St Jude Classic - Preview
This week I am in Memphis for the St Jude Classic, which is my third year playing here. Last year I finished in fourth place, one shot outside of the play-off, and the year before I missed the cut. When I played here two years ago I really liked the course but I struggled with my game; last year I came here after some poor results, played nicely and just missed out on a play-off. I am coming here this year after missing the cut last week at the Memorial and similar to last year a lot of people are asking me about my form. While I fully understand why, I am actually very happy with where I am as regards my game. I have done a lot of work on my swing in the past eight months, which, while it is not noticeable to people looking on, it was actually a big change for me. It is something that I have been trying to get to the bottom of for a few years now and in the end there was actually a very simple solution.
While I missed the cut last week I was actually very happy with a lot of the things I did during the event. My short game could definitely have been better but my long game was good; I am very positive coming into this week as this is a course that I really like the look of. I feel that my game is in good shape and I am ready to get back to playing golf properly.
I have played 36 holes over the three days of practice, which is not because I needed to get to know the course, but I wanted to be on the course rather than the practice ground. I have spent a lot of time working on my short game as I felt that after last week it could definitely be better. In the past few weeks I have putted nicely in terms of how I have hit my putts but I have really held nothing and last week was exactly the same; most of my birdies in the past month or so have been tap ins. With this in mind I have spent a lot of time working on my putting from ten feet. I need to hole more of these on the course and so the more I see them going in on the putting green the more likely I am to hole them on the course. I haven’t spent much time on the range this week as I know that I don’t need to be getting caught up in any technical practice; any time that I have spent on the range has been on my routines and I have consciously stayed away from technical work.
The course measures 7,244 yards and plays as a par 70. It is set up with very little rough and firm greens. While it is a long enough par 70 the real test here is the greens, which are small and can be hard to hit as they are firm and it also gets very windy. This is the type of course that I would be more than happy to play any week of the year as it tests every part of your game. Even though there is very little rough on the course it is actually a very good warm up for the US Open; the reason being that pars are good scores. This is not a course that you can over power, but you have to be patient and take your chances when you get them. Last year the winning score was four under par and it was set up very similar to this year; the only difference I can see this year is that it is a little softer.
All week the media have wanted to talk about the US Open and Bethpage, but I am here to concentrate on this week. I am playing on a course that I really like and I am happy with my game; there is a part of me that is thinking ahead to next week but I am trying not to get into it too much. I am keen to get myself into contention here this week as I know that would be my best preparation for the US Open.
I have tried to take it easy during the week as it can get very warm and humid here; so to get away from the course I decided to go back to Graceland on Monday. I was there two years ago when I first visited Memphis and thought it was great; and it was every bit as good the second time. It is a great insight into how Elvis lived his life and I would recommend it to anyone!
This week marks the return of Phil Mickelson to competitive play and it has been well covered that his wife Amy has breast cancer. It will be tough on him but it is probably the best place for him at the moment. I am playing with him for the first two rounds and will be doing my best to keep it light hearted and hopefully he can get his mind off his worries for a short while.
Talk to you soon, Padraig