FedExCup update: People’s choice Hayden Buckley makes move at FedEx St. Jude Championship
August 13, 2022
By Cameron Morfit , PGATOUR.COM
Hayden Buckley makes birdie on No. 17 at FedEx St. Jude Champ
GERMANTOWN, Tenn. – The drive between Memphis, Tennessee, home of Graceland, and Tupelo, Mississippi, birthplace of Elvis Presley, is an hour and 27 minutes.
Hayden Buckley knows all about it. He was born in Chattanooga but raised in Tupelo.
“We would come to Memphis a lot,” said Buckley, who shot a third-round 65 at the FedEx St. Jude Championship and is projected to move from 95th to 59th in the FedExCup, inside the cutoff for next week’s top-70 BMW Championship. “I would fly out of Memphis every time I left home or fly back in to come home. I feel like it's home a little bit.”
He said he had played TPC Southwind several times, and while he has since moved to South Florida, he estimated he had 50 or so friends and family following him Saturday. He was one of the biggest FedExCup movers thanks to good gallery mojo and even better putting.
The 26-year-old rookie came into the FedEx St. Jude ranked 178th in Strokes Gained: Putting but was first in that statistic at TPC Southwind on Saturday, needing just 23 putts in his seven-birdie, two-bogey effort. He’s 9 under par and four behind leader J.J. Spaun (68).
“Yeah, it's not only for next week, but next year,” Buckley said of the stakes this weekend. “I know every little spot or every birdie I make really does matter for, you know, if I get in next week that's great, but even for next year I'm going to have opportunities that I wouldn't have.”
Buckley started strong this season with a T4 at the Sanderson Farms Championship and T8 at the Shriners Children’s Open but had missed four straight cuts when he teed it up at a U.S. Open qualifier. Not only did he get through, but he also finished T14 at the U.S. Open.
He hasn’t missed a cut since.
“I remember qualifying for the U.S. Open and saying this is kind of my first good thing that's happened in almost two months,” Buckley said. “… I wasn't sure in that little seven-week stretch of missing six cuts, I wasn't sure if I was going to be here. I knew being close to home, I wanted to be here. It was a tough two months. I made some changes and I think they paid off.”
The biggest of these, he said, came after he’d missed the cut at the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial, when he began working with course management specialist Scott Fawcett.
“Went out with him on Saturday to play golf and just talked to him and kind of dove all into it,” Buckley said, “and after that, good things started happening. I think I'm getting stronger as well. My game's maturing a little bit, my putting's gotten better."
“I was really struggling with putting for a while,” he added. “I made the changes. I think it's a mix of everything, but Scott really helped out a lot.”
The only time Buckley has missed the weekend rounds since June came at the Wyndham Championship last week, when he made the cut but withdrew with pain in his right hand. He thinks he may have aggravated it on the firm turf at the 3M Open (T26) and/or Rocket Mortgage Classic (T24). This also marks his 30th start of the season, which he said has been too much.
Alas, he added, he felt he had to play in whatever he could get into as a rookie. In retrospect, his Wyndham weekend that wasn’t might have been the best thing for him. And for his fans, too.
“I haven't really looked into the crowd,” Buckley said. “I'm going to go see them here in a little bit. … I don't get to come home much and it's nice to have that support close to home.”
NOTES: Trey Mullinax, who began the week in the 70th and final BMW Championship-eligible position in the FedExCup, is making a bid to not only keep his season alive but maybe position himself for the top-30 TOUR Championship. Mullinax, who picked up his first PGA TOUR win at the Barbasol Championship this summer, shot 66 to reach 11 under par. He’s just two off the lead. … FedExCup No. 93 Adam Schenk shot 66 but still has more work to do. He’s projected to go to 76th, just outside the BMW cutoff. … Ryan Palmer shot 69 and is projected to move from FedExCup No. 110 to 71st, one short of continuing his season, with one round remaining.
BMW BUBBLE WATCH
Here are the players projected to move in or out of the top 70 in the FedExCup. The top 70 will advance to the second event of the Playoffs, the BMW Championship at Wilmington (Del.) Country Club.
Wyndham Clark (No. 79, projected to 51): Coming off a T8 at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, Clark was 4 under for the first four holes Saturday on the way to his third straight 67. He’s 9 under and will go into the final round four behind leader J.J. Spaun (68).
Andrew Putnam (No. 87, projected to 55): Shot 67 to join a large group tied for 6th place at 9 under, four back. Endured a stretch of seven missed cuts in eight starts in the spring but has found something with T11 at 3M Open and T27 at Wyndham Championship.
Hayden Buckley (No. 95, projected to 59): Enjoying some good mojo close to home, and much improved putting as he was first in strokes gained on the greens Saturday.
Adam Scott (No. 77, projected to 64): Signed for a 70 to hang around at 7 under, six back going into Sunday. Scott holds the eighth and final spot in the International Presidents Cup Team standings. The top eight after the BMW qualify for the team, and if he doesn’t make it on points, International Captain Trevor Immelman will have to use a captain’s pick on him.
Tyler Duncan (No. 118, projected to 57): Shot 67 to reach 10 under, three back. RSM Classic winner two seasons ago doesn’t have a top-10 finish this season. “Obviously, the results haven't been there,” he said. “I feel like the game has been moving in the right direction and I feel like I've made a lot of improvements that I needed to make, and they just haven't paid off yet.”
Alex Smalley (No. 61, projected to 72): Duke product and PGA TOUR rookie missed the cut at the FedEx St. Jude.
Anirban Lahiri (No. 63, projected to 73): International Presidents Cup Team veteran missed the cut at FedEx St. Jude.
Brendon Todd (No. 68, projected to 74): Won twice and finished a career-best 20th in the FedExCup two seasons ago but will have to do better than his even-par 70 in third round.
John Huh (No. 67, projected to 75): Wyndham Championship runner-up withdrew with a lower-back injury after shooting 40 on his first nine holes Friday.
Lanto Griffin (No. 69, projected to 77): Not in field after recent back surgery.