Scottie Scheffler. Rory McIlroy. Jon Rahm.
The best in the world at the moment – one, two and three respectively in the Official World Golf Ranking entering play at the FedEx St. Jude Championship Thursday. And there they were, in the same marquee group for the first round at TPC Southwind in Memphis.
“It’s always cool to be a part of,” McIlroy said. “I mean, I’d much rather be a part of that group than not a part of it.”
Right there with them, stride-for-stride, for part of the day, was Henry Klein. The 91-year-old longtime Memphis resident, who retired from practicing law in 2020, was part of a gallery that fluctuated between 500 and 700 strong all day. Flying solo, he winced when Scheffler’s tee shot on No. 14 went into the water, then shook his head when he two-putted for double bogey. He smiled when Rahm’s 276-yard fairway drive on 15 wowed the burgeoning gallery. He missed McIlroy’s 205-yard approach shot on the par-5 No. 16 that left him a foot-and-a-half eagle putt – but he heard the crowd’s reaction and raised his eyebrows.
It isn’t easy to impress Klein around a golf course. He has seen Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman and prime Phil Mickelson play in Memphis. He witnessed part of Al Geiberger’s 59 – the first sub-60 round in PGA Tour history – in 1977. He was at Colonial Country Club when a 48-year-old Ben Hogan lost to Tommy Bolt in a playoff at the 1960 Memphis Open Invitational. He has been there for every PGA Tour event that’s come through the Bluff City since.
“Yeah, I saw ‘em all,” said Klein.
But Thursday was another indelible moment, bordering on a spectacle.
“This year, this group right here is probably the best as far as any group together that’s ever played out here,” said Klein, a former civil rights defense attorney. “Oh, yeah. What are they, 1, 2 and 3? Absolutely.”
The trio didn’t quite live up to its billing. Rahm’s pantlegs were splattered with mud from a course that took 2.15 inches of rain in the 24 hours leading up to the first round. He finished at 3-over par. Scheffler and McIlroy each shot a 3-under 67, but were tied with 20 others for 15th at the end of the day. Jordan Spieth (-7) was the leader in the clubhouse at the conclusion of play.
But nobody who followed them the way Klein did left disappointed. Especially 5-year-old Colton Harro. With his parents (Nathan and Marguerite) and a toy three-toed sloth he’d named “Biggie Smalls” in tow, Colton proudly displayed the golf ball McIlroy’s caddie, Harry Diamond, handed him en route to the 14th tee.
This year’s FedEx St. Jude Championship also doubles as the first FedEx Cup Playoff event. Scheffler, McIlroy and Rahm also entered the day at the top of the FedEx Cup standings. Klein said when it became a World Golf Championship event in 2019, the tournament’s complexion was altered significantly.
“Up to that time, we would get a lot of the good players,” he said. “All the big ones played here. But not all at the same time. And, certainly, I can’t recall a time when the best of the best were ever part of the same group on day one.
“This is a big deal, I’ll tell ya.”
Not only for Klein or Colton Harro. But, also, for those in the spotlight.
“I mean, just, you’ve got two of the best players in the world,” said Scheffler. “And I’m sure when things kind of settle at the end of our careers, they’ll be two of the greatest players to play, and it’s just fun to watch the talent.”