MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Count Phil Mickelson among those happy to see the St. Jude Classic shift to a World Golf Championship even as he uses the TPC Southwind one final time as a tuneup for the U.S. Open.
“I really, really enjoy this golf course,” Mickelson said Wednesday. “I think it's the most underrated on tour. I'm really excited that we are coming back here for a World Golf Championship to end our season-long race next year. It's quickly become one of my favorite events.”
Mickelson has tied for second twice and tied for third, all since 2013. He wouldn't mind doing more than just playing well at the PGA Tour's last stop before the U.S. Open next week at Shinnecock Hills.
“Winning earlier this year meant a lot to me, and I'd love to add a couple more this year and this is an ideal spot to do it,” he said. “It's a course that I've played well in the past, that rewards good ball-striking, good putting. I know I'll be in it on Sunday. I just hope I shoot low enough on Sunday.”
Mickelson has plenty of company.
Dustin Johnson, a winner here in 2012, is working his way back to the top-ranked golfer in the world after slipping to No. 2. That still makes Johnson the highest-ranked player in this event since Rory McIlroy came in at No. 2 in 2012, and he's among six of the world's top 28 ranked players here this week.
Quality won't be a problem next year. That's when this event sponsored by FedEx replaces the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and becomes the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.
For now, Johnson said he likes how he is hitting the ball. The 2016 U.S. Open champ will be heading to Shinnecock Hills on Sunday night after this 72-hole event starts today.
“I always tend to play well on very challenging courses,” he said. “I like it.”
Defending U.S. Open champ Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau also are here to prepare themselves for the U.S. Open.
Two-time defending champ Daniel Berger is trying to become the first to win his first three titles at the same tournament since Leonard Gallett at the Wisconsin PGA in 1929, 1931 and 1933 and the tour's first three-peat winner since Steve Stricker at the John Deere Classic between 2009 and 2011.