The final round of the FedEx St. Jude Classic will be played Sunday in Memphis, Tennessee, with veteran Dustin Johnson entering the fourth day of play tied for the lead with 29-year-old Andrew Putnam, who is looking for his first career PGA Tour victory. The winner will receive a $1.188 million share of the $6.6 million prize pool.
The St. Jude Classic purse is ranked in the bottom half of the PGA Tour tournaments for 2018. But a win at the Memphis tournament could still be career-changing for a player like Putnam, who has under just over $900,000 during his four years on the PGA Tour. Putnam, whose brother, Michael Putnam, is also on the PGA Tour, turned pro in 2011 and won twice on the Web.com tour, in 2014 and 2017.
The 33-year-old Johnson, meanwhile, is one of the highest paid players currently active on the PGA Tour, earning more than $51 million during his 11-year career. Johnson and Putnam, who enter Sunday at 15-under, will both have to battle off Stewart Cink, who is 10-under and a Richy Werenski and Wesley Bryan, who are both at 9-under.
“It’s going to feel a little different than the typical Sunday round of golf,” Putnam said after Saturday’s third round, according to Golf Digest. “But I’m excited for it, I’ve earned my way here and I feel like it’s going to be a fun day. We’ll see what happens, just keep going with the game plan and see what we can do.”
Johnson told reporters after his third round, “I can kind of control my own destiny. If I go out and play really good golf, probably going to win. If I don’t, I’m sure Andrew’s going to beat me. He’s playing really good right now. It’s pretty simple.”
The St. Jude Classic, which benefits the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, started in 1958 and it has been played since 1989 at TPC Southwind in Memphis. The tournament will be changing to a World Golf Championships event in 2019 and will be renamed the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Classic. It will be replacing the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. The change to the WGC will mean a major step up for the longtime Tennessee tournament. The prize money pool should see a major increase with the top players from around the world coming to Memphis next August. The WGC tournaments rank among the highest purses on the PGA Tour, with the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational paying out $10 million, including a $1.7 million top prize this year.
According to the Commercial Appeal, the change to the WGC will mean a major shift for the tournament. This year, inly nine of the top 50 players in the world are playing in the tournament, which is being held a week before the U.S. Open. Next year, the tournament will shift until after the U.S. Open and the field will be made up of only the top 50 players in the world, along with representatives of the prior Ryder and Presidents Cup teams and select winners from top tournaments around the world.
“This is transformational. This is like us getting awarded the Super Bowl or the Final Four,” Kevin Kane said, the president and CEO of the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, told the Commercial Appeal. He said the change should lead to a $45 million windfall for the city. “This is something that’s going to pivot us into a much broader stage than what we’re accustomed to.”
The tournament nearly collapsed a decade ago when its title sponsor at the time, the Stanford Financial Group, was accused of being a Ponzi scheme. FedEx returned as title sponsor (which the Memphis-based company had been from 1986 to 2007). “The prospects of this tournament surviving were dim,” Jack Sammons, the tournament’s president and general chairman, told the Commercial Appeal. “I’ve always said that Memphis is a 12-round fighter that keeps hanging on and the community came together, corporate individuals and fans came together, and funded this tournament at a level that allowed it to sustain itself and then become prosperous as we are today. The World Golf Championships is another one of those amenities Nashville and St. Louis would love to have, and they don’t.”
FedEx St. Jude Classic Purse 2018