A city couldn’t have asked for more. Not only did Fox’s, So You Think You Can Dance, showcase Memphis with its final two-hour audition for the coming season, they also have the honor of hosting the PGA Tour’s last tournament before next week’s U.S. Open, the FedEx St. Jude Classic.
And given that there are a lot of players who like to play their way into a major rather than taking the week off, they got a lot of good players: Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Boo Weekley, D.A. Points, Padraig Harrington, Scott Stallings, Ian Pouter, David Toms, and some fresh young talent, all winners this year, like Billy Horschel (New Orleans), John Merrick (LA) and Russell Henley (Sony Open in Hawaii).
Mickelson seemed particularly pumped because not only did he have nice things to say about this week’s TPC Southwind, he picked up some good news in his scouting of Merion earlier in the week:
I like playing the week before. I didn’t play well at the Masters this year taking the week off. I know that for me to be sharp mentally especially into a tournament where the penalty for missing is so great, like the U.S. Open, it’s important that I’m sharp and I’m ready to play.
This is a great golf course. The greens are small, they’re difficult to get the ball stopped, and there are a lot of cool little shots around the greens. So the precision of the iron shot into the green as well as the importance of hitting fairways here is a similar style of golf that will happen at Merion next week.
And I thought this was the most insightful scouting report to come out of Merion:
It’s really a wonderful set‑up. It’s the best I’ve seen. I think the reason I like it so much is they’ve made the hard holes more difficult. They’ve made them harder, but they did not make the easy holes harder. They gave you birdie opportunities on the easy holes, and they made tough pars a little bit harder, which allows the player that is playing well to separate himself from the field. I thought that it was probably the best Open set‑up I’ve seen.
It plays into the hands of the guys that are playing well, because you’ve got to make pars on the tough holes and you’ve got to make birdies on the easy holes, and you have that chance now. It didn’t look tricked up at all. It looked like it was a very fair, hard test of golf.
And it just so happens that last year’s FedExCup champion, Brandt Snedeker is not only in the field, the Nashville native thinks of it as his home game. And given what he’s been dealing with lately, I thought his interview was easily the most interesting because there are so many new things that came up that I’ve never heard before in a Tour media session:
This is a very big event for me being as close to Nashville as I can get, so Memphis feels like a home tournament to me. Obviously, being FedExCup Champion, it holds a special meaning for me this year because I’m proud to have that title next to my name. So I realize I’m representing them a little bit this week.
It’s a great golf course. I really love Southwind. I played a lot of junior golf tournaments here, and I played every year here of my career. I love being here, it’s been good to me, and I feel like the course is in great shape…I’m excited with what this week can hold especially considering my past success here.
But he has a bit of an albatross around his neck due to a freak issue that’s come up with his ribs that requires him to inject himself on a daily basis to rebuild the bone structure in his ribs:
Yeah, I’ve had more tests and stuff run on me than I ever want to have run again. So I go from I’m okay and everything’s okay to just this rare…It’s just this rare thing that I have.
It’s just a weird thing I’ve got to deal with and something I’ve got to deal with. It’s like taking an insulin shot and taking it every day. I’ve got to travel with it. I’ve got to keep it refrigerated. It’s probably the biggest pain of my life keeping it refrigerated all the time. So I’m traveling with ice packs and all that stuff. So that’s the biggest thing to me is the logistics of keeping this thing with me at all times.
But it doesn’t hurt really at all, and it’s something very minor that I do. But it hopefully will have long‑term benefits to me. It’s a medication called Forteo. It’s approved by the PGA Tour. It’s hopefully long‑term effects can regrow some of my bone, specifically in my rib cage where they’re very, very brittle comparatively speaking to the rest of my bones. So they feel like this can maybe increase my bone mass 20 to 30% which would get me back to a normal level if I have success with it. So hopefully it will have the same effect on me.
But the other side of this misfortune is that he’s had the good fortune to discover that he doesn’t need to play and practice as much as he thought he did:
Yeah, the last two years my practice has probably been cut in half just because of what I need to do to stay healthy and stay on top of my game. So that’s had an effect on me. But if you look at it the way I look at it, ever since I had my first kid, Lilly, I’ve cut my practice down dramatically since then. Even the first time around, I’m playing the best golf of my career, so I feel like there might be something to this [abbreviated regimen].
The fresher I stay and the less balls I hit, I focus more on my short game, focusing more on staying sharp on the golf course and my strategy involved in every golf course I play. It kind of helps me get into the swing a lot better and into contention a little bit more than I have in the past.
So what does his coach have to say about such little practice?
Todd’s [Anderson] been great about it. He kind of helped design my swing around what limitations I have. Between having a couple of hip surgeries and now having the problem with my rib cage, we’re working on very doable things where I don’t have to put a lot of reps in. My swing’s not going to change a lot right now.
I’m not going to redo what I do. So just little minor stuff that we work on, a lot of swinging in mirrors and stuff like that where I can keep the feel and do it where I’m not hitting a lot of the balls and doing a lot of repetition. Just trying to do more playing, get out there and playing nine holes where I’m maybe making 30 swings in nine holes. I can see results really easily out there instead of hitting balls for three hours. That is the philosophy we’ve taken on it.
Actually what could he say? Last year, he won La Jolla, finished T3 at the British Open and won the Tour Championship and the FedExCup. And this year he was 3rd in Maui, T2 at La Jolla, 2nd in Phoenix, won Pebble Beach, T6 in the Masters and T8 at the Players Championship.
But he knows that golf isn’t a bed of roses just because it sometimes goes very well:
Golf does a great job of you get numbers where you feel like you can do no wrong, and you get moments where you feel like you can do no right. And golf has an unbelievable ability that the minute you think you’ve got to figured out, to slap you in the face and show you what reality is.
So I realize that. I realize there are going to be ups and downs, especially with the way I play golf. I’m going to have runs. I told everybody at the end of the year, I’m not naive. I didn’t think I was going to play that way all year long.
I’m going to have ups and downs. I’ve been on a lot of ups and I’ve kind of been on a downward trend right now. But I really feel like I’m on my way back up again. I feel like I’m on top of this and it’s going the right direction. I really think these next couple weeks will be a couple of good weeks for me.
So not only does he inject himself in the stomach morning and night, he needed to figure out how to travel with this stuff on the commercial airlines:
Just put it in my luggage. I have freezer packs that I put it in it stays up to 11 hours. British Open might be an issue. I haven’t figured out how we’re going to get it over there. We’re working on that as we speak. So that will be the first problem I see arising.
But, yeah, the hardest part is transporting the needles. Making sure you can buy them at Walgreens. It’s about as low maintenance you can get for the amount of stuff you have to do for it.
And in this new world of a player going to deer antler spray, Snedeker was super careful to make sure that what he was doing was within the Tour’s drug policies:
I talked to my doctor, and he said this is stuff I want to put you on. I said that’s great, but I have to make a couple calls first to find out if it’s doable. It was not long after the whole Vijay incident. So I called the Tour and double checked three times since then to make sure we’re still okay because I don’t want to go down that road.
So we’re good, officially. Double checked, triple checked, we’re good. I’m getting ready to get tested here shortly too, so you’ll have evidence here next week.
As I so often end my tournament preview posts, it should be an interesting week.