At a quiet WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, one sign can salvage the scene

John Williams was hitting flop shots in his backyard earlier this week, right underneath an #AISENSTRONG banner that’s hanging from his second-floor balcony.

Had he known who his next door neighbor is at the moment, he might not have chosen to fool around with his pitching wedge. But then Williams turned around.

Standing there at the grill was Rory McIlroy watching Williams do what McIlroy does better than just about everyone in the world. Soon enough, Williams and McIlroy began talking from across the fence line and McIlroy met his kids. Before long, Sergio Garcia — who’s sharing a house with McIlroy in the neighborhood surrounding TPC Southwind — came over to pet Williams’ dog.

FedEx St. Jude Invitational: Leaderboard | Photos | Tee times

“I tried to keep the conversation away from golf,” Williams said with a laugh. “I tried to play it cool.”

The vibe at the 2020 World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational is unlike any sporting event to come to Memphis. Take Friday’s sleepy second round as an example.

It began at 7 a.m., and ended with Brendon Todd atop the leaderboard at 11 under, eating lunch at a picnic table with his wife and caddie where tens of thousands of Memphians would usually be congregating.

The constant murmur and spontaneous bursts of noise from the gallery were replaced by chirping birds and the buzz of cicadas like it was just another Friday morning. But the hackers and club members who would be figuring their way around the course have been replaced by Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler and the rest of the world’s best golfers walking by.

Only those who live within the gated community around the course, and perhaps a guest or two, are able to catch a glimpse. It’s both fascinating and melancholy. A once-in-a-lifetime experience that this columnist never wants to experience again.

Patrick Reed putts on No. 17 green during the second round of the 2020 WGC FedEx-St. Jude Invitational on Friday, July 31, 2020 at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tenn.

Near the 10th hole, a man walked his dog as Thomas attempted a birdie putt. Along the fairway at No. 12, a man who finished his morning jog sat in an Adirondack chair cooling off as Koepka hit an approach shot. On No. 1, there’s a two-story patio that’s featured a dozen or so onlookers each day cheering golfers as they walk off the tee.

Other than the occasional golf clap, it’s about the only traditional sounds you’ll hear out here.

Ben Williams has been camped out with a folding chair next to the tee box at No. 11 — TPC Southwind’s signature Island hole — since Tuesday.

By Thursday, a handful of neighbors were out there with him. His 8-year-old son, Judah, and his father, Jimmy, joined him for the second round Friday. Three generations of Memphis golf fans watched a

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By: Mark Giannotto/Memphis Commercial-Appeal
Title: At a quiet WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, one sign can salvage the scene
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Published Date: Sat, 01 Aug 2020 11:00:06 +0000

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