Phil Cannon has been tournament director of the FedEx St. Jude Classic since 2000. With the 49th-annual PGA event set to tee off Thursday at Southwind's TPC course, the time seems right for a Cannon Q & A.
FLYER: This is the end of an era, the 21st and final year FedEx will be the tournament's title sponsor. How will this impact the event?
PHIL CANNON: Any impact that this has will be positive. FedEx has agreed to stay on as a presenting sponsor, and the Tour has found us a new title sponsor -- Stanford Financial -- that's anxious to make a big impact. Plus, FedEx will play a larger role with the PGA Tour, as sponsor of the new points system, the FedEx Cup. When it's all said and done, people are going to look back on 2007 as a real turning point in our sport.
F: Two names from this year's field that caught my eye are Camilo Villegas (pronounced beh-JAY-gus) and Bill Haas, two of the PGA Tour's top rookies. What can you tell us about them?
PC: Villegas is on the cover of the current issues of Golf World, Golf Digest, and Golf Week. One of the magazines says Camilo Villegas is Spanish for "chick magnet." We're very excited to have him in the field. He's colorful, dynamic. He's blown up the myth that PGA players are all clones. He's quite dashing. Bill Haas comes from a great pedigree, with his father Jay [the 1992 FESJC champ]. Another young man to watch is Ryan Moore, the first player to complete the "amateur slam" (U.S. Amateur, NCAA championship, U.S. Publinx, and Western Amateur) since Bobby Jones. [Only one rookie has won in Memphis, Dicky Pride in 1994.]
F: Nick Price is a Hall of Famer who's won here twice and will be playing Memphis for the 19th time. What's the secret to this relationship?
PC: Nick's like a lot of the golfers, in that he just has favorite places that he likes to go each year. Memphis has been fortunate that he likes our golf course and likes the people. He loves St. Jude.
F: The FESJC will be missing golf's "Big Four": Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, and Vijay Singh. Is this a big deal or an exaggerated factor?
PC: Memphis golf fans love the tournament, and love St. Jude. They recognize that the best golfers playing golf next week will be playing in Memphis.
F: Is it possible for John Daly's game to catch up with his notoriety?
PC: I'd love to see John win here. Being at home sometimes gives him the ability to relax, and concentrate more on his game. John just loves playing golf, period.
F: Having seen the tournament grow over the years, what do you feel separates the FESJC from other PGA Tour stops?
PC: It's easy to say this, but St. Jude is very important. We remain the only tournament with a charity in its title. St. Jude allows us to keep playing for them, and our volunteers keep coming out for them. We're tied to some significant brands, in FedEx, St. Jude, and the PGA Tour. [The tournament] has also been a staple of the Memphis social, civic, and sports scene for over 40 years now.
F: Is there a target figure for this year's donation to St. Jude?
PC: We gave a million dollars last year and that's a record. We'd love to beat the record.
F: Okay, you're on the spot. Who will win this year's championship?
PC: Camilo Villegas would be one of my picks. Ryan Moore could come up there. But you can't overlook David Toms or [defending champion] Justin Leonard either.