The Flyover: FedEx St. Jude Classic
THE OVERVIEW Forty years ago, the barrier still existed. No player had ever shot lower than 60 at a PGA TOUR event. Then on June 10, 1977, Al Geiberger teed off on the 10th hole to start his second round on the South Course at Colonial Country Club in the Memphis, Tennessee, suburb of Cordova. Eighteen holes later, he had done for golf what Roger Bannister had achieved in track and field in 1954. He had done the impossible. When Bannister became the first person to run a sub-4 minute mile, his record lasted 46 days. When Geiberger became the first TOUR player to shoot 59, it took 14 years before another player could match it – and 39 years before Jim Furyk went a shot lower to set the new mark. This week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic marks the 40th anniversary of Geiberger’s legendary achievement. While breaking 60 is no longer impossible, it still remains an uncommon occurrence on TOUR. Just seven other players have done it -- twice, of course, for Furyk. Unlike Geiberger, each of those players had the benefit of knowing it was not impossible. “That’s pretty much it, right?” said Adam Hadwin, the most recent member of the club after he shot 59 in January at the CareerBuilder Challenge. “Nobody said that a 4-minute mile could be run, right? … Nobody said it could be broken – and then one person broke it, and now it’s a routine thing, right? … “Once you see it done, you know it can be done.” Of the eight players who have shot 59 or lower, three will be in the field this week – Furyk, Stuart Appleby (2010) and David Duval (1999). Furyk is playing this event for the first time in 23 years; Appleby and Duval have made frequent appearances here the last few seasons. Each has reached a place most golfers can only dream of going. Perhaps at some point during their rounds this week at TPC Southwind – which took over from Colonial as the host course in 1989 -- they’ll take a step back and think about the man who paved the way 40 years ago. THREE TO PONDER Phil Mickelson Phil the Cut Maker! Has made 16 consecutive cuts, tying him with Louis Oosthuizen for longest active streak on TOUR. Rickie Fowler After making his first appearance in Memphis three years ago, he followed it with a T-2 at the U.S. Open. Seeking similar bounce. Daniel Berger Since his breakthrough win here a year ago, he has five top-10s but has struggled to consistently contend. THE FLYOVER A closer look at TPC Southwind’s finishing hole, the 453-yard par-4 18th. Last year, it played to a stroke average of 4.201, making it the fourth most difficult hole on the course, and ranked as the 12th most difficult closing hole on TOUR last season. Just like its shorter but slightly more severe cousin, the par-4 12th (see below), the 18th’s primary defense is water. A total of 805 shots have ended up in the water since 2003, fifth most of any hole on TOUR during that span. THE LANDING ZONE The 406-yard par-4 12th is the most difficult hole on the back nine at TPC Southwind. Last year, it played to a stroke average of 4.212. Guarded by water down the entire right side and in front of the green, players must avoid water off the tee and with their approach shots. Often they are unsuccessful. Since 2003, a total of 829 balls have found the water, the third-most of any hole on TOUR during that span. (TPC Scottsdale’s 15th and Quail Hollow’s 7th are only holes with more). Here’s a look at where all tee shots were struck last season at the 12th. WEATHER CHECK Dry conditions are anticipated through the weekend. Temperatures will gradually warm through the week, reaching a high near 90 degrees on Sunday. Comfortable humidity levels will be in place through Friday, but light southerly flow will allow humidity levels to trend higher for the weekend. TEMPS: Could be as high as 90 degrees on Sunday. RAIN: Nothing significant in the forecast. A very minimal chance of precipitation on Sunday. WINDS: Shouldn’t be more than 10 mph on any single day, but the winds are expected to shift from south to north on the weekend. For the latest weather news from Memphis, Tennessee, check out PGATOUR.COM’s Weather Hub. SOUND CHECK It's the most underrated golf course we play on TOUR. I think the beauty of this course is in its simplicity and how it really challenges you with precision, not necessarily overwhelming length. WATER CENTRAL No course on TOUR produces more water balls than TPC Southwind. A few numbers: 4,964 – Balls in the water at TPC Southwind since 2003. That’s 1,608 more than the next course on the list, TPC Sawgrass (3,356 water balls) 647 – Number of players that have hit at least one shot into the water at TPC Southwind since 2003. 102 – Number of balls hit in the water at the 11th hole at TPC Southwind in 2004. That’s the most of any single hole in any given tournament at the course since 2003. 9 – Number of balls Camilo Villegas has hit in the water at the 18th hole in his career. That’s the most of any player – and yes, Camilo is in the field this week. ODDS AND ENDS 1. COUPLE OF DEBUTS. Amateur Braden Thornberry, who won the individual NCAA title last week as a sophomore at Ole Miss, will make his PGA TOUR debut. And England’s Sam Horsfield is making his professional debut following two seasons at the University of Florida. Thornberry currently ranks 16th in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, while Horsfield was No. 3 prior to turning pro. 2. BIRDIE-FREE SUNDAY. The last two times on TOUR that the eventual tournament winner has failed to record a birdie in the final round has happened in this event. Justin Leonard led by eight shots entering the final round in 2005, shot a 3-over 73 and won by a stroke. Ben Crane led by three shots in 2014, shot a 73 and won by a stroke. 3. SEERSUCKER SUNDAY. Players and caddies are encouraged to wear seersucker apparel on Sunday to show support for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The promotion is in partnership with Brooks Brothers.
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