Just like the other three majors, the winner of the FedEx St. Jude Classic could earn a trip to the U.S. Open.
But there’s one difference: It can’t be just any player.
While the Masters, British Open and PGA Championship take the winner of the PGA Tour event the week before their championship, the U.S. Open provides only last entry for those who can get into the top 60 in the world.
And the only way for anyone at the TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee, to crack the top 60 is to win the St. Jude Classic. That would appear to be either Hudson Swafford (No. 81), Ian Poulter (No. 83) or Sunghoon Kang (No. 85). Everyone else is either not playing or already in the U.S. Open.
Swafford and Poulter didn’t even go through U.S. Open qualifying.
The U.S. Open decided on this last-minute world ranking addition in 2011, which is loosely referred to as the “Justin Rose Rule.” He won the Memorial in 2010 but because the ranking cutoff was two weeks earlier, he didn’t get into the U.S. Open.
But in the last six years, no one needed the St. Jude Classic to crack the top 60. They all did their work a week earlier (usually at the Memorial) or, in the case of Bernd Wiesberger, over in Europe at the Lyoness Open. He was runner-up in 2014 and moved up to No. 60.
That means Memphis is really about Memphis this week.
Phil Mickelson is in the field, his final event before he goes to his daughter’s high school graduation in San Diego the same day the U.S. Open begins in Wisconsin. Also in the field are Rickie Fowler and Adam Scott, both of whom want to play the week before the majors this year.
The LPGA Tour is making the first of two trips to Canada for the Manulife Classic, where Ariya Jutanugarn is the only one of the top three in the world playing and is all but certain to rise to No. 1 in the world.
Chris Wood is No. 60 in the world, but he pulled out of the Lyoness Open in Austria. He’ll stay at No. 60 unless someone at the St. Jude Classic has a really good week and moves past him.
Mickelson was reminiscent at the St. Jude Classic as he thought about the U.S. Open. Only it had nothing to do with his decision to skip the only major he hasn’t won so he can be at his daughter’s high school graduation. It was in Memphis, for U.S. Open qualifying in 1992, that he and caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay first worked together. They have been together ever since.
But they haven’t won the St. Jude Classic. Mickelson was runner-up a year ago, three shots behind Daniel Berger. He was a runner-up in 2013 , two shots behind Harris English. Mickelson hasn’t won since the British Open in 2013 at Muirfield. Maybe this is his week.
No one has ever won the U.S. Open after winning the week before, though that might not be an issue depending on who wins.
The St. Jude Classic has a proud tradition of charity, of major champions winning (Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Gary Player, Curtis Strange to name a few) and no shortage of excitement. Lee Westwood won in a playoff in 2010 after a late collapse by Robert Garrigus . Dustin Johnson returned from a back injury and won in 2012.
Then there was 2005, when Justin Leonard won without making a birdie in the final round.
Television: Thursday-Friday, 4-7 p.m. (Golf Channel); Saturday-Sunday, 1-2:30 p.m. (Golf Channel); 3-6 p.m. (CBS Sports).
The LPGA Tour is in a stretch of 12 straight weeks, though there are three more tournaments before it gets to its next major. Until then, the most compelling part of the season is who will be the first multiple winner of the year and who’s No. 1.
Not since 1991 has the LPGA Tour gone this deep into the season — 13 tournaments — without someone winning at least twice.
As for the No. 1 ranking? Jutanugarn thought she had that taken care of last week until it was discovered that the Women’s World Ranking made a mistake in its computation, and Lydia Ko held on to No. 1 by an average point differential of 0.01.
Caroline Masson of Germany is the defending champion. The ManuLife Classic remains her only LPGA Tour victory.
Television: Thursday-Friday, 1:30-3:30 p.m. (Golf Channel); Saturday-Sunday, 3-5 p.m. (Golf Channel).
Wiesberger is proud of his native Austria, though the schedule isn’t doing him any favors. He is the only player from the top 50 in the world at the Lyoness Open, meaning that he gets to leave on Sunday and make his way to Wisconsin for the U.S. Open at an Erin Hills course he has never seen.
The total prize money is 1 million euros, which is less than the runner-up will get next week at the U.S. Open.
Television: Thursday-Friday, 5-7 a.m., 9 a.m.-noon (Golf Channel); Saturday-Sunday, 5:30-10 a.m. (Golf Channel).