Defending Champion: Dustin Johnson
Throughout the course of the PGA season there are a passel of weak fields. It’s bound to happen when your schedule starts the first week of January and runs through the third week of September. But this is ridiculous. I can’t imagine who in Memphis is shelling out the cash for a weekend pass to TPC Southwind this year. Is Phil Mickelson really that big of a draw?
Now, it doesn’t really matter if there are big names walking the links as long as there’s some drama on Sunday. Prime example: this tournament three years ago. Then, relatively unknown Robert Garrigus held a three-stroke lead sizing up his tee shot on 18. He managed to find the water and woods on his next two swings, eventually making a 10-footer to force a playoff with Lee Westwood and Robert Karlsson. It was a disaster, making it terrific television. He went on to lose the tournament to Westwood, and most of his dignity to this picture, but that was more the sweltering heat’s fault than Garrigus’.
So a dearth of talent doesn’t mean there can’t be drama, but a few more recognizable names could help drum up some interest, in case there’s not a thrilling finish. And yes, John Daly is a recognizable name, but hasn’t been a legit draw this millennium. Unless he’s hitting drives off Coke cans or over Niagara Falls I suppose. And even then, curiosity wanes after about 30 seconds. So prepare for a dud.
Can someone just please remember to wake me up for the US Open next week?
Scott Stallings – Two weeks ago, Stallings fired an incredible front-nine 29 in the final round of the Crowne Plaza propelling him into a tie for fourth. Then, he rode a five-hole birdie streak last week on Sunday to, get this, another tie for fourth. Because of this recent hot play, Stallings broke into the Top 100 in the world rankings, entering an event which is essentially a home game for the Knoxville native. He should be feeling great about his game at the moment with all this momentum behind him, right? Not so much the case. Attempting to qualify for his first US Open on Monday, Stallings bogeyed the first hole of a three-man playoff, allowing Alistair Presnell and Andrew Svoboda to get the Major invite. I’m guessing he channels that rage into some strong play this week so there’s no doubt he gets to lace up the ol’ soft spikes for the Open Championship next month.
John Merrick – Did you know Merrick has already won this season? I know, I totally forgot too. It had also escaped me he finished second here last year, and then I looked it up! And through this rigorous research I uncovered he posted a T11 in 2011 as well. Not bad.
Brian Davis – I just really don’t want to take Phil. And it’s not like Davis is awful, he once finished second here and did manage to squeak out a Top 10 last week.
Brandt Snedeker – Sneds has been spotty since returning from his rib injury in March, but strangely, he’s played his best golf against super strong competition: T4 at Augusta, T8 at Sawgrass. Squaring off with the players last week at the Memorial he laid an egg, failing to play the weekend, but he gets a mulligan for that – He always sucks at Muirfield. Still, I need one of the few top names on my roster, so why not go with the best in the field? Plus, he’s from the area and played his college golf at Vanderbilt, about three hours away, so he’s plenty familiar with the course.
Freddy Jacobson – When in doubt take the most consistent putter. That’s Freddy Yaks. Also, he’s made nine of ten cuts lifetime at Southwind and has only missed one in 2013 – his season debut in Phoenix.
Robert Karlsson – After back-to-back runner up finishes in 2010 and 2011, the Swede couldn’t muster any semblance of consistency last year, making eight bogeys and two doubles, including going three-over on 17 and 18 in the second round to miss the cut. But I’m giving him a pass. Mainly because I’m a pretty decent fella, but also, accompanying those 10 bogeys were eight birdies. The guy knows how to score on this course – he’s like Burt Reynolds in the 70s – which is key. Since the event moved to Southwind in 1989, the winner has only finished in single digits under par three times.
Ryan Palmer – Palmer’s boom or bust in Memphis. In five career turns he’s missed the cut three times, bookended by a pair of Top 10s. Including at T3 last season.
Jimmy Walker – Let’s see, he’s played this event three times and made the cut every time. Actually, making cuts is Walker’s thing these days. His current streak of 24 is the longest on Tour right now, and in a field riddled with uncertainty, that’s a number I’m trusting.
Photo via Getty