Dustin Johnson returns to defend his title at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
FIELD LIST: FedEx St. Jude Classic
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM contributor
• COURSE: TPC Southwind, 7,239 yards, par 70. Built on a former dairy farm southeast of Memphis, the 1987 Ron Prichard design incorporates natural lakes, streams and ponds as it rolls through the countryside. A 2004 upgrade recontoured several holes to add yardage, while replacing its bentgrass greens with more heat-tolerant bermuda. Southwind’s par-3 11th hole draws comparisons with the famed 17th at TPC Sawgrass, requiring a short iron over water to a small island green.
• FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 500 points.
• CHARITY: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, established by the late entertainer Danny Thomas to find cures for children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Since joining forces in 1970, the tournament has raised more than $26 million for hospital research.
• FIELD WATCH: Defending champion Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and world No.5 Brandt Snedeker head a field that features just five of the top 30 in this week’s world rankings. Ian Poulter and Peter Hanson round out the list. … Memphis native Casey Wittenberg returns to his hometown event’s lineup after a three-year hiatus. Wittenberg was last season’s Web.com Tour Player of the Year. … John Daly will play St. Jude for the 16th consecutive year and 23rd overall. He’s missed the event just twice since his debut in 1989. … Chinese 14-year-old Guan Tianlang will make his fifth U.S. start, part of a strong amateur contingent that includes U.S. Amateur champion Steven Fox and AJGA Player of the Year Matthew NeSmith.
• 72-HOLE RECORD: 258, John Cook (1996).
• 18-HOLE RECORD: 59, Al Geiberger (2nd round, 1977 at Colonial CC). TPC Southwind record: 61, Jay Delsing (4th round, 1993), Bob Estes (1st round, 2001).
• LAST YEAR: Making just his second start since losing 2 ½ months to a back injury, Dustin Johnson chased down John Merrick on the final day for a one-stroke victory. Birdies at Nos. 16 and 17 helped Johnson finish off a 4-under-par 66, which turned out to be good enough when Rory McIlroy, Chad Campbell and Nick O’Hern all splashed their tee shots into the lake at No.18. Johnson had to shut it down for six weeks after pulling a muscle in his lower back in a March mishap on the lake near his Florida home. He left Memphis as the first player since Tiger Woods to win in each of his first five seasons on the circuit since leaving college.
• STORYLINES: Johnson, fighting back woes again, comes to Memphis having played just three competitive rounds since the Masters. He withdrew after one round at THE PLAYERS, then missed the cut at Memorial. … Mickelson, changing up his usual pre-Open schedule, returns for the first time since 2009 and third overall. He typically plays the Memorial, but sat out this year to schedule St. Jude. … Shaun Micheel, winner of the 2003 PGA, makes his 20th start in his hometown event after receiving a sponsor exemption. His best finish was a tie for fourth in 2010.
• SHORT CHIPS: Champion’s curse? No winner of the PGA TOUR event before the U.S. Open has gone on to capture the Open. In all, just eight players have claimed a major the week after winning on TOUR. Tiger Woods was the last in 2007 (WGC-Bridgestone Invitational & PGA Championship). … In the tournament’s 55-year history, international players have won just five times. Nick Price did it twice (1993, ’98), joined by Gary Player (1974), Greg Norman (1997) and Lee Westwood (2010). … Merrick has broken 70 in seven of his past eight rounds at TPC Southwind. The exception was a 72 in the final round two years ago. … David Toms, making his 22nd appearance, tops the event’s all-time money list. His $3.54 million was built on the strength of back-to-back wins in 2003-04.
• TELEVISION: Thursday-Friday, 3-6 p.m. EDT (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, 1-2:30 p.m. (GC), 3-6 p.m. (CBS).
• RADIO: Thursday-Sunday, noon-6 p.m. EDT (SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio).