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When It Absolutely, Positively, Has To Be ‘Dawgs In The Playoffs

LIV Golf Invitational - London - Day One Photo by Joe Maher/LIV Golf/Getty Images

Tournament: FedEx St. Jude Championship, August 11-14, 2022

Course: TPC Southwind, par 70, 7,243 yards. On the outskirts of Memphis, right by Germantown.

Purse: $15 million, $2.7 million to the winner. Up from $10.5 million/$1.7 million winner last year. Essentially a major purse. There are two reasons for this: 1) The tournament has pumped up its status the last few seasons; from being a “regular” tournament, to a WGC event for a couple of years, and now the first round of the FedEx Cup playoffs. And 2) the Tour bumped all purses up to compete with LIV Golf’s incredible payouts.

Defending Champ: Tony Finau. The lanky Samoan, now known for his dancing as much as his golf game, scorched his last 9 holes to jump into a playoff with Cameron Smith, and won the event outright on the first extra hole. Bulldog Keith Mitchell had himself a day too, jumping almost 40 spots in the playoff rankings and securing entry to the 2nd round.

Fun Fact: It’s a TPC course opened in 1988, so there’s not that much fun or quirky about the course. Instead, let’s talk about that the defending champ is also Abraham Ancer. Because while Finau won the 1st round of the playoffs last season (which is what the St. Jude is this week), that tournament was actually the Northern Trust held in northern NJ. In 2021, FedEx St. Jude was a WGC event, and was played 2 weeks prior to the playoffs. And which Ancer won. Fun? Maybe not. Confusing? Always.

TV Times: Thursday-Friday, 3 p.m.-7 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday, 1 p.m.-3 p.m (Golf Channel), 3 p.m.-6 p.m. (NBC). Sunday, 12 p.m.-2 p.m. (Golf Channel), 2 p.m.-6 p.m. (NBC)

‘Dawgs in the Field: 8. Russell Henley (Playoff ranking: 32), Sepp Straka (35), Kevin Kisner (36), Keith Mitchell (37), Chris Kirk (52), Brian Harman (55), Brendon Todd (68), and Greyson Sigg (109).

There wasn’t really any drama for the Bulldogs last week, as the 8 mentioned above were already secured of getting into the post-season. There was plenty of drama for others, but there are dozens of golf writers who can give you insight there. I’ll keep this Dawg-centric.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t pressure this week. In the playoffs, points are quadrupled which creates great volatility. Plus, this is the second year that there are only two playoff events before the Tour Championship (used to be 3 events plus the ‘ship). The top 125 got into this week, and the top 70 after Sunday will advance to next week’s BMW Championship. From those results, only 30 make it to East Lake and the Tour Championship for a chance at $15 million.

Greyson Sigg is obviously on the hot seat. At 109, he needs to place higher this week than the 38 players in front of him. And also beat them in reverse order - he needs #70 to be worse than #108 (if they make the cut and earn points, of course), #71 to be worse than #107, etc. Or he can just go win the damn thing. But he probably does need a top 10 combined with bad play from those 38.

Kirk, Harman, and Todd technically can hold serve and still make the top 70 to advance. Again, with four times the points, guys behind can move up quickly with high finishes. So they not only need to make the cut, they need to stay out of last place. Especially Todd, who could easily be jumped by 10 or more players.

The former ‘Dawgs ranked in the 30’s (Henley, Straka, Kisner, & Mitchell) are in a much more secure spot. Unless chaos absolutely reigns, and the top 30 guys don’t make the cut and the bottom 40 guys place 1st through 40th, or something crazy like that. So unless there is a total flip of the rankings, they shouldn’t feel too bad about booking a flight from Memphis to Wilmington, Delaware for next week’s BMW.

But could there be a ninth Bulldog slip into the field this week? Hudson Swafford, recent defector to LIV Golf and just as recently suspended member of the PGA Tour for doing so, has joined 2 others and filed a temporary restraining order in Federal district court to compete in the playoffs.

They are claiming the PGA Tour is violating anti-trust laws by suspending them just for playing golf. The PGA Tour responded Monday essentially saying the lawsuit is frivolous, the players knew they violated policy (by contracting with the competing LIV), were aware of the suspension if they defected, and filed a last minute lawsuit in order to “double dip” - get millions from LIV and attempt to get millions more from the FedEx Cup playoffs.

A hearing on the suit was held Tuesday, and the news is probably not what Swafford wanted. It was what was expected. The restraining order motion was denied. So Big Hud has to settle for the 8 digit signing bonus and huge guaranteed payouts on the LIV events. There are 8 more suspended players that did not join the restraining order yet also had playoff points (like Dustin Johnson for example). This tells me they were counting on winning the motion and getting into the playoffs. So this was testing the legal and court waters a little bit, and more lawsuits are sure to come.

So as the schedule and fields are whittled down, the purses and pressure rises. I expect that we can see at least a few Bulldogs play pro golf next week, and that’s good enough for me. As always...