Making final preparations for the U.S. Open, the PGA Tour pays a visit to Memphis this week for the St. Jude FedEx Classic. In the past, tournaments held the week prior to a major were low on star-power. That trend has changed over the last few years with places like Houston and Memphis going out of its way to provide major-like conditions for its field. TPC Southwind will host defending champion and world No. 2 Lee Westwood, several 2011 Tour winners and a bunch of former major champions this week. We caught up with TPC Southwind PGA Head Professional Jon Goin, who put it all in perspective.
PGA.com: As always, thanks for joining us, Jon. Once again, an awesome field is assembled for this week's FedEx St. Jude Classic, highlighted by defending champion, Lee Westwood. The big names don't always tee it up the week before a major, but as we see time and again, they do in Memphis. Obviously that's a testament to what a great job the people in Memphis do in organizing the tournament. How does that make everyone there feel?
Goin: I think what's happened is that since the renovation in 2004, we've been able to do a better job in overall course conditions as far as being comparable to a U.S. Open conditions -- except for the rough, which we keep pretty short compared to the U.S. Open. The renovation took this place from bent grass to championship Bermuda and that's what the guys like. Now that we do that, the week before the U.S. Open has been an awfully good date for us.
PGA.com: One name on the field list that pops off the page to me is David Toms. He's a former two-time champ in Memphis and is playing some of his best golf in years right now. What is it about TPC Southwind that fits David's eye so well and do you like his chances this time around?
Goin: I think you have to like his chances. He doesn't suffer much from having a lay off, like a lot of players who are hot and then take a week or two off do. We hope that David is able to play as well as he has the last few weeks. He went back to back in '03 and '04 and I think that what suits his eye about this course is that we all play courses where it fits our eye real well. That's the case with David here. I remember when he won in '04 he wasn't in favor of the renovation because he had played so well. When Justin Leonard won in '07, David finished one shot behind him. Even after the renovation, he continues to have success here. And being so close to his home in Louisiana, David has a large draw here.
PGA.com: What will players face at TPC Southwind that might help them at Congressional during the U.S. Open?
Goin: If you think about Congressional, I think it's a place that has a lot of water, much like TPC Southwind. When Tom Lehman was in contention for the U.S. Open at Congressional in '07 he found the water on No. 17. A lot of the shots are similar here. Take 18 here, for example, with Robert Garrigus last year. He hit it in the water a couple of times and took a triple bogey on the last hole.
There are things they'll see here that they'll also see at the Open. Green speeds and overall conditions are two of those things. We've been awfully lucky with recovery after being dormant. This is probably the best I've seen the course in my eight years here. The overall conditions this year are as good as I've seen them here.
PGA.com: The 2010 FedEx St. Jude Classic will probably be remembered just as much for Westwood's win as the tough luck Robert Garrigus had, losing a three-shot lead on the final hole and eventually losing in a playoff. Garrigus bounced back and won at Disney in the season finale last year. That was impressive, wasn't it?
Goin: I think it's a credit to how mentally tough Robert has to be. He was in contention at Hyundai too this year. He's recovered beautifully. He came back here for media day because Westwood was unavailable. That was quite a testament to him and his character. I think it made him a better player and he's moved forward. I think he deserves kudos for that and it makes him a sentimental favorite.
PGA.com: Final question, Jon. What do you most look forward to during tournament week as the host PGA Professional?
Goin: I think it's your course, you're on the world stage and in the eye of the hurricane a little bit. It's one of those things that some clubs -- the majors -- they rotate. But for the PGA Professional with the year in, year out basis type of tournament, it's surreal. It's the pride you have in being a PGA Professional at a Tour facility and a Tour stop. I think I live this a little more than most PGA Professionals because I work for the PGA Tour and I'm fortunate enough to have a Tour stop.