Everything You Really Need to Know About the St. Jude Classic

Wednesday June 10th, 2015
The par-3 11th at TPC Southwind is only 159 yards but packed with trouble.
Stan Badz / PGA TOUR

Viewing Times: June 11, 12 Golf Channel 4-7 p.m.; June 13, 14 Golf Channel 1 p.m.-2:30 p.m.; CBS 3 p.m.-6 p.m. (all times Eastern)

The Course: TPC Southwind, Memphis, Tennessee

Principal Architects: Ron Prichard, with consultants Fuzzy Zoeller and Hubert Green, 1988

Defending Champion: Ben Crane, United States

How he did it: Crane went wire-to-wire in a weird, weather-plagued event. After opening with a seven-under-par 63, Crane added a 65. He waited until Sunday to play the final 12 holes of his third round, eventually posting a solid 69, then barely held on to claim a one-shot triumph over Troy Merritt, despite a final-round 73.

Key holes to watch: Two watery par-3s on the back nine can derail any contender. The pipsqueak 11th measures just 159 yards from the tips, but plays to a slender island green. When the hole is cut close to the hazard, double-bogies soar. Its brawnier sibling is the 239-yard 14th, where a forced carry over water is only half the battle. The other is conquering the massive, heavily contoured green that splashes scorecards with three putts all too often. The 453-yard, par-4 18th is a classic risk/reward closer. Gamble with a long drive over water on this dogleg left and you might be rewarded with a wedge into the green. Tug the tee shot slightly, however, and disaster awaits via tree trouble and liquid peril. Robert Garrigus did just that in 2010, blowing a three-shot lead on the final hole. He eventually lost a playoff to Lee Westwood.

Who to look for: Many of the PGA Tour’s elite are on sabbatical, as is tradition the week before a major. Still, there are major winners a-plenty in the field, from Phil Mickelson to Graeme McDowell to Padraig Harrington, who enjoyed a popular comeback victory at the Honda this year. Long-slumping Luke Donald has something to prove, as does Billy Horschel, who’s had difficulty building on his monster 2014. Nevertheless, the pick this week is Dustin Johnson, the winner here in 2012. He’s been a stalwart all year, with one win at Trump Doral, six top 10s and most recently a T13 at the Memorial. DJ has shown he can handle heat, humidity and media scrutiny. He’ll take care of business here.

Tournament lore: Memphis was a pretty big deal in the not so distant past. Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Lee Trevino have all won here, Trevino earning a hat trick for his 1971, 1972 and 1980 triumphs. Greg Norman and Nick Price have both captured titles at TPC Southwind, the tournament venue for the past 26 years and two-time Southwind champs David Toms and Justin Leonard are both in the field this week, hoping to recapture the magic. That said, 1977 trumps almost any tournament for fireworks at one event. The first lightning bold struck in the Wednesday pro-am, when former President Gerald Ford made an ace, holing a 5-iron at the 157-yard, par-3 fifth hole at Colonial Country Club. Two days later, Al Geiberger scorched Colonial for the first 59 in PGA Tour history. He rolled in an eight-foot birdie putt on the par-4 ninth (his 18th) to seal the deal. He would go on to win the tournament, without ever shooting in the 60s, on rounds of 72-59-72-70.

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