UofM Coach Penny Hardaway (right) and other local figures with PGA pro Harold Varner III. (Photo: Terry Davis/The New Tri-State Defender)
Terry Davis

The FedEx St. Jude Championship annually centers much of the professional golfing world on Memphis for the beginning of the dash through the FedEx Cup Playoffs to the crowning of a champion.

That is again the case this year, with the addition of a murky backdrop – the Professional Golf Association (PGA) being at odds with the upstart and Saudi-funded LIV Golf Invitational Series.

The PGA Tour’s return to the Bluff City ushers in the tour’s 125 top-ranked players, who compete to advance to the next round. Only the top 70 ranked players will advance to the next round of the playoffs.

Some of the PGA’s now former members unsuccessfully sought court-ordered entry into the opening round of the playoffs after they were suspended for opting to compete on the LIV Golf circuit. Their lawsuit was denied by Judge Beth Labson, who ruled against a temporary restraining order that was part of a larger antitrust lawsuit filed by LIV Golf players.

As a result, some of the FedEx St. Jude tournament’s former winners and fan favorites will not be in the field competing at TPC Southwind this week. Big-name stars Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, and Bryson DeChambeau are notably on that list. As is Abraham Ancer, last year’s FedEx St Jude Invitational winner,

The temporary restraining order was sought by golfers Talor Gooch, Matt Jones, and Hudson Swafford.

Still, the field is loaded with firepower. Cameron Smith, the 2022 winner of the Open Championship and the Players Championship, has come to play. His name has been bandied about as among players heading to the LIV tour after the conclusion of this year’s playoff. Smith has been evasive when asked questions about his intentions this week.

Among the high-profile PGA Tour players critical of those who have opted for the LIV Tour is multi-majors winner Rory McIlroy. He’s had a great season but has had a couple of heartbreaking second-place finishes in two of this year’s majors.

Cameron Young, the rookie-of-the-year favorite, has seven top-three finishes, including second at the Open and a tie for third at the PGA Championship.

Tony Finau enters the playoffs after back-to-back wins. Colin Morikawa, already a two-time majors champion, is in the midst of his longest winless streak, but well on pace to make it to the next round of the playoffs.

The FedEx St. Jude tournament has delivered several memorable finishes over the years. Golfers will hit the course on Thursday (August 11) with a morning wave and an afternoon wave of players starting on either the first hole or the tenth hole.

A champion will be crowned on Sunday afternoon.  The early rounds can be seen on the Golf Channel and the final rounds can be seen on CBS.