The First Look: WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational
July 19, 2019
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
- July 19, 2019
Dustin Johnson’s eagle finish to win FedEx St. Jude
Memphis joins the roster of World Golf Championships locales, as the world’s top golfers make a quick return from The Open Championship to help TPC Southwind usher in a new era as host for the event that began as the World Series of Golf.
Justin Thomas is officially the defending champion, having won last year’s farewell edition at Akron’s Firestone Country Club, though Dustin Johnson has the trophy from last year’s finale of the regular PGA TOUR stop in Memphis.
FIELD NOTES: Brooks Koepka, whose quest for a fifth major title finds him just off the pace at the midway point at Royal Portrush, and Rory McIlroy also headline a roster of currently at 68 players via world rankings and tournament wins. Koepka is currently second in the FedExCup standings with a win last fall at THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES and at Bethpage where he successfully defended his PGA Championship title. … Tiger Woods has turned down his spot in the lineup after missing the cut at Royal Portrush. He has yet to play Memphis in his career. He's currently 23rd in the FedExCup standings. … Berths remain open for Sunday’s Open Championship winner if not already qualified, plus anyone who cracks the top 50 in Monday’s world rankings. … Recent winners Nate Lashley (Rocket Mortgage Classic) and Matthew Wolff (3M Open) are among nine men making their World Golf Championships debut.
FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 550 points.
STORYLINES: Johnson, whose six all-time WGC wins are second only to Woods, now has a chance to add to that total on a course where he’s also had success. He’s a two-time winner at TPC Southwind, adding last year’s crown to the one he won in 2012. … With two weeks left in the FedExCup regular season, Memphis could produce a new leader. Matt Kuchar came to Royal Portrush with just an 85-point lead over Koepka, with McIlroy another seven points back. … Four of the past eight winners in Memphis made it their first PGA TOUR victory, though that likelihood is reduced amid a WGC field. Shane Lowry, though, pulled off the feat four years ago in Akron. … Just five Memphis champions have come from outside the United States, with Nick Price winning twice in 1993 and ’98. The others: Gary Player (1974), Greg Norman (1997), Lee Westwood (2010) and Fabian Gomez (2015).
COURSE: TPC Southwind, 7,244 yards, par 70. The former dairy farm southeast of Memphis takes a step up as a World Golf Championships host following 30 years as site of the FedEx St. Jude Classic. Architect Ron Prichard teamed with former U.S. Open champions Hubert Green and Fuzzy Zoeller on a layout that winds through natural lakes, streams and ponds. Loren Roberts was brought in for a 2004 upgrade that removed dozens of trees on the property and replaced Southwind’s bentgrass greens with more heat-tolerant Bermuda strain. 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.
For those visiting the Memphis area, must-play courses include River Bend Links (Robinsonville, Miss.) and North Creek GC (Southaven, Miss.). Book your reservations via TeeOff.com.
72-HOLE RECORD: 259, Tiger Woods (2000 at Firestone CC). St. Jude Classic record: 258, John Cook (1996).
18-HOLE RECORD: 61, Tiger Woods (2nd round, 2000 and 2nd round, 2013 at Firestone CC), Sergio Garcia (2nd round, 2014 at Firestone CC), Hideki Matsuyama (4th round, 2017 at Firestone CC). St. Jude Classic record: 59, Al Geiberger (2nd round, 1977 at Colonial CC).
LAST YEAR: Thomas cruised to his first WGC title, building a three-shot lead through 54 holes and never letting anyone get closer than two shots on the final day. Though the Kentucky native made just two birdies in a closing 1-under-par 69, that was all he needed as everyone within striking distance made critical errors in the final WGC round at Firestone. Rory McIlroy finished his front nine with back-to-back bogeys and never recovered; Jason Day played his final six holes in 5 over par and Ian Poulter stumbled to a 74. That left Thomas to notch his third victory of the season in front of his paternal grandparents, who got their first chance to see him win on the PGA TOUR. Paul Thomas was a career club pro who played the 1960 PGA Championship at Firestone.
HOW TO FOLLOW
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