It was heartache for Justin Rose at the Memorial last week and no doubt plenty of you were also lamenting his play-off loss to Sweden’s David Lingmerth. Mark Stevens and ‘THE “A” TEAM’ claimed the weekly win with 128 points as his line-up included Rose and five others who all finished 13th or better.
Lingmerth sunk the winning putt with storms closing in around Ohio and weather disruption is a distinct possibility this week as the PGA Tour moves to Tennessee for the FedEx St. Jude Classic. Storms early in the week meant Ben Crane had to overcome a 30-hole marathon on Sunday last year to pip Troy Merritt by a shot. Thunderstorms are forecast for this year’s renewal too, with Thursday looking like the only dry round.
The inclement weather won’t deter the game’s biggest names though, with a whole host of them turning out to complete final preparations before next week’s US Open. Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Billy Horschel, Graeme McDowell and Luke Donald are amongst those teeing it up at TPC Southwind, with a US Open spot up for grabs for anyone who can force their way into the world’s top 60 come Sunday night. Padraig Harrington, Stewart Cink, Nick Watney, Harris English and defending champ Crane are amongst those trying to earn a starting berth at the eleventh hour.
The 7,239-yard par 70 should act as a good warm-up for Chambers Bay as it demands accuracy into its tight fairways and small greens. A sharp short game was the key to Crane’s success last year as he topped the strokes gained-putting stat while languishing down in 62nd for driving distance. Here’s who I’m backing to master Memphis this week…
Dustin Johnson, £3.0m
Third week in a row for DJ who finished eighth at the Byron Nelson and 13th at the Memorial last week when he enthused about the state of his game. Won this in 2012 and has followed that with a 10th and a 24th in the last two years. His prodigious length of the tee could be more of an advantage if the forecasted rain comes.
Billy Horschel, £2.6m
Tends to build up a head of steam before blitzing a field or two and there are signs that it’s happening again to last year’s FedEx Cup champion. His last five finishes have been 51st, 48th, 17th, 13th and 11th. Was sixth here last year and tenth the year before that.
Luke Donald, £2.4m
Should be buoyed having come through US Open qualifying after a decent couple of weeks back on home soil where he recorded finishes of 38th at Wentworth and 18th at Royal County Down to prove his gradual return to form. First appearance here but with the emphasis on accuracy and short game, Southwind is Luke’s kind of track.
Webb Simpson, £2.0m
First outing for three weeks since finishing runner-up at the Wells Fargo, now stepping up his major preparations as he looks for a second US Open crown. Ranks in the top-20 for greens in regulation and scrambling and if the putter fires he can build on last year’s third place here.
Zac Blair, £0.9m
Tour rookie is this week’s wildcard selection. Has made his last three cuts and was on for something better until shooting a final round 77 in Ohio last week. Rankings of 38th in driving accuracy, sixth in scrambling and first in total putting should make him a good fit.
Troy Merritt, £0.6m
No form to speak of since finishing third at the RBC heritage at the start of April, a result that suggests he likes shorter, tactical courses. That is further supported by the fact he was runner-up here 12 months ago and sits seventh on Tour in strokes gained-putting.