To prepare for a major, it pays to play a tough course

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June 06, 2012
Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent

The FedEx St. Jude Classic can be a tough sell for players to place on their schedule. It's the week before a major, and TPC Southwind is a difficult course. The humidity can become oppressively draining.

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So why does the FedEx St. Jude Classic have such a strong field? Why do Rory McIlroy, Zach Johnson, Graeme McDowell and Dustin Johnson feel compelled to enter?

Yes, TPC Southwind is a difficult course. The field averaged almost 71 shots per round in 2011, which made TPC Southwind the fourth-most difficult par 70 golf course on last year's PGA TOUR schedule.

However, the Olympic Club is also going to be difficult. Playing a tough golf course is the only way to prepare for another tough track next week. A golfer will leave TPC Southwind tournament-tough both mentally and physically.

Yes, it's humid in Memphis. Yes, it's important to stay hydrated. That's why players who compete in the heat of Memphis, will feel like they're playing in air conditioning at the U.S. Open.

Players will drink plenty of water this week and instead of being drained in San Francisco, they'll feel invigorated.

There are not many similarities between this week and next. The grasses are different, one course is hilly. Olympic is cool and foggy; Memphis is hot and humid.

Still, many players believe the best way to prepare for competition is to play yourself into a competitive state of mind. TPC Southwind will provide plenty that challenge.

And then, there's the biggest selling point this week. The tournament's main charity. How do you say no to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital? The Tournament has raised more than $25 million for St. Jude since 1970. Players are very much aware of the charity this week, how it touches and changes the lives of millions.

Throw in a couple slabs of ribs from Rendezvous barbeque, plus a walk down Beale Street, and you begin to understand why this is a strong 156-player field.

You don't have to "sell" the FedEx St. Jude Classic to the players. You just have to present the facts.

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Observations

Bermuda greens: When TPC Southwind underwent a renovation in 2004, the Bentgrass greens were changed to Bermuda. That change dramatically improved the golf course. The Bentgrass struggled to grow in the heat of Memphis, while the Bermuda has thrived. The redo of the putting surfaces greatly increased the popularity of this event for players.

Good finish: People remember the 18th hole the last two years, with Robert Garrigus and Harrison Frazar struggling, but look at the par-5 16th as a turning point. It's a reachable 530 yards that gave up a whopping 204 birdies and 9 eagles in 2011. The 16th is where players have to make their move.

Winner, winner: Zach Johnson is the smart pick this week but I'm going in a different direction. Robert Garrigus. He is 28th in FedExCup points and is third on TOUR in driving distance at 307.9 yards. That length plays well at TPC Southwind, as Garrigus turns distance off the tee into greens in regulation.

He's 11th on TOUR in GIR and is playing well with three top-15 finishes in the last five events. There is risk involved here. Garrigus is 158th in Strokes Gained-Putting, but he hits so many greens that he's always putting for birdie. Everyone remembers' Garrigus disappointing finish at TPC Southwind in 2010. He gets revenge this season.

.red Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio and is inside the ropes this week at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, [click here].

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