T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.
2014 FedEx St. Jude Classic | Five players to watch
Series: Golf Buzz
Published: Wednesday, June 04, 2014 | 10:08 a.m.
The PGA Tour is in Memphis this week for the St. Jude Classic at TPC Southwind -- the final tune up before the second major championship of the year, next week's U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.
While many stars elect to sit out the week prior to a major, that isn't the case for players like Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and Lee Westwood who are all teeing it up in Memphis.
Since a massive renovation after the 2004 St. Jude Classic, TPC Southwind has routinely played as one of the more difficult courses on the PGA Tour, so it's not a bad place to get ready for the U.S. Open.
With that, here are five players to keep an eye on this week.
5. Harris English
Best finish in 2013-14 season: Won the OHL Classic at Mayakoba
Reason to watch: English returns this week to the site of his first PGA Tour win. He'll be feeling some good vibes playing for the first time on Tour as a "defending champion." He's enjoyed a solid season so far with six top-10 finishes in 18 starts, including that victory early on in Mexico. Also among those 18 starts are three missed cuts -- all of which have come in three of his last five starts. Familiarity with a place where he's had past (recent) success will pay dividends for English this week.
4. David Toms
Best finish in 2013-14 season: T4 at the Puerto Rico Open presented by seepuertorico.com
Reason to watch: Toms and TPC Southwind go together like peanut butter and jelly. He's finished in the top four there on six occasions over the course of his career, including back-to-back victories in 2003-04. The course changed dramatically after the '04 tournament, a renovation that made it much more difficult. Even so, Toms was runner up in 2005, third in 2007 and tie for second in 2009. Lately Toms hasn't had quite that kind of success in Memphis, but coming off a tie for fifth at Colonial in his last start -- his next-best finish this season -- look for him to recapture some of that old magic at TPC Southwind this week.
3. Paul Casey
Best finish in 2013-14 season: T11 at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans
Reason to watch: At one point in time not all that long ago (2009), Paul Casey was the No. 3-ranked player in the world. Currently, he's No. 84, but on the rise (He missed a lot of time over the last few years nursing various injuries). Though he hasn't yet cracked the top-10 in 10 starts this season, Casey has finished in the top 25 six times, including a T13 last week at Memorial, where he opened with a pair of 66s. A quick look at his stats for the season shows that Casey's difficulty has been putting together four rounds. Perhaps that changes this week in Memphis.
2. Phil Mickelson
Best finish in 2013-14 season: T11 at the Wells Fargo Championship
Reason to watch: Mickelson is off to his slowest start in 22 years on the PGA Tour. Through 13 events, he still has yet to finish among the top 10. It's crazy. This week might be just what the doctor ordered for Mickelson. He tied for second in Memphis a year ago and went on to finished in a tie for second in the U.S. Open the following week. Well, next week is the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 -- the site of the first of six runner-up finishes at the national championship over the course of Mickelson's career. It's the only major he's missing to complete the career grand slam. He's got to find something in his game and he'd better find it fast.
1. Dustin Johnson
Best finish in 2013-14 season: Won the WGC-HSBC Champions
Reason to watch: After a red-hot start to the season in which he began with six, top-10 finishes in his first eight appearances -- highlighted by a win in China -- Johnson has, understandably, cooled off a touch. But, expect him to get hot this week in Memphis, where he won in 2012 and tied for 10th a year ago. TPC Southwind suits his game. And with eight Tour wins at 29 years old, majors should be on Johnson's mind. If he plays well this week, it could go a long way toward carrying him into next week.
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