Mark Giannotto, USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee
The most popular draw at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in recent years and one of the world’s top 15 golfers once again will be at TPC Southwind in two weeks.
FedEx St. Jude Classic officials announced Monday that Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson have committed to play in this year’s event. They are currently the two highest-ranked golfers in the 2018 field.
Mickelson, 47, will be making his sixth straight appearance at the Memphis area’s only PGA Tour event. During that stretch, he has carded three top-three finishes and never finished outside the top 11.
Mickelson shot 7-under par last year and took ninth place despite carding a double bogey in each of the last three rounds of the tournament. He briefly led during Sunday’s final round.
“It makes you breathe easier knowing that he’ll be part of the party in a couple weeks. Hopefully, he can get over the hump and win this thing,” FedEx St. Jude Classic tournament director Darrell Smith said. “He’s been loyal to this event, and I think as a true legend of the game, that he comes and plays this event, that means so much to so many people in Memphis.”
“We fight each year to get the best players possible, and Phil’s one we can count on. The fans have gravitated toward him, and they’ve loved his response back.”
Known for his smooth left-handed swing and impeccable short game around the greens, Mickelson is currently ranked No. 18 in the world and owns 43 career victories on the PGA Tour.
He has won The Masters three times (2004, 2006 and 2010) in addition to capturing the PGA Championship in 2005 and the British Open in 2013. Mickelson would complete a career grand slam if he were to win the U.S. Open, which takes place at Shinnecock Hills in New York the week after this year’s FedEx St. Jude Classic.
This year, he has four top-five finishes on the PGA Tour and won the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship in March.
Here in Memphis, he’s a fan favorite who regularly garners the largest gallery on the golf course. Mickelson has made clear the admiration is mutual.
“This has become one of my favorite tournaments,” Mickelson said after completing his final round at last year’s event. “It’s one of my favorite golf courses on tour, favorite courses to play. I love the way the community has adopted St. Jude Hospital and the way they take pride in that charity.”
“It’s obviously supported by the tournament, but it’s great the way the community has gotten so much pride out of supporting such a great cause. As a player, it’s fun to come and play in front of that type of community, that kind of support. But more than that, I love the golf course. I’ve played well here.”
The Gothenburg, Sweden, native has 15 career victories on the PGA and European Tours, including the 2016 British Open in Scotland.
In addition to Mickelson and Stenson, FedEx St. Jude Classic officials announced last week that PGA Tour veterans Billy Horschel and Steve Stricker also will be in this year’s field.
Last year, Horschel was one of the leaders in the clubhouse after carding a final round 64 on Sunday and ultimately finished in a five-way tie for fourth place at 8-under.
The FedEx St. Jude Classic also announced Monday that University of Oklahoma golfer Grant Hirschman has been granted a sponsor’s exemption to participate in this year’s event. He joins Ole Miss golfer and Olive Branch native Braden Thornberry as amateurs in the field.
The 61st annual FedEx St. Jude Classic will take place June 4-10 at TPC Southwind and will feature two-time defending champion Daniel Berger, who is currently ranked No. 38 in the World Golf Rankings.
Tournament organizers announced last week that John Daly also will make his first appearance at TPC Southwind since 2012.
More participants in this year’s 156-golfer field are expected to be announced later this week, Smith said. It will be the final time the FedEx St. Jude Classic is held under this format.
Starting next year, Memphis will serve as the host of the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational at TPC Southwind. It will take the place of the FedEx St. Jude Classic on the PGA Tour’s revamped 2019 schedule.
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said in April the new WGC event probably will occur “in late July or early August.”
Only the top 50 players in the world golf rankings, representatives of the prior Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams as well as select winners from the biggest tournaments on various international tours are eligible to compete in WGC events.