There is pretty much one main reason why tourists from around the globe flock to Memphis, Tennessee, top of the sight-seeing priorities is Graceland, the former home and also now the resting place of Elvis Presley.
Padraig Harrington, Shane Lowry and caddy Dermot Byrne / Image from @tourmiss
You can also visit the birthplace of Rock & Roll museum, Sun Studio, lively Beale Street, get a close-up look of the mighty Mississippi River and there’s a very moving vist to the Lorraine Motel, now the Civil Rights Museum, where 50-years ago last April Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr was gunned down.
Shane Lowry is on a first visit to Memphis for this week’s FedEx St.Jude Classic but Graceland, Sun Studio and other Memphis sights will have to wait as the Clara golfer is all about honing his golf game for next week’s U.S. Open.
Lowry remains buoyed after finishing joint first in Monday’s 36-hole U.S. Open qualifier in Columbus, Ohio to be assured of contesting what will be a 21st Major and his fifth U.S. Open with his best finish being runner-up at Oakmont.
“I was absolutely chuffed and very happy to be heading back to the U.S. Open as I don’t like missing the big tournaments so it’s going to be great heading to Long Island,” he said.
“I haven’t got anywhere to stay as yet but my management team are doing their best and I am sure they will find something for me. I was really pleased with how well I played on Monday, and on two golf courses I had never seen before,” he said.
“I have to congratulate Dermot (Byrne -caddy) as he went out and walked the courses beforehand and helped point me in the right direction, well some direction, so that helped so much.”
“It was a long day, particularly coming off four rounds at The Memorial and not just for me but for the caddies like Dermot especially carrying around that heavy golf bag, and in very warm weather for what was 10-hours on Monday but thankfully it was all worthwhile.”
“You want to be playing in the Majors and it does hurt when you are sitting home not being to tee-up so hopefully I can do just as well and if not go one place better at Shinnecock Hills than did two years ago at Oakmont.”
“But then having played this Memphis course this morning, it’s a nice golf course and looking forward to the week particularly coming off what I managed to achieve Monday.”
However when asked if he would visit Graceland, home to Elvis Presley, Lowry was quite clear: “No, I won’t be going to Graceland. I have never been a good tourist and besides I have enough on my plate focussing on this week ahead of next week.”
Lowry is joined in Memphis by Padraig Harrington who has flown some 6.500klm from London to Memphis to find he’s spending two days on course alongside Lowry.
Harrington touched down Tuesday in the ‘Land of the Delta Blues’ after having just missed out a day earlier in qualifying for the U.S. Open in a 36-holer at Walton Heath in Surrey. On arrival in Memphis the triple Major winner learned he and Lowry will be out together later today at 12.50pm Irish time in the first round of the $US 6.6m event on the TPC Southwind course.
“It’s always great when there’s a few Irish players in a tournament as it means we can practice together and then, along with the caddies, we can head off for an evening meal,” said Harrington.
“Shane and I get on very well but then it’s been some time since we were both paired in the same group. Hopefully, we’ll both have a good week and be in the same last group come Sunday as that’s what is all about.”
The duo played the pro-am yesterday on opposite sides of the draw but then found themselves, after some lunch, side-by-side on the practice range.
Unlike Lowry, Harrington is no stranger to Memphis having first teed-up on the Memphis course in 2007 and then competed every year up until 2016. However, it has not been a happy hunting ground for the recently-appointed Versailles vice-captain having missed the cut on five occasions including from 2014 to 2016 while his best finish was T10th in 2013.
But then his support of the event is no doubt the reason the Irishman has been afforded a sponsor’s invitation to contest the event.
The Memphis event from next year will enjoy a $10m WGC status and has also attracted the likes of World No. 2 Dustin Johnson, reigning US Open champion, Brooks Koepka plus Open Champions Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson. Korean Byeong Hun An, who lost out last week in The Memorial play-off, will also look to go one better in Memphis.
Also, in the field is West Waterford’s Seamus Power who lost out on Monday in a local Memphis qualifier for next week’s U.S. Open.
Power made his Memphis debut a year ago and on day two produced a round of 65 that would be his equal second-best score of 2017 in what also was his rookie PGA Tour year.
IRISH TEE TIMES (Irish time)
12.50pm – Padraig Harrington & Shane Lowry
1.30pm – Seamus Power