The 2014 FedEx St. Jude Classic served as a primer for the forthcoming U.S. Open for many of the world's top golfers.
A demanding course at TPC Southwind tested a talented field featuring Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Paul Casey and more.
The tournament began without its top-ranked competitor, as Brian Wacker of PGATour.com tweeted that Matt Kuchar withdrew from the field:
Even without Kuchar in the fold, plenty of stellar golf was played, as each U.S. Open hopeful in the field hoped to gain momentum prior to the season's next major.
Let's take a look at the day-by-day breakdown of the tournament, including daily leaderboard updates, player analysis and highlights.
Ben Crane won this year's FedEx St. Jude Classic after a marathon day for the field that ended with Crane winning his fifth ever PGA Tour event.
PGA Tour congratulated him:
Here's a look at the complete, final scoreboard:
Saturday's moving day left Crane without much moving to do, as he played just six holes before weather delayed the rest of the round. That left Crane with 30 holes to play as he looked to hold onto his slim lead.
Starting the day at 13 under par, Crane didn't hit a single birdie in his final 18 holes and bogeyed three times. But that was still enough to hold off the field and lift a PGA Tour trophy for the fifth time.
Webb Simpson moved into serious contention on Sunday somewhat out of nowhere, with a four-under par round that had him finishing in third place. Troy Merritt shot one over in the final round to finish in second and just one stroke back.
It was Crane's day and Crane's tournament, though. After starting out with a blistering hot first round, Crane led from the end of Day 1 up until the final hole for the wire-to-wire victory.
CBS Sports' Bill Macatee was glad to see Crane win:
Heading into the U.S. Open, it's highly unlikely that we will see so many players outside of the top 100 competing for the top of the leaderboard like it unfolded in Memphis. Crane won't be that guy since he failed to qualify for the U.S. Open, but perhaps Merritt, Simpson or another high finisher can build momentum from this weekend.
Another day, another delay. From the Golf Channel on Twitter:
The event's official Twitter account had more on the resumption of play tomorrow:
For Seersucker Sunday: Round 3 will resume at 7 am central. Final round pairings are scheduled for 7:20 - 9:10 am in the same pairings— FedExSt.JudeClassic (@fesjcmemphis) June 7, 2014
And here's your official scoreboard:
That leaderboard isn't exactly a "Who's Who" of the top golfers in the game today, as Justin Ray of the Golf Channel noted:
The World Ranking of your top-three at Memphis: Crane 267, Merritt 805, Malnati 339. These are not area codes.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) June 8, 2014
While many of the golfers didn't get terribly far into Round 3—Ben Crane played just six holes, a steady one-under for the round—a few players were movers and shakers once the round commenced on Saturday. Matt Every was three-under through 12, moving to six-under for the tournament and tying for seventh place, while Austin Cook was a sizzling four-under through seven holes, moving four-under for the tournament and tied for 16th on the leaderboard.
Phil Mickelson had a solid day all around, finishing with a second-round 68 and shooting even par on the first nine holes of the third round, staying within striking distance from the leaders at five-under through the tournament.
PGA Tour on Twitter shared some of his highlights from the second round:
In general, however, the bigger names remain well off the lead. Rickie Fowler has played well and sits at four-under, and was quite pleased to still be playing, as he tweeted:
Beyond that, the main storyline in this tournament—beyond the brutal weather throughout, that is—remains the area codes atop the scoreboard. Don't expect that to change—Crane has been brilliant throughout, and Troy Merritt, Peter Malnati, Billy Horschel, Retief Goosen and Camilo Villegas continue to play fantastic golf.
Once again, wet conditions affected the tournament and forced a postponement of play until Saturday, according to Teresa Walker of the Associated Press:
So 2nd round suspended at #FESJC with so much water still on course. Play resumes at 7 a.m. Saturday morning.— Teresa Walker (@TeresaMWalker) June 6, 2014
PGA Tour on Twitter offered a more visual explanation for the postponement:
Here's how the leaderboard currently stands:
For the full leaderboard, check out PGATour.com.
The weather certainly didn't affect Ben Crane, who played earlier in the day and shot a scintillating 65 to storm (pun intended) to the top of the leaderboard. After, he talked about his round, via Andrew Both of Reuters:
I’m just so thrilled to be playing well. I just kept making putts and giving myself opportunities, and then you don’t feel like you have to hit it so close. It’s certainly the way you want to play golf. The greens are so pure and the hole just opened up.
We had ideal scoring conditions. The wind laid down for us after the storm yesterday and the greens softened up a bit. Today it was calm this morning.
Here's more from Crane:
Believe it or not, Crane actually finished two strokes worth than his performance on Thursday, when he shot a searing 63. Thus far, Memphis has been kind to him.
The day was not so kind to Stuart Appleby. After shooting a 65 of his own on Thursday and finishing tied for fourth, he struggled and finished with a 74 on Friday, dropping him well down the leaderboard.
But for the second day in a row, the weather was the main storyline, this time keeping several prominent golfers, including Phil Mickelson, from finishing the round. Mickelson is currently at three-under, tied for 11th.
The hope will be that the golfers can get a full round of golf in tomorrow and the sunshine will finally come. They shouldn't get their hopes up, however—Weather.com is calling for scattered thunderstorms all day long.
The first day of the tournament was unfortunately plagued by inclement weather. A 3.5-hour delay severely thwarted the chances of each player finishing their opening rounds on Thursday.
PGA.com tweeted that play had resumed just prior to 6 p.m. ET:
Unfortunately, play was halted due to darkness shortly after. Ben Crane barely finished his round but ended the day on top, according to a tweet from the Golf Channel:
Here's how the leaderboard currently stands through the majority of first-round action:
|1||Ben Crane||-7||F - 63|
|T2||Peter Malnati||-5||F - 65|
|T4||Retief Goosen||-4||F - 66|
|T4||Joe Durant||-4||F- 66|
|T9||Freddie Jackson||-3||F - 67|
|T9||Phil Mickelson||-3||F - 67|
The complete leaderboard can be viewed on PGATour.com.
Crane produced an absolutely flawless round on Thursday. He began on the back nine, recording two birdies and seven pars, but absolutely lit up the front nine with a five-birdie 30.
Although he wasn't stellar off the tee, hitting just 64.29 percent of fairways, Crane was superb on the green. He averaged just 1.5 putts on the day, finishing T8 in that category.
PGA Tour tweeted one standout putt from Crane on the day:
Peter Malnati sits tied for second after finishing strong with two birdies over his last three holes for a five-under 65.
A great putter in his own right, Malnati drained this 22-footer on the par-four seventh—his 16th hole after starting on the back nine:
Following his round, Malnati spoke to PGA Tour Radio and reflected on the day's events:
Mickelson finds himself tied for ninth following Thursday's action. Mickelson is certainly one player looking to find some momentum heading into the U.S. Open. He's off to a good start after a solid 67 on Day 1.
We already know Lefty has a great short game, but this flop shot to save par on the fourth hole was simply phenomenal:
First-round action will resume early on Friday morning. Weather permitting, most of the field will sign their Round 1 scorecards and jump right back on the course in time to complete the second round before dusk falls on Friday.
With a tight group atop the leaderboard right now, expect plenty of movement before the weekend rolls around.