FedEx St Jude Classic Preview, Picks & Analysis
DANIEL BERGER will be going for a third successive victory at the FedEx St Jude Classic at TPC Southwind, desperately hoping that a return to a course where he has enjoyed so much success helps him to kick-start his season.
The 25-year-old is one of the best young players on the PGA Tour but he would be the first to admit that he has struggled to find his best form in 2018. He may have only missed two cuts, but he is still looking for his first top-10 finish of 2018. His best finishes to date have been a tie for 11th at both the Tournament of Champions and the Waste Management Open in Phoenix. He also finished in a tie for 14th in the Sony Open, but that was only because of a closing round of 64.
Berger won in some style 12 months ago after a miraculous par save at the first hole in the final round. He pulled his drive way left, hit his second into thick rough, hacked his third into an even worse lie - and then chipped in for par.
“Yeah, that could have been a double or triple-bogey with the blink of an eye,” said Berger at the time. “I was lucky to save par there, and that kind of got my round going and I hung on there at the end.”
He went on to become only the fourth man to win the event twice after David Toms (2003-04), Lee Trevino (1971-72) and Dave Hill (1969-70). “I put so much work in over the last six, eight months to try to be in the same position again,” said Berger, who stayed in the same hotel and even the same room as the one he stayed in when he won in 2016. “I’m so excited to finally get there.” Golfers are a pretty superstitious bunch, so it is a safe bet that he will be have put in a special request for that room once again.
The tournament was won in 2010 by Lee Westwood, in 2011 by Harrison Frazer, in 2012 by Dustin Johnson, in 2013 by Harris English, in 2014 by Ben Crane, in 2015 by Fabian Gomez, and in 2016 and 2017 by Berger.
With the US Open at Shinnecock Hills just around the corner, many of the world’s leading players have chosen to sit the week out,. One man who believes that the best way to prepare for the season’s second major is by competing is Phil Mickelson. Lefty has returned to the winners’ circle this year and is playing some of the best golf of his life at an age when most golfers are looking towards the Champions Tour.
The 47-year-old has finished second at the US Open on an incredible six occasions and will head to Shinnecock Hills for the 2018 edition still believing that he has it in him to finally land the major that would give him the full set. His magical short game skills have not deserted him but he will know that if he is to finally break his duck then he simply must find more fairways from the tee. He is ranked 206th on the PGA Tour when it comes driving accuracy - and no matter how good a player you are, that simply isn’t good enough. And Mickelson knows it.
He has some pretty good memories of TPC Southwind, having finished second here in 2013 and once again in 2016. He is a man who is not afraid to win in successive weeks. You may recall that the week before he won The Open Championship in 2013, Mickelson was victorious at the Scottish Open. He is a man who feeds off confidence.
Look out, too, for another big week here from Brooks Koepka. The current US Open champion suffered a career-threatening wrist injury earlier this year but is now fully fit once again and has been playing some glorious golf in recent weeks, none better than when he finished second to Justin Rose at the Fort Worth Invitational despite firing a final round of 63.
Koepka also finished with a 63 at The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, which secured him a tie for 11th. His left wrist first gave him trouble during the Hero Challenge in December and by January the pain was so extreme that he could not hit a golf ball. It turned out that he had torn a tendon and was told that he had to rest. This was no easy task for a man who spends hours on the range beating golf balls and almost as much time working out in the gym.
He missed three months of the season and has returned in sensational physical condition, hitting the ball even further than he did before the injury.
Entertainment value will be provided by the one and only John Daly, now plying his trade on the Champions Tour.
This is a special tournament. St Jude Children’s research Hospital is a world leader in the treatment of childhood cancer and the life-threatening illnesses and this tournament has raised millions of dollars to help fund that work - since 1970, it has donated a whopping $36m. It means that the families of children treated at the hospital are not charged for treatment, travel, housing or food. The hospital was founded by the later entertainer Danny Thomas.
Brooks Koepka. Ready to rock again
Daniel Berger. Don’t write off his chances of a third win here
Henrik Stenson. Can win anywhere if the mood takes him
Brooks Koepka. In good shape ahead of US Open defence
Daniel Berger. Needs to kick-start his season
Henrik Stenson. Sensational ball striker
Matt Every. So close to joining the elite
Phil Mickelson. Not afraid to win ahead of Shinnecock Hills
Ian Poulter. Not afraid to win anywhere
Bryson DeChambeau. Has joined the big time - and how!
Xander Schauffele. One of the best young guns on tour
Rafa Cabrera Bello. As consistent as anybody out there
Paul Casey. Hurrah! The Englishman has found a putting stroke
Charl Schwartzel. Underachiever who can turn it around on any given week
Be part of the action with a selection of unique golf tournament experiences, from playing in a pro-am with the stars to watching the action at golf’s most illustrious events. Whether it’s the Masters or The Open, The Ryder Cup or WM Phoenix Open, build your own bespoke package with the experts at Golfbreaks.com.
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