Preview and best bets for this week's St. Jude Classic tournament in Memphis
By Mark Kendall - Twitter: @SkySportsMK. Last Updated: 04/06/14 7:33pm
Phil Mickelson will once again be teeing it up at TPC Southwind this week
With the US Open now just a week away, a strong field has assembled in Memphis for the St. Jude Classic in a bid to fine tune their game ahead of the second major of the season.
Originally called the Memphis Open, the tournament came into existence in 1958 and, since 1989, has been played at TPC Southwind.
Renowned as one of the toughest lay-outs on Tour, it is the seventh year in a row the event has directly preceded the US Open with the course's small, tough-to-hit greens providing an ideal preparation for the major challenge that follows.
Designed by architect Ron Prichard, with players Hubert Green and Fuzzy Zoeller serving as consultants, TPC Southwind was further toughened up in 2004 when numerous trees and bunkers were added, and the par-five 5th hole converted to a par-four (reducing the par to 70).
The field includes former champions Harris English (2013), Dustin Johnson (2012), Lee Westwood (2010) amongst others, as well as a couple of men who have won the title twice in recent times Justin Leonard (2005 & 2008) and David Toms (2003 & 2004).
TPC Southwind is a par 70 that measures in at just over 7,200 yards with water in play on ten holes, perhaps most famously on the 18th - an intimidating closing par-four (just ask Robert Garrigus!) where the hazard runs all the way down the left side of the fairway.
A view down the famous closing par-four 18th at TPC Southwind
As well as challenging small greens, which have been changed from Bentgrass to Bermuda, the fairways are also some of the hardest to hit on Tour.
With that in mind, driving accuracy, greens in regulation and proximity to the hole are three key statistics, while par-four performance is always worth looking at on layouts with 12 of them, as Southwind has.
This has varied wildly down the years from John Cook's -26 in 1996 to Justin Leonard's -4 as recently as 2008. Unsurprisingly winning totals have been noticeably higher since the course was toughened up in 2004, as witnessed by Leonard's score, although 2009 champion Brian Gay posted an impressive -18. Last year -12 was enough for Harris English to claim a two-stroke victory.
Round 1 tee-times
Starting at hole 1
0700 Steve Marino, Robert Garrigus, Morgan Hoffmann
0710 Heath Slocum, Shawn Stefani, Brice Garnett
0720 Paul Casey (Eng), David Hearn (Can), David Lingmerth (Swe)
0730 Ben Curtis, Sang-moon Bae (Kor), Scott Verplank
0740 Michael Thompson, Kevin Streelman, Charles Howell III
0750 John Senden (Aus), Kevin Stadler, Rickie Fowler
0800 Martin Laird (Sco), Charlie Beljan, Harrison Frazar
0810 Brian Gay, Geoff Ogilvy (Aus), Robert Allenby (Aus)
0820 Trevor Immelman (Rsa), Matt Bettencourt, John Mallinger
0830 David Duval, Sean O'Hair, James Driscoll
0840 Robert Streb, Kevin Foley, Brooks Koepka
0850 Troy Merritt, Andrew Svoboda, Hudson Swafford
0900 Tyrone Van Aswegen (Rsa), Miguel Angel Carballo (Arg), Dustin Morris
1200 Jerry Kelly, Andres Romero (Arg), Gonzalo Fdez-Castano (Spa)
1210 Stephen Ames (Can), Chad Collins, Danny Lee (Nzl)
1220 John Daly, Tag Ridings, Kris Blanks
1230 Kyle Stanley, J J Henry, Davis Love III
1240 Russell Henley, J.B. Holmes, Graeme McDowell (Nirl)
1250 Zach Johnson, Ian Poulter (Eng), Justin Leonard
1300 John Merrick, D.A. Points, Tim Clark (Rsa)
1310 Paul Goydos, Scott McCarron, William McGirt
1320 Cameron Beckman, Cameron Tringale, Martin Flores
1330 Jeff Maggert, Tim Herron, John Peterson
1340 Gary Christian (Eng), Bud Cauley, Scottie Scheffler
1350 Kevin Kisner, Doug La Belle II, Austin Cook
1400 Wes Roach, Lee Williams, Kelvin Burgin
Starting at hole 10
0700 Padraig Harrington (Irl), Thorbjorn Olesen (Den), Michael Putnam
0710 Daniel Chopra (Swe), Will MacKenzie, Jim Renner
0720 Brian Harman, Freddie Jacobson (Swe), James Hahn
0730 Tommy Gainey, Darren Clarke (Nirl), Stewart Cink
0740 Scott Stallings, Harris English, Phil Mickelson
0750 Patrick Reed, Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson
0800 Jonathan Byrd, David Toms, Lee Westwood (Eng)
0810 Woody Austin, Ted Potter, Jr., Retief Goosen (Rsa)
0820 Camilo Villegas (Col), Josh Teater, Gary Owen
0830 Dicky Pride, John Rollins, Nicholas Thompson
0840 Jamie Lovemark, Alex Prugh, Kevin Tway
0850 Alex Aragon, Peter Malnati, Zachary Olsen
0900 Brad Fritsch (Can), Jim Herman, Isaac Sanchez
1200 Ben Crane, Joe Durant, Joe Ogilvie
1210 Ricky Barnes, Troy Matteson, Scott Langley
1220 Luke Guthrie, Charlie Wi (Kor), Russell Knox (Sco)
1230 Mark Wilson, Johnson Wagner, Stuart Appleby (Aus)
1240 Matthew Every, Chesson Hadley, Billy Horschel
1250 Steven Bowditch (Aus), Boo Weekley, George McNeill
1300 Jhonattan Vegas (Ven), Carl Pettersson (Swe), Tim Petrovic
1310 Jason Bohn, Chad Campbell, Jeff Overton
1320 Ryan Palmer, Roberto Castro, Ryuji Imada (Jpn)
1330 Bobby Gates, Scott Gardiner (Aus), Will Wilcox
1340 Tim Wilkinson (Nzl), Edward Loar, Talor Gooch
1350 Ben Martin, Andrew Loupe, Benjamin Alvarado (Chi)
1400 Eric Axley, Bronson La'cassie (Aus), Grant Leaver
Two former champions head the betting heat in the shape of Dustin Johnson (14/1) and Lee Westwood (16/1), with Phil Mickelson alongside the latter at 16s.
Johnson, who can't quite seem to locate his A-game at present, and Mickelson, without a top-10 all season, are easy enough to dismiss, while Westwood does not make great appeal at the price given how often he wins.
However, while also short enough at 20s, there is reason enough to believe that defending champion Harris English is poised to click back into top gear.
Held up as the next breakthrough American talent after two wins in the space of five months last year, the 24-year-old has gone quiet in recent times and seen Jordan Spieth usurp him as the media's new young darling.
But, after missed cuts at the Players and Byron Nelson, English shows signs of life at Colonial with T30 finish and will relish his return to TPC Southwind which plays right into the hands of an long, accurate left-to-righter.
While defending a title and all that entails off the course can often hinder a player, English has the game and temperament to handle it and is fancied to go well again at venue that throws up repeat winners.
On the topic of repeat winners, David Toms stands out as a sporty bet this week given his course record and current form.
David Toms is already a two-time St. Jude Classic champion and can go well again
Although the second of his wins here was a decade ago now, Toms clearly has an affinity with the place, finished fifth at Colonial last time out and will head to Memphis in high spirits having also secured US Open qualification earlier this week.
At 50/1 he's worth a go... and a similar argument could be made for Justin Leonard (125/1) who shares similar course memories and also played his way into Pinehurst this week.
After a standout year in 2013 that included his first PGA Tour win, Billy Horschel has gone rather quiet this time around.
But this excellent ball-striker has dropped hints in the past couple of weeks that he is not far away and, following a tenth-placed finish at this venue last year, could well continue his improvement this week.
Often his Achilles heel, his putting has been much more convincing in his past couple of outings and a hot week with the flatstick here should see him contend at a test that suits.
Finally Luke Guthrie looks well worth an interest at 60/1 after recovering from a disappointing opening 75 with rounds of 69, 66 and 70 to finish in a tie for eighth at Memorial last week.
Add in the fact he finished T19 via a sponsor's invite at TPC Southwind on his first look at the course in 2012 and is another to have enjoyed the boost of US Open qualification this week and he looks a decent wager.
Best bets (All prices with Sky Bet)
2pts e.w. Harris English at 20/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Billy Horschel at 33/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. David Toms at 50/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Luke Guthrie at 60/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)