With just one week to go until the U.S. Open, the best from the PGA Tour are anxious to get their games in top form for a championship run at Shinnecock Hills.
Those in the next tier have more season-long type concerns. Regardless, a mixture of both will highlight the field at this week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tennessee.
Here are the players we like most at TPC Southwind:
15. KEEGAN BRADLEY
Now 31, Bradley hasn’t seen the winner’s circle in nearly six years, and his play in 2018 hasn’t been that of a player ready to break through, but he is entering Memphis off a T7 at THE PLAYERS, and a T23 at Muirfield – his best consecutive finishes of the season. His only start at TPC Southwind came in 2011 where he finished T25.
Bradley has only missed two cuts this season (Safeway Open, Genesis Open) in 16 starts.
World Rank: 69th
Field Rank: 17th
Last Seven: 23, 7, 76, 45, 43, 36, 26
14. LUKE LISTIn the midst of a breakout season, List has done everything this season except win. He is an impressive 3rd on Tour in strokes gained: tee-to-green and 4th in strokes gained: off-the-tee.
He also has five top-10s and has earned significantly more money, on fewer events, than he has in any of his three other full-time seasons on Tour. A T18 at TPC Southwind last season was highlighted by a pair of 66s in the middle rounds.
World Rank: 52nd
Field Rank: 10th
Last Seven: 37, MC, 9, MC, 3, 24, 59
13. BYEONG HUN AN
Four consecutive sub-70 rounds at The Memorial Tournament had the talented South Korean in a three-man playoff, and while he did not win, despite a playoff flop shot that was one of the greatest of the season, victory No. 1 on the PGA Tour does not feel far away.
His tee-to-green game has been exceptional this year, and he was in the positive in three of four rounds at The Memorial in strokes gained: putting. If you want to have money on him when he wins next, you will need to get on him soon. Maybe even this week.
World Rank: 56th
Field Rank: 12th
Last Seven: 2, 15, 30, 63, 7, 52, 14
12. JOAQUIN NIEMANN
The 19-year-old star from golf-poor Chile has a ridiculous three top-10s in just five professional starts, including a T6 last week at The Memorial, where he was a co-leader after each of the first two rounds.
He will not be at Shinnecock Hills, after a shockingly poor first round in the U.S. Open sectional qualifier, so winning TPC Southwind will be at the front of his mind.
The way he has looked as of late, nobody should be betting against the man who is re-defining “precocious”. It is not unreasonable to think that his next missed U.S. Open could be over three decades from now. He is that good.
World Rank: 223rd
Field Rank: 55th
Last Seven: 6, 8, MC, MC, 6, MC, MC
11. BILLY HORSCHEL
The five-time Tour winner is not quite yet Shinnecock Hills exempt, but could get there with a winning performance this week. With four consecutive top-10 finishes at TPC Southwind, this might be the place for it to happen.
Horschel finished T4 last year off the strength of a final-round 64. Last week at Muirfield Village, he missed the cut, wasting a round 1 effort where he hit all 14 fairways and gained nearly three strokes on the field putting.
World Rank: 86th
Field Rank: 20th
Last Seven: MC, 21, 37, 11, 5, MC, 54
10. ADAM SCOTT
A great performance in U.S. Sectional Qualifying in Columbus prevented Scott from missing his first major in the last 67 played, the second longest streak in professional golf, but he is too much of a competitor to simply be happy with being there.
He will want to come into Shinnecock Hills is good shape, and his tee-to-green game, which ranks 6th on Tour despite his 2018 struggles, is too good to allow him to fade into the background in Memphis.
World Rank: 64th
Field Rank: 15th
Last Seven: 35, 52, 9, 11, 76, MC, 32
9. CHARL SCHWARTZEL
Nobody knows why last year’s co-runner-up withdrew from the Fort Worth Invitational two weeks ago, despite coming off three consecutive top-10 finishes, but it is not believed to be health-related after he shot a second-round 3-under 69 at The Memorial.
Still, he missed the cut because he bombed his first round, but few players in the field have a better recent course history combined with recent form. He is a safe bet this week.
World Rank: 44th
Field Rank: 8th
Last Seven: MC, 2, 9, MC, MC, 36, MC
8. KIRADECH APHIBARNRAT
Perhaps the Thai native will be inspired by fellow countrywoman Ariya Jutanugarn, who won last week’s U.S. Women’s Open, and post a great finish at the FedEx St. Jude, where he is one of the best players in the field.
He has been fantastic in Europe this year, and has also compiled some quality PGA Tour finishes with T5s at the WGC-Mexico and the WGC-Match Play. He even made some noise at The Masters by rebounding to make the cut after an opening round 79. More recently, he was T13 at Muirfield Village last week, playing all four rounds under par.
World Rank: 31st
Field Rank: 5th
Last Seven: 13, 5, 30, 45, 44, 5, MC
7. TONY FINAU
Without a weakness in his game, Finau is worth attention in the strongest of fields, let alone an event like this where he is a clear top-five player.
Finau will be at Shinnecock Hills regardless of what he does this week, but the competitive streak is much to too high to even entertain a let-down. This will be his Memphis debut, but that should not be a worry.
World Rank: 37th
Field Rank: 6th
Last Seven: 13, 57, 21, 10, 24, 17, MC
6. PETER UIHLEIN
The 28-year-old Oklahoma State product has made a name for himself since May, finishing in fifth place in two of three tournaments; events with much stronger fields than he will be facing in Memphis this week.
He could not hit a fairway if his life depended on it, but he has been fantastic at everything else. By virtue of his world rankings, he is in the U.S. Open field, and there is no doubt that he would love to keep the momentum going this week.
Uihlein’s first victory does not feel far away, and if he looks at this as the opportunity he should, he could be going into Shinnecock Hills as one of the hottest golfers in the field.
World Rank: 48th
Field Rank: 9th
Last Seven: 5, 21, 5, MC, MC, 17, 66
5. HENRIK STENSON
Tee-to-green, the 42-year-old Swede, who ranks No. 15 in the world, is probably the best player in the field. If his iron game is going, the rest of the field should be honored to be mentioned in the same breath as him.
He has not played this event since a T13 in 2012, but he is too good to ignore this week. He ranks first on Tour in both driving accuracy and greens in regulation, and is fifth in scoring average.
World Rank: 15th
Field Rank: 3rd
Last Seven: 13, 23, 5, 6, 4, MC, 60
4. DANIEL BERGER
The 25-year-old Berger, in his fourth full year as a professional, has not been especially impressive, failing to notch a single top-10 in 14 starts, and a T18 at the Houston Open in early April is his only top 30 in his last six starts, but who can bet against him at TPC Southwind?
He is the two-time defending champion, and exhibits an exceptional level of comfort. Despite the absence of top 10s, he still has not been awful: he has only missed two cuts, with one of those being in a team event, and he ranks in the top 50% of every strokes gained statistic this season. He will be as confident as anyone in the field this week, and that is certainly worth something.
World Rank: 41st
Field Rank: 7th
Last Seven: 57, 55, 32, 18, 59, 14, 29
3. DUSTIN JOHNSON
At No. 2 in the world, DJ is the highest-ranked player in this field by a good margin, and statistically, he’s is maybe the best in the field, leading the PGA Tour in strokes gained: off-the-tee, strokes gained: tee-to-green, and strokes gained: total.
Nine of his 10 starts this season have resulted in finishes inside the top 17, and he has finished in the top 10 in three of his last four TPC Southwind starts, including a victory in 2012.
World Rank: 2nd
Field Rank: 1st
Last Seven: 8, 17, 16, 10, 59, 7, 16
2. PHIL MICKELSON
Over the past five years, the ageless wonder Phil Mickelson has gone 9-T2-T3-T11-T2 at TPC Southwind, and he does not really even care about this tournament. I mean, if you asked him, he would say that he does, because he oozes class from every pore in his body, but everyone knows he has a one-track mind right now that is saying “U.S. Open… U.S. Open… U.S. Open…” over and over again.
Who could blame him, though? Winning the Open would be a legacy-changing event for the man who has won the other three majors. The scary thing for this field? He is coming into Memphis in much better shape than he has in any of the past five years. You can bet your house that he will be in the championship picture this week.
World Rank: 20th
Field Rank: 4th
Last Seven: 13, MC, 5, 36, 24, 17, 1
1. BROOKS KOEPKA
The reigning U.S. Open Champion has been on fire coming into his defense, shooting 63s in three of his last five rounds, including Sunday at THE PLAYERS Championship. It is difficult to tell exactly how much of his mind will be in Memphis this week, but if he is at, or anywhere near, his best, the rest of the TPC Southwind field should be cowering in fear.
He had to be kicking himself for not entering The Memorial coming off a solo-second at the Fort Worth Invitational, but there is no reason to expect a down week. He has top-3 finishes in two of his last three starts in this event, and at No. 9 in the world, is one of just two top-10 players in the field.
World Rank: 9th
Field Rank: 2nd
Last Seven: 2, 11, 42, 34, 18, 1, 2