The FedEx St Jude Classic is the calm before the storm of next week’s US Open. No player has won the tournament and then won the second major of the season the following week over the last 20 years. Phil Mickelson is the last player to win the event before one of the four most important weeks of the year and then win a big one seven days later. If history repeats itself over the next fortnight he will complete the career Grand Slam.
Career Grand Slam
Only five players have won each of the four majors at least once and that quintet includes the two most successful golfers in the history of the sport. Tiger Woods is the latest player to join the exclusive club and Jack Nicklaus achieved the feat before him. Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan and Gary Player are the other members of the group. Rory McIlroy is another one of the 12 players to have won three different majors but not a fourth. Tom Watson won the British Open five times in a total of eight majors that does not include the US PGA Championship.
Winners of Three Different Majors
Four of that dozen needed to win the US Masters to complete the set in addition to McIlroy, three never won the US Open including Mickelson who still could and two have not won the PGA Championship or British Open. Walter Hagen has won most majors, 11 in total, but is still one short of the lot while Tommy Armour won all but the US Masters just once. McIlroy and Mickelson are the only current players missing one major and Martin Kaymer is the best modern player who has won two of the four. Ernie Els believes he can win more majors and the four he has won only include the Opens of Britain and the US.
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The term Grand Slam was first applied to golf when Bobby Jones won the two most prestigious events in the amateur and professional game. He is the only player to have achieved the Grand Slam in each of its formats as before the invention of the US Masters amateur championships were majors. Over 2000 and 2001 Tiger became the only player in history to hold all four professional majors at the same time. There are five majors in the women’s game and Karrie Webb is the only player to have achieved the Super Grand Slam in winning them all though not in the same year.
Mickelson Wins Scottish and British Opens
In July 2013 Mickelson won the Scottish Open and a week later lifted the Claret Jug. Before that magical fortnight he had never won a strokeplay event in the British Isles and not on a genuine links course. He did not take to this form of the game early in his career but realised all the greats in history had mastered the art of seaside golf. McIlroy was similarly converted having said after a bad round in the Open that he would not modify his game for just one week of the season but was in control on the links of Hoylake in the Open last year.
TPC at Southwind
The TPC at Southwind has staged the FedEx St Jude Classic in its current and former guises since 1989. Over the years the overall length has been increased but the course still puts a premium on accuracy over distance. In two of the last three years it has been the hardest par 70 in a non-major and since 2009 the average winning score is 12 under. Players often must handle weather interruptions usually involving lightning. Southwind is a specialist’s course and Dustin Johnson and Harris English are two former champions in the field.
Mickelson does not have the right profile for Southwind. However, in the last two seasons he has been four shots or fewer off the pace at the end of the tournament. He tends not to excel on tests of accuracy so will be using this week to hone his game for the US Open which if winning will make him just the sixth player to complete the career Grand Slam.
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