The third WGC of the season moves to Memphis, Tennessee for the first time this week, as 46 of the world’s top 50 arrive at TPC Southwind hoping to dethrone defending champion Justin Thomas.
It’s a change of scenery this week for the event formerly known as the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, with TPC Southwind and Memphis, Tennessee hosting a World Golf Championships for the first time.
The venue is no stranger to big tournaments, though, having been the venue for what was the FedEx St. Jude Classic – a regular event on the US PGA Tour – since 1989. It is the first time a WGC has taken place in the state of Tennessee.
This tournament began back in 1999 and 18 of the 19 previous editions have taken place at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio – the only other venue to have hosted being Sahalee Country Club in Washington state back in 2003.
Tommy Fleetwood will arrive in Memphis hoping to bounce back from the disappointment of missing out on a maiden Major Championship title at last week’s Open Championship, having finished runner-up to Irishman Shane Lowry in Portrush.
The 2017 Race to Dubai champion has not yet registered a victory in the World Golf Championships, his best finish a runner-up at the WGC-Mexico Championship two years ago.
Fleetwood has not missed a single cut this season and, on top of his second-placed finish last week, he has three further top fives on American soil as well as a top ten in the Betfred British Masters he hosted at Southport Golf Club. Is the popular Englishman ready for a first win since January 2018?
Last year at Firestone Country Club, Justin Thomas’ class shone through as the American cruised to a four-stroke victory over fellow American Kyle Stanley to claim a maiden World Golf Championships title.
Thorbjørn Olesen, meanwhile, earned his best result on American soil as he claimed a share of third place alongside Dustin Johnson, then the World No 1. It was a result which went a long way in helping secure the Dane’s position on Thomas Bjørn’s Ryder Cup team later that year.
Just a shot further back in fifth place was current World No 1 Brooks Koepka, who is still yet to add a WGC title to his incredible CV which includes four Major trophies.
Although Rory McIlroy had a difficult week on home soil for The 148th Open Championship, the Northern Irishman has been in superb form this season, racking up two wins on the PGA Tour, two Major top tens and two top tens in WGCs – including a runner-up in Mexico.
The 30-year-old has not played at TPC Southwind since 2012 but he did put in a strong performance in Memphis as he finished in a share of seventh spot.
Perhaps the dejection of missing the cut at Royal Portrush will spur him on this week at a tournament which he has won – at Firestone Country Club in 2014.
Justin Rose at the 2017 WGC-HSBC Champions was the last non-American winner of a World Golf Championships, while Shane Lowry is the most recent European winner of this particular event, back in 2015.
The greatest season for Europeans in the WGCs came that same year as Rory McIlroy claimed the WGC-Cadillac Match Play while Russell Knox followed Lowry into the World Golf Championships winner’s circle by triumphing at the WGC-HSBC Champions in China.
The WGCs have been a story of American dominance in the last 18 months or so, though, with Dustin Johnson having won three of the past eight – taking the South Carolina player’s WGC title tally to six.
Between 2010-12, only four of the 12 WGC titles were won by Americans, with Englishmen Luke Donald, Ian Poulter (two) and Justin Rose, South African Ernie Els, Martin Kaymer of Germany, Italy’s Francesco Molinari and Australia’s Adam Scott all winning in that period.
After Shane Lowry became the first European Major winner of the year last week, is it time for an international resurgence?
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