Tournament: FedEx St. Jude Classic, June 9-12
Course: TPC Southwind, 7,239 yards, par 70.
Defending Champion: Fabian Gomez. The Argentinian got hot on the weekend, and played almost perfect golf down the stretch while the rest of the field faltered.
Television: Thursday-Friday, 3:30-6:30 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, 1-2:30 p.m. (GC), 3-6 p.m. (CBS).
Fun Fact: Being the week before the US Open, there isn’t too much to talk about here. Maybe that this tournament benefits St. Jude’s Childrens Hospitals, and there’s nothing finer than that. The good people of Memphis, with huge support from Danny Thomas, have made this a stalwart on the PGA Tour schedule.
Former 'Dawgs in the Field (Six): Erik Compton, Harris English, Russell Henley, Hudson Swafford, Brendon Todd, and yes… Lee McCoy.
The UGA golf season ended earlier than expected, as the 6th ranked Bulldogs failed to advance to the match play portion of the NCAA Championships. But it was still successful in many ways, including an SEC Championship for the team, several team tourney wins, and even more personal accolades for the players. What was expected was the success of Lee McCoy.
Lee won low medalist honors twice this season, bringing his total to seven for his UGA career (1 short of the record). McCoy tied the record for wins in a season with four in his junior campaign, and 25 total top-10 finishes in his career (tied 2nd). He leaves his mark on the storied UGA program by setting the record for best single season stroke average (70.0), and best career stroke average (70.87). He was named first team All-SEC, and capped his conference play named as the SEC Player of the Year. And just this week, McCoy was confirmed as a First Team All-American. He joins former UGA players Chip Beck and Chris Kirk as the only Bulldogs to achieve that distinction twice. His last shots for UGA were in last week’s NCAA Championships, having advanced in the individual portion after UGA was eliminated. McCoy ended up 6th, and was two strokes out of the lead on the back nine. And those are just the major accolades – believe me, it goes deeper.
So Lee leaves as arguably the most decorated UGA golfer ever. I can’t find the quote, but Coach Chris Haack said something to the effect of "We’ll miss him, but now he needs to do this for money." And doing that he is, playing in this week’s PGA Tour FedEx St. Jude’s Classic. The pressure and big stage shouldn’t be a problem, if you consider that he finished 4th in a PGA tournament this spring, beating then world #1 Jordan Spieth in their Sunday pairing. With nine other Bulldog alums as current PGA Tour cardholders, he should have a great support network as well. Speaking of that network, let’s see how things stand for those who donned the Red & Black and teeing it up this week:
Erik Compton (412 World Golf Ranking, 156 FedEx Cup ranking): Ouch. Missed 8 cuts and two withdrawals in the 18 events he’s entered. His first full year on Tour was 2012, and this might be his last. You won’t find a better story (two-time heart transplant recipient), but I hope it doesn’t end this year.
Harris English (50,29): English is coming off his best performance of the year, with a 2nd place two weeks ago. He shot all four rounds in the 60’s, and if not for Jordan Spieth doing Spieth-like things, he had a chance at the trophy. Probably the 2nd best UGA product at the moment.
Russell Henley (93,94): The two-time Tour winner makes his living off of consistent top 25 finishes. That is not the case this year, and I personally think it’s because he cut his hair. He had a sweet mullet-esque working up until late last year, and like Samson, can really work a golf ball using the jawbone of an ass. Unfortunately the USGA and R&A outlawed jawbones.
Hudson Swafford (234,99): Maybe the most consistent UGA product the last six weeks, Swafford is nearing his career-bests in money and top 25s. The Lakeland, FL native has made his last four cuts and has over $600k in earnings this season.
Brendon Todd (194,196): Double ouch. He’s missed his last 14 cuts in a row. He’s played frequently, and I’m guessing trying to play out of this slump. His putting has actually been pretty good – but this stat may be inflated due to missing fairways and greens consistently, and having to get up and down.
McCoy has no real status on the Tour, but will get plenty of chances to play Tour events under sponsor’s exemptions in the hope that he wins enough money to earn his Tour card for next season. So with the US Open next week, 35 days until the British Open, and just under 60 days until the Olympics, the time is now to play well and finish high. And I think we have just the ‘Dawgs to do it. So tune in and….