Classic and the Valero Texas Open. And he's at it again this week after a round of 3-under 67 that has him one off the lead.

"It's been a lot of golf, but I'm playing well at the moment," Jacobson said. "I wanted to come back here again and give it a go."

And why not after finishing in a tie for sixth here in 2005? -- Brian Wacker

GARCIA ON THE COURSE (2 p.m.): Sergio Garcia teed off about 15 minutes ago, making par on the first hole, but he's looking for more than that this week. It's been a tough year on and off the course for Garcia, who has just one finish in the top 20 on the PGA TOUR this season and who has admitted that the breakup with his longtime girlfriend, Morgan Leigh Norman, daughter of Greg Norman, has taken a considerable toll on his golf.

Maybe playing here will help. Garcia finished fourth here a year ago and more recently showed flashes at the European Open, where he tied for 13th. Can he keep that momentum going this week? Find out by following him live here. -- Brian Wacker

OLLIE ON A ROLL (1:40 p.m.): Jose Maria Olazabal is playing in just his fourth PGA TOUR event of the season and only his second in the U.S. in two months, but that hasn't affected him apparently. Olazabal just finished off a round of 4-under 66 that was bogey-free and his best of the season so far.

Perhaps we shouldn't have overlooked Ollie as a contender this week -- despite an arthritic condition that's plagued his game for the past few years, he's, at least on occasion, produced some good results on tough courses because of good ballstriking and superior putting.

That was the case today -- much the same way it was earlier this season at the Verizon Heritage, where he finished in a tie for sixth. At TPC Southwind, Olazabal hit 72 percent of his greens in regulation and took a respectable 27 putts. As a result, he's in good position with not many players going low today. There's still a long way to go, but should Olazabal go on to win Sunday, it would be his first victory on TOUR since the 2002 Buick Invitational. -- Brian Wacker

MICKELSON'S MIXED ROUND (1:05 p.m.): All things considered, Phil Mickelson's 2-under 68 today was pretty impressive. Just a day earlier, he was as emotional as he's ever been in a press conference, talking about his wife's battle with breast cancer and his return to the game. He talked about the golf course being a place where he could give himself a mental break. He also gave himself some confidence with six birdies on a course he's only played once before. That was in 2001, when he shot 71-70 to miss the cut.

Today, Mickelson hit 57 percent of his fairways, but he hit 72 percent of the greens in regulation, taking 29 putts in the process. Save for a double bogey at No. 18 and bogeys on two of TPC Southwind's four par-4s, it was a good day. We'll find out how good after his post-round press conference shortly. -- Brian Wacker

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Below is a look at Mickelson's scorecard. To replay his round with Shot Tracker, click here.

LEONARD NOT THE ONLY ONE STRUGGLING (12:46 p.m.): Justin Leonard wasn't the only player to get off to a rough start at the PGA TOUR'S most difficult (non-major) course in 2008. Leif Olson double-bogeyed his first hole, then bogeyed three of the next four before adding one more on No. 9 to make the turn in 41.

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Things didn't get off to any better of a start on the back, either, with Olson making double bogey on the 10th hole, too. That has him at 8 over and unless something miraculous happens, probably headed home for the weekend when the cut is made tomorrow. Not that it would be any great surprise -- Olson has missed 8 of 9 cuts this year and has only broken 71 three times. Below is a look at Olson's scorecard so far. -- Brian Wacker

CAMILO ON THE CHARGE (12:30 p.m.): It's been more than two months since Camilo Villegas has finished in the top 10 -- his last was a tie for fifth at the World Golf Championships-CA Championship -- and he's looking to change that this week. So far, Villegas is off to a good start with three birdies and no bogeys through 15 holes.

That has Villegas just one off the lead at the moment and it isn't all that surprising when you consider how he plays on tough courses, especially ones where finding the green in regulation is important. Villegas ranks fifth on tour in GIR. The biggest thing holding Villegas back, however, has been his accuracy and his putting. Today, though, he's hit better than 70 percent of his fairways and taken a respectable 23 putts through 15 holes. -- Brian Wacker

TOUGH TRACK (12:05 p.m.): Despite having just two holes rank among the 50 toughest on the PGA TOUR last season, TPC Southwind was the fourth most difficult course and hardest non-major venue of 2008.

Toughest courses on the PGA TOUR in 2008
Course Par Yardage Avg. score Tournament
Royal Birkdale 70 7,173 74.869 British Open
Oakland Hills 70 7,395 74.315 PGA Championship
Torrey Pines 71 7,643 74.712 U.S. Open
TPC Southwind 70 7,239 72.534 St. Jude Classic

So far, not much seems to be changing this year. The lead is currently at 4 under and no one has been able to make a bunch of birdies. Below is a look at just how difficult this course was last year when Justin Leonard won the tournament in a playoff at ... 4 under. -- Brian Wacker

MICKELSON UPDATE (11:40 a.m.): Since starting his day with back-to-back birdies, it's been an up-and-down round for Phil Mickelson. He bogeyed No. 14, bounced back with a birdie at No. 16, then doubled the 18th, where he found the water left off the tee.

Since making the turn in even-par 35, Mickelson has added another birdie at the par-5 third hole to get back to 1 under, but clearly this day and this week are going to be difficult for Lefty.

"Whenever Amy was sleeping or whenever I had a minute, I would either take the kids to the course or I would just go to the range for an hour and hit some balls," Mickelson said yesterday. "I don't feel as though my game is that far off. But certainly I haven't played in a while. Certainly I had an emotional month, and I don't know where I will be on the golf course as far as being able to focus or being able to get another round."

While Mickelson also said that he didn't think he'd have any concerns over the physical element of hitting a golf ball, there certainly seems to be a level of inconsistency from lack of practice and lack of tournament golf he'll have to fight through this week and in preparation for next week's U.S. Open.

"I just need to get back to competition," Mickelson said. "I need to get a little bit in a competitive frame of mind if I expect to have any chance next week." -- Brian Wacker

WEATHER UPDATE (11:05 a.m.): A steady rain fell on TPC Southwind for about a hole but there doesn't appear to be any electricity in the air -- yet. There is a 60 percent chance of pop-up thunderstorms throughout the afternoon, though, some of which could be severe.

The threat of thunderstorms continues over the next three days due to a stationary front over eastern Tennessee. But the possibility decreases by 10 percent each day, starting with 40 percent on Friday. Temperatures will be in the upper 80s Thursday and Fridays and the low 90s on the weekend. -- Helen Ross

BOUNCING BACK BIG (10:55 a.m.): Frank Lickliter II didn't get off to the best of starts, but he has definitely righted the ship. After opening with a bogey, he has birdied four straight to climb the leaderboard. The birdie putts came from 11, 4, 14 and 28 feet -- moving Lickliter to 3 under and one stroke off the lead held by Richard S. Johnson. Lickliter, who is playing out of the 126-150 on the money list eligibility category, hasn't played since the Valero Texas Open where he tied for 17th. -- Helen Ross

WHAT'S AT STAKE (10:45 a.m.): There are seven players who could play their way into the U.S. Open this week.

They'd have to win the St. Jude Classic presented by FedEx, though -- which would qualify them under USGA rules since it would be their second official PGA TOUR win since June 2, 2008.

The seven players are: Michael Bradley, Brian Gay, Richard S. Johnson, Will MacKenzie, Parker McLachlin, Marc Turnesa and Jerry Kelly. Two of them are off to a very good start Thursday -- Johnson is 4 under through eight holes while Kelly is 2 under through 8.

However, if one of those players doesn't win, the first alternate from the sectional qualifying -- yet to be determined -- would be the 156th and final player in the field at Bethpage Black. -- Helen Ross

DUBIOUS STREAK (10:30 a.m.): Justin Leonard won this tournament twice and has two top-20s and a top-5 in his last three starts here, but isn't exactly off to the kind of start anyone expected this morning with six bogeys through his first six holes.

He ended the bogey run with a birdie on No. 16 (Leonard started on the back nine), but he seems to be struggling in just about every part of his game today.

Leonard's problems began on No. 10, where his tee shot went well to the right, forcing him to pitch out before he eventually went on to make bogey. At the par-3 11th, he three-putted from 25 feet and on No. 12 found the water right off the tee.

The 13th hole wasn't any better with Leonard hitting his tee shot into a fairway bunker. His next shot came up short and right in the rough, which led to him coming up short of the green on his approach.

At the par-3 14th hole, Leonard's tee shot missed the green, and, despite his usually reliable short game, he was unable to get up-and-down to save par. At the 15th, Leonard's tee shot went astray again, finding the right rough and forcing him to pitch out into the fairway.

The lone bright spot for Leonard came at the par-5 16th, where he pitched out of a greenside bunker to 3 feet before rolling in his only birdie so far. -- Brian Wacker

PHIL'S QUICK START (10:10 a.m.): Phil Mickelson couldn't ask for a better start in his first PGA TOUR appearance since his wife Amy was diagnosed with breast cancer last month.

Starting his opening round at the par-4 10th, Mickelson stuck his approach shot within six feet and made the birdie putt. Then he followed with another birdie on the par-3 11th when he drained a putt of 23 feet, 6 inches to quickly get him to 2 under.

But he gave a stroke away at the 239-yard par-3 14th when he sailed his tee shot into the rear greenside bunker and failed to get up and down.

Groups We're Watching
Tee time Players  
8:36 am ET
No. 1
Camilo Villegas, Robert Allenby, Aaron Baddeley
Twentysomethings Villegas and Baddeley are paired with a veteran who hasn't won since 2001.
8:27 am ET
No. 10
Phil Mickelson, Cameron Beckman, Padraig Harrington
How will Mickelson hold up in his first event since his wife's cancer diagnosis?
12:36 pm ET
No. 1
Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Boo Weekley
All three are making their first TOUR starts since THE PLAYERS, which Stenson won in May.
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