American Harris English carded a final round 69 to post 12-under-par 268 to defeat Phil Mickelson and Scott Stallings by two shots for his first win on the PGA TOUR at the FedEx St. Jude Classic at TPC Southwind on Sunday. 54-hole leader Shawn Stefani faded to T7 with a closing round 76.
After beginning the day in the final group a shot behind Stefani, English bobbled out in 37 and found himself three back of Scott Stallings. English righted the ship on the back side as he racked up four birdies against just one bogey to finish in style with a closing 32. His 69-69 weekend was solid, if not spectacular, but it was his 66-64 which reminded fantasy gamers of why we’ve been so high on him. After making just five bogeys the first three rounds, he carded five on Sunday but still found a way to win. The clinching shot was out of the trees on No. 17 where he knocked to around 15 feet and made the birdie putt to give him breathing room on the treacherous No. 18 tee box. That’s the same tee box that has claimed many victims over the years but English didn’t look bothered as he had no problem taking the water out of play and two putting for his par and first title on TOUR.
English is known for his length off the tee and smooth putting stroke on the greens but this week it was his iron play that put him in contention to win. He finished the week T9 in GIR and was 17th in strokes gained-putting. That’s a very solid combination! I opined before Colonial that I thought having Steve Stricker’s caddy, Jimmy Johnson, on the bag would help him at Colonial. It didn’t as he MC. This week, he had Brian Smith on his bag and together they brought home a victory. Well spotted, Spotter!
English is in the middle of his second year on TOUR out of Georgia. Last year he racked up 22 weekends from 27 starts and collected 10 top 25s. This season he’s now 13 for 17 and adds this victory to three other top 10 finishes which beats his total from last year. Last year I usually combined rookies English and Bud Cauley in a spot because I couldn’t separate them. Now, English has the upper hand! Gamers, he’s now eligible for the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, PGA Championship and the 2014 Masters, amongst others, after his victory today.
With this victory, English collects $1,026,000 and 500 FedExCup points.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
There have been 24 tournaments this season. The Stars and Stripes have won 20 of them.
There have also been nine first-time winners this season. There have also been just two multiple winners, Woods (four) and Kuchar (WGC-Match Play; Memorial).
The winners on TOUR have been Johnson, D (28), Henley (24), Gay (41), Woods FOUR times (37), Mickelson (42), Snedeker (32), Merrick (30) Kuchar TWICE (34),Thompson, M (27) Brown (29), Streelman (34), Points (36), Laird (30), Scott (32), G-Mac (33), Horschel (26), Ernst (22), Bae (26), Weekley (39) and English (23). The young folks (30 and younger) now have 10 victories; the 30-somethings have racked up a dozen victories, and the “old folks” (40 and up) have their two wins. Phil Mickelson had a nice tune-up this week and was T2 for the “old folks”.
Since 2000, only one international player has won in Memphis (Lee Westwood; 2010).
Only Notah Begay (2000) and Dustin Johnson (2012) have won this tournament in their 20s. English now joins this smallish group.
He joins seven of the last eight winners of this event to come from behind on Sunday to win. Only Brian Gay in 2009 held the 54-hole lead into the winner’s circle.
He joins only six other players to win this event in their first start here since the tournament began in 1959. He joins Dicky Pride (1994), Lee Westwood (2010) and Dustin Johnson (2012) as maiden victors since the tournament has moved to TPC Southwind. By my math, which is admittedly atrocious, that’s three of the last four winners to do so. #trendnotatrend?
A look at the players who finished in the top 10
Scott Stallings: For gamers, it’s nice when a guy who’s been on fire continues to be on fire when you plug him into your line up before the week starts. Sure, you’ll be disappointed with his double on No. 15 on Sunday and his errant pitch on No. 18 in that same round but Stallings should have proven his worth to you this week. He made only four bogeys against 20 birdies (second-best on the week) but it was the three double bogeys that ultimately did in his chances for victory. He was accurate off the tee; stellar into the greens (T9 GIR) and had the flat stick rolling (sixth in strokes gained-putting) so that proves he’s in a very good place right now. He adds T2 to T20 and T25 in his three starts here and he’s no longer a resort-course only player. His last three weeks, Colonial (T4), Memorial (T4) and TPC Southwind (T2) validate that.
Phil Mickelson: The Domestic Man of Mystery was up to his old fantasy tricks again this week. Electing to play the week before a US Open was eye-opening and alarming all at the same time. I argued in our live chat on Wednesday that I liked that he was changing it up and trying something new before heading to Merion. If this week was any indication, it looks like he’ll be a factor next week. One could argue that he should have won this week but too many missed birdie putts inside of 10 feet on Sunday held him back. His final approach on No. 18 was pure class and pure theater as well. He remarked after the round that he enjoyed the test and the set-up and opined to David Feherty that it would serve as a great tune-up next year before Pinehurst No. 2.
Ryan Palmer: Is my one-and-done jinx finally behind me? You wouldn’t have thought so on Thursday when he three-over through three holes! Palmer, who was T3 here last year, rallied over the next 69 holes to fire 12-under and claim fourth all by himself. After making two bogeys and a double on Thursday, Palmer played the last 54 holes and only carded one bogey. On Friday. He was T4 in GIR and was 11th in strokes gained-putting and if his final four foot effort on Sunday would have dropped, he would have joined the party at T2 as well. Do I sound bitter? HELL NO! I’m elated that I found a top-five finisher! Palmer has now played seven weekends in a row on TOUR. is on your list here as well next year.
Patrick Reed: The legend of Reed started last year when he became Mr. Monday Qualifier with his wife carrying the bag. Here we are a year later and after his top 25 Q-School finish, he’s now on TOUR and has racked up his first two top 10 finishes including this week’s solo fifth. Reed played his first event as a professional here in 2011 so he has fond memories around this track. After MC in 2011 and last year, his memories will be even better when he returns next year. Here’s something to keep in mind: Both of his top 10s, Pebble Beach and TPC Southwind, are played on below-average sized greens. He’s definitely worth a flier in season-long formats but I’d keep an eye on him in week-to-week events as he just hasn’t flashed any consistency. Yet.
John Rollins: After T21 and T4 on the final Texas swing of the season, Rollins kept his form rolling along as he picked up a sixth-place finish this week in Memphis. His back-to-back top 10s are his first since Torrey Pines and Phoenix last winter. Rollins iron play is usually solid and his putting was just as good this week. If he’s not on your list of favorites, you might want to take another look as he’s now played 12 weekends in 16 outings and has hit the top 25 in 10 of those. That’s a guy you want in your line up.
Rory Sabbatini: In his last five starts, Sabbatini missed three cuts and had finishes of 71st and T43 so it makes perfect sense that he banged a top 10 this week. Throw in the fact that this was his first appearance in Memphis and it all adds up. Not really. Sabbatini is known for his ball striking and this week his iron play led the field in GIR even though he was a bit crooked off the tee. He hits the top 10 for the second time this season (T9; RBC Heritage) in 15 events. But, these are also his only top 25s as well so keep that in mind moving forward.
Justin Hicks: For the first time in his career, Hicks has hit the top 10 with T7 this week in Memphis. After 81-76 at the Memorial last weekend I won’t lie and tell you that I saw this coming. Hicks has been solid in his return to the TOUR for the first time since 2011 as the 38-year-old has now made 13 weekends in 17 events because of his solid ball-striking (31st on TOUR). This week, was not any different as he was 10th in driving accuracy and third in GIR. It didn’t hurt that he was fifth in strokes gained-putting. He could have jumped into the top five but his double on No. 17 on Sunday stymied that chance. His best finish before this was T12 at Pebble Beach. See a pattern here?
Shawn Stefani: The 54-hole leader could have had this tournament wrapped up and put to bed on SATURDAY afternoon if he could have avoided a quadruple-bogey seven on No. 11. The part that gamers will remember is that he made all four of those shots back to enter Sunday one ahead of English. Unfortunately, gamers will also remember that he fired 76 on Sunday afternoon to fade out of contention. That 76 included a great chip-in late as well that minimized even more damage. Stefani led the field in strokes gained-putting this week which wasn’t bad for a guy 116th in total putting in 2013. Since his T7 at Tampa Bay, Stefani rattled off five MCs in seven events and his T27 at Wells Fargo. He’s now made seven cuts in 15 in 2013 so I’m not jumping on board just yet.
Billy Horschel: Welcome back! It’s now 14 of 15 cuts made in 2013 and his T10 this week makes his sixth visit to the wrap up column. He improved each round this week 71-69-68-67 even though he didn’t rank in the top 30 in any major categories except driving distance. Grind it out, son!
Robert Allenby: His first top 10 since this event last year, Allenby has now made four cuts in 17 events in 2013. It’s the first time he’s made consecutive cuts since the Memorial and FESJC last year. I’m going to stop typing now.
Glen Day: This is his seventh event of 2013 and his second on the PGA TOUR. He’s now made five cuts on the trot in Memphis over the last seven seasons.
Camilo Villegas: There were 77 players who made the cut. Villegas was 75th in strokes gained-putting. He hits the top 10, like Sabbatini, for the first time since RBC Heritage where he also finished T9. The good news is that’s four weekends in a row. The bad news is if he’s putting like that, it will put even more pressure on his irons.
Dustin Johnson: In two events here he’s won and now finished T10. Bogeys on Nos. 17 and 18 Sunday kept him from a higher finish but there are courses that fit player’s styles and when there are smallish greens, Johnson seems always to be in contention regardless of what’s going on outside the ropes.
Jonathan Byrd: He was in the top 10 for both driving accuracy and GIR so this should be a big confidence boost for him after wrist surgery in 2012. In his previous eight events this season, he missed six cuts and his finishes were T66 and T80. Season-long gamers will be excited to get him back and cashing checks.
Padraig Harrington: After hitting the top 10 in two of his first six starts, Harrington backed that with MC, MC, T75 and T48 before racking up his third top 10 of 2013 this week. He’s too volatile for me to try and time so I’ll gladly sit back and watch others try and figure him out.
“Hey, what ever happened to…”
I take a look back at what happened to the chalk
Brandt Snedeker: Back-to-back weeks of MC for Snedeker can’t be what gamers were hoping for as we get ready for the US Open next week. Momentum, or lack thereof is not the determining factor heading into a major but I’d rather have guys with it than without it.
Tim Clark: After opening with 69, Clark stuck it in reverse with a Friday 79 to miss the cut comfortably. The icing on the cake was a nine on No. 18 in round two. He hit the most fairways in those two days but his putting and iron play didn’t help him out. He still made six birdies on top of all of that.
Fredrik Jacobson: He made plenty of pars but he struggled with his putter to make birdies this week and MC. He’s now 10 out of 12 in 2013 so it’s hardly time to panic.
Russell Henley: His six birdies on Sunday led to a final round 66 to move him up 31 spots to T27. He was probably pleased as punch to watch his Georgia Bulldog buddy claim the second win of the season for the Hairy Dawgs. Henley is the real deal and like English, will be out here for a long, long time. It’s hard for seasoned vets to back up top 10s with top 10s and it’s even harder for rookies.
Charles Howell III: After 67-68 Friday and Saturday, CH III entered Sunday T18 and lurking. After 73 on Sunday, he finished T39. This reminds me of the “old” CH III from previous years but 2013 has been steady and I’ll gladly give him a pass on this. He’ll be happy to see the back of Nos. 17 and 18 as he played them six-over on the week, including three-over on Sunday.
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