The PGA Tour is in Memphis, Tenn., this week for the FedEx St. Jude Classic at TPC Southwind. It's also the last event for players to get their respective game sharp for next week's U.S. Open.
Harrison Frazar returns to Memphis as the defending champion, while world No. 2 Rory McIlroy will be shooting for the title as well.
Before the tournament teed off on Thursday, we caught up with TPC Southwind Senior Head Golf Professional Jon Goin for a little Q&A.
PGA.com: First, let's talk a little about your defending champion Harrison Frazar. Harrison has been on the Tour for years, but had never been able to pull through with a victory until last year in Memphis. How nice was it to see one of the good guys on the Tour finally get a "W?"
Goin: It was great to see Harrison get his first win in Memphis. If you think about it, Harrison's win here tied in with St. Jude the patron saint of lost causes, what other event could give you a story like that. I remember seeing Harrison in the Players Grille after his win and what a great down to earth and appreciative person. He was truly on the verge of finding something else to do and wins the FedEx St. Jude Classic to get a two-year exemption. It is truly a feel good story.
PGA.com: Rory McIlroy will be playing this year. How much excitement does his presence add to the tournament?
Goin: Having the No. 2-ranked player in the world commit is always a big deal to an event. For it to happen here makes it even bigger since most of the bigger American names don't play the week before the U.S. Open. Graeme McDowell is also in the field, so to have the last two U.S. Open champions in our field is a great feeling.
PGA.com: Can you describe to our readers just how special the St. Jude Children's Hospital is?
Goin: I am not sure you can put how special St. Jude is into words. To have a hospital whose whole mission is to advance cures, and means of prevention, for pediatric catastrophic diseases through research and treatment. To see how far the treatment of catastrophic diseases in children has come since St. Jude opened 50 years ago is amazing. Here are a few facts bout St. Jude:
- No family ever pays St. Jude for anything.
- On average, 7,800 active patients visit the hospital each year, most of whom are treated on an outpatient basis
- St. Jude has treated children from all 50 states and from around the world.
- St. Jude has developed protocols that have helped push overall survival rates for childhood cancers from less than 20 percent when the hospital opened in 1962 to 80 percent today
- In 1962, the survival rate for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), the most common form of childhood cancer, was 4 percent. Today, the survival rate for this once deadly disease is 94 percent, thanks to research and treatment protocols developed at St. Jude.
This is why this hospital is so special and we are very fortunate to have it located here in Memphis.
PGA.com: What do you enjoy most about tournament week?
Goin: This is my 10th PGA Tour event in Memphis, 12th overall. When I got in the golf business almost 20 years ago I remember thinking how great it would be to work at a facility that hosts a PGA Tour event, and now to have been apart of 12 is amazing to me. There are many different things I enjoy about tournament week, having a great staff that helps take this club from serving our members 51 weeks out of the year, and transforming it to host the best players in the world in three days is pretty impressive. To see how difficult this golf course has become since the renovation in 2004, and how much the players like this course is something I enjoy, but I think the one thing I look forward to happens later in the week after the fourth or fifth 4 a.m. wake-up call coming to the club and finding what is truly the breakfast of champions tournament week and that is a Nutty Buddy at 5 a.m. That is one of the biggest highlights! Probably won't ever tell my kids I eat ice cream at 5 a.m., but it happens.
PGA.com: What is it about TPC Southwind that you think will help players most in preparing for the U.S. Open?
Goin: Small firm greens that, speed-wise, will equal what they see at the Open, fairways that are narrower than most they see, and at over 7,200 yards par 70 a long course that you have to be fully engaged mentally each round or it can sneak up on you. The back nine of this course has stretches that can force you into some big numbers. No. 11, the island green par 3, is smaller than TPC Sawgrass and can play longer at 162 yards with the wind blowing left to right and hurting most times.
No. 12 has had more balls in the water some years than 11, dead into the wind with water on the right and bunkers left. No. 14 has always been one of the most difficult par 3s on Tour, although they don't play the true 239 yardage all four rounds it is not an easy green to hit from any tee box. No. 17 is 490 yards with trees on both sides of the landing area, so you need to find the middle of that fairway or you are forced to work the ball left or right. Finally, No. 18, well just ask Robert Garrigus -- water left, FedEx Cabana right, not an easy tee shot.