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‘Dawgs on Tour: Make Room for Dawgs Edition

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The Honda Classic - Final Round Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Tournament: World Golf Championship (WGC) FedEx St. Jude Invitational (a mouthful, more on that later); July 25-28, 2019

Course: TPC Southwind, 7,244 yards, par 70.

Purse: $10,250,000 (1st prize = $1.845 million)

Defending Champ: Justin Thomas. Well, kinda. More on that later as well. Forget it, I’ll give you the basic facts here. The fact remains Justin Thomas won the WGC event last summer, only played at Firestone Country Club near Akron, OH. He had a nice 3 stroke lead entering the final day, and basically let everyone else around him fall apart - even though he played a ho-hum final round himself. Dustin Johnson won the FedEx St. Jude Classic on this course last year, though it was not a WGC event at the time.

Fun Fact: Danny Thomas, actor and entertainer, helped found the St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis many years ago. Eventually a pro golf tournament was created with the hospital as the beneficiary of proceeds. It got on the PGA rota, it snagged local company FedEx as a major sponsor, did tons of great work for pediatric cancer patients, FedEx threw even more money at the PGA (i.e. “FedEx Cup Playoffs”), the governing bodies couldn’t resist all the moolah being tossed around, and they promoted this little forgotten late summer tourney in Memphis to be one of the key WGC events. The folks in Ohio (i.e. Firestone G&CC) aren’t exactly thrilled. Equate this situation to LSU not paying student-athletes, yet spending $28 million on purple recliners in a locker room.

Television: Thursday-Friday, 2-7 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, noon-1:45 p.m. (GC), 2-6 p.m. (CBS).

‘Dawgs in the Field: 3. Bubba Watson, Keith Mitchell, Kevin Kisner.

The British Open, aka The Open Championship, and now apparently branding itself solely as “The Open” wasn’t the kindest to the 4 former Bulldogs entered. Kevin Kisner finished at level par, good for a tie for 30th (T30). Bubba Watson was +3, and that gave him a T51 finish. Brian Harman and Keith Mitchell missed the cut by a single stroke (still received $5,000 is what I heard).

The PGA event last weekend opposite the British (for those who didn’t qualify), was the Barbasol Championship, and 4 ‘Dawgs played in that as well. Joey Garber missed the cut, and Brendon Todd shot 10 under par. But 10 under par wasn’t going to go far in this birdie fest, though it did net him T51. Harris English shot 14 under par, and that barely got into the top 30 (T29). Yet Sepp Straka carded rounds of 68-68-63-66 to get to 23 under par, a 3rd place finish and more importantly, good points to vault him inside the hallowed 125 (top 125 qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs).

This week is the WGC FedEx St. Jude, and as a WGC event has a limited field. Only 70 players are invited, based on worldwide rankings and a few select tournament wins. Turns out only 68 players are competing - probably a couple with injuries or guys resting up after the British and before the playoffs begin. There is no cut to the field, so it is guaranteed money... usually a pretty good proposition and will ensure the world’s best tee it up.

It should also be quite the departure from last week:

  • Instead of sideways rain and temps in the 50’s, it will be sunny and hot.
  • Instead of fescue and rye turf, the players will walk down Zoysia fairways and Bermuda grass greens.
  • Instead of links golf on the ground, tall fescue rough, and pot bunkers, the pros are faced with airmailing doglegs, pitch marks, and controlling spin on the greens.
  • Instead of playing on the shores of the North Sea in the North Atlantic Ocean, they will be about 12 miles inland from the Mississippi River.
  • Instead of warm Guinness at concessions, there will be aluminum bottles of lukewarm Bud Light.
  • Instead of the fanbase speaking a mix of Cockney, Irish Brogue, and Scottish Burr, the players will be regaled with “Baba Booey” in a mix of Tennessee and Arkansas drawls.

Yeah, this week will be different. It will, however, be good golf. And a small field means anything can happen, like a former Bulldog grabbing a WGC title.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention yet another opposite field event, the Barracuda Championship held in Reno, NV. Since the WGC is limited to top players, those not qualified can play in this “normal” PGA Tour tournament. And we have 5 more former ‘Dawgs in the field: Russell Henley, Joey Garber, Harris English, Sepp Straka, and Brendon Todd. There are slightly less FedEx Cup points available, and the prize money is about a third of the WGC. $3.5 million total and just $683,000 to the winner. But it uses the modified Stableford Scoring system, which adds to the confusion excitement of the viewing public.

In case you didn’t know, scoring via Stableford is still based on relation to par, but different point values are assigned based on your score to par on each hole. You get zero/zilch/nothing for a par, but 2 points for a birdie, 5 points for an eagle, and 8 points for a double eagle. Conversely, you lose a point for a bogey and lose 3 points for double bogey or worse. Thus it rewards those who go for birdies, eagles, and other aggressive play, and limits the damage in case you screw up. The TV coverage will be on Golf Channel in the evening hours and afternoon hours after the WGC switches to CBS.

So flip it on over to Golf Channel and CBS. And as always...