FedEx St Jude Classic preview
With the vast majority of top golfers giving the St Jude Classic at TPC Southwind a swerve this weekend, the latest FedEx tournament definitely has something of a second division feel about it.
Of those pegging it up in Memphis only Brandt Snedeker (sixth) and Phil Mickelson (10th) are inside the world’s top ten and they predictably head the market with Lefty just edging it for favouritism with Coral at 12/1.
Any tournament with Mickelson in it is likely to provide great entertainment, while big-hitting defending champion Dustin Johnson (18/1) will also get the southern boys hollering if he’s in the same form this time around.
But while we will miss the likes of Tiger, Rory, Luke and Justin, their absence will give an opportunity for some of the lesser names on the PGA Tour a real shot at some big money and the two who catch the eye as possible beneficiaries are playing together on the first two days.
Billy Horschel and Russell Henley will not be familiar names to the casual golf fan over here, but both have quickly made big waves on the American circuit since turning professional.
Horschel had four top finishes in a row in the spring, culminating in a first PGA win in New Orleans, and was blowing so hot that he was tipped up by many to be in the final shake-up in the prestigious Players Championship last month.
It didn’t work out at Sawgrass, Horschel missing his first cut in almost a year, and he didn’t cut much ice in last week’s Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village either. But he still lies fifth in the FedEx Cup rankings and looks one for the short list with Coral at 20/1.
So, too, does Henley at 33/1. The 24-year-old from Georgia could not have got off to a better start to his professional career when smashing the tournament record in the Sony Open in Hawaii in January to become the first for 12 years to win on his PGA debut.
That proved to be no flash in the pan and Henley has quickly risen to a position inside the world’s top 50 with a string of creditable efforts. And he looked in good form again last week when recovering from a second round 77 to finish tied sixth at Muirfield Village last week.
The very best of the Europeans may be missing, but there are still a sprinkling who will make their presence felt if on song, including Freddie Jacobson (28/1), Robert Karlsson and Peter Hanson (both 33/1) and Ian Poulter (50/1), who would not surprise anybody greatly if he suddenly found his A game again.