The Wyndham Championship, played at Sedgefield Country Club in North Carolina, is a milestone for the Tour as it signifies the final tournament of the regular season. That means that the Wyndham is critical for a couple of key reasons:
Over on the European Tour, Paul Williams previews the D+D Real Czech Masters - you can read his thoughts on that event here.
Course Guide: Sedgefield is an original Donald Ross design which has typical Carolina course characteristics. A short par 70 by modern standards, the course still favours longer hitters with accuracy from the tee also being rewarded. Ultimately streaky scorers have got the job done here, with scoring being dictated solely by the firmness of the greens when wind isn't a factor. Champion Bermudagrass greens were laid for the 2012 renewal and they undoubtedly run faster than the tired Bentgrass putting surfaces they replaced, particularly if conditions remain dry.
Sedgefield Country Club, Greensboro, North Carolina: Designer: Donald Ross 1926 with Kris Spence renovation 2007; Course Type: Carolina, Resort; Par: 70; Length: 7,127 yards; Water Hazards: 12 creeks, 1 pond; Fairways: Bermudagrass; Rough: Bermudagrass 2"; Greens: 6,500 sq.ft average featuring Champion Bermudagrass; Stimpmeter: 11ft; Course Scoring Average 2012: 69.37 (-0.63), Difficulty Rank 35 of 49 courses. 2013: 69.97 (-0.03), Difficulty Rank 23 of 43 courses. 2014: 69.21 (-0.79), Rank 38 of 48 courses. 2015: 68.86 (-1.14), Rank 40 of 52 courses.
Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for Sedgefield and how they compare to recent courses that we've seen on Tour:
Course Overview: Sedgefield CC is perennially the easiest par 70 on the PGA Tour. Take 2015 when we had 30 players (up from 23 in 2014) finishing double-digits under par. Set to the south-east of Greensboro, the course has a typical Carolina feel with tree-lined fairways and Bermudagrass throughout. Fairways are quite tight but relatively easy to find if conditions are soft. Driving accuracy helps, but the key to the course, which measures just over 7,200 yards, is Ross's greens which although undulating and surrounded by shaved run-off areas, are actually large for the length of the course. If the Champion Bermuda greens are receptive (they have been fast since their introduction in 2012), that's the green light for low scoring. Winners here have to hit a minimum 13 greens per round (this number was the tournament average 12 months ago), but invariably break par every 1 in 3 holes. A fast start, excellent and consistent approach play and a reasonably hot putter are the keys to victory, plus it's noteworthy that the front 9 plays far easier and has to be capitalised upon.
Winners: 2015: Davis Love III (-17); 2014: Camilo Villegas (-17); 2013: Patrick Reed (-14); 2012: Sergio Garcia (-18); 2011: Webb Simpson (-18); 2010: Arjun Atwal (-22).
Tournament Stats: We've published some key player statistics for this week which are well worth a look. Naturally they'll help to shape a view on players who could go well: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Top 20 Finishes.
Published Predictor Model: Our published Wyndham Championship predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 5 of the predictor are Patrick Reed (Predictor Number 1), Robert Garrigus, Jimmy Walker, Webb Simpson and Bud Cauley.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on a 10 tournament window that stretches back to St Jude Classic/Lyoness Open and includes both PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players must have played in a minimum of 3 main Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:
Winners & Prices: 2015: Love III 500/1; 2014: Villegas 125/1; 2013: Reed 80/1; 2012: Garcia 40/1; 2011: Simpson 20/1; 2010: Atwal 200/1; 2009: Moore 66/1. Average: 147/1. For a summary of winners' odds on the PGA Tour for the past 5 years based on the 2016 schedule click here.
Weather Forecast: The latest PGA Tour weather forecast for Greensboro is here. Scoring has gone up a notch since the introduction of Champion Bermudagrass greens in 2012 which have proven to be far faster. Like last year, the course is likely to play soft with plenty of rain in the build-up and thunderstorms looking a reality from mid-morning to mid-afternoon on Thursday. Rain can't be ruled out across Saturday or Sunday either, so expect interruptions. Heat and humidity will also take its toll with temperatures up to 33 Celsius.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the past 4 winners here since the green complexes were changed to Champion Bermuda in 2012 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
Tournament Skill Averages:
So let's take a view from players as to how Sedgefield Country Club since the introduction of Bermudagrass greens has set up in the past and what specific skills it requires:
Webb Simpson: "It goes back to the point of the golf course. Bay Hill, Tiger won so many times. Akron produces long hitters winning there. Depending on the golf course you kind of create your own pool of winners that are usually going to win there, whereas this course, like I said, it favours nobody. So I think that's what makes it hard to repeat, that if you have a field of whatever, what did we have, 156 players, that most everybody in the field has a legitimate chance to win whereas, you know, maybe you go to San Diego, I can't remember the last time somebody who didn't bomb it winning there. That's a place where you take out 50 percent of the field from the start of the week. like I said earlier about the golf course, I don't think it's one where you have to play many years to learn it, where a lot of courses you do, you have to get some persons. Like Augusta is a good example whereas this golf course is more straight in front of you and, again, it's a level playing field for everyone which I wish we played more like these."
Tiger Woods: "The golf course is tricky. I know it's wet and the fairways, ball in hand but the greens are so fast. They're so speedy. Hideki, myself, even Brooks, we ripped a couple putts down there probably 10, 15 feet past the hole and even though as wet as they are, they're still that fast downhill, down-grain and got to respect it and it puts such a premium on iron play to put the ball in the right spot and give yourself putts. For the majority of the day I was putting myself in perfect spots where I can be aggressive."
Carl Pettersson: "Well, it's changed slightly. When they changed the greens from Bent to Bermuda, but it's still a scoreable golf course if you're playing well. If you're not playing well, it's difficult because the rough is thick, the ball really sits down in the Bermudagrass, so that part of it is difficult, and if you don't hit the greens, it's difficult to get it up and down. But definitely if you're on your game, you feel like you can shoot a fairly low round here for sure."
Padraig Harrington: "The greens are quite fast, to be honest, and undulating, so a lot of the difficulty is getting yourself in position on the greens, and by necessity then you have to be in position on the fairway to get into position on the greens. So it's a lot about strategy, what pins to go at, making sure you don't short side yourself because of the speed of the greens and the undulation."
Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 4 winners:
Incoming form of winners since 2010:
For the record, here's the breakdown of Bermudagrass PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:
Team USA Ryder Cup Standings (those not qualified): Top 9 in the rankings after next week's Barclays qualify: 7) J.B. Holmes; 8) Patrick Reed; 9) Brandt Snedeker; 10) Bubba Watson; 11) Matt Kuchar; 12) Rickie Fowler; 13) Scott Piercy; 14) Bill Haas; 15) Daniel Berger; 16) William McGirt; 17) Kevin Chappell; 18) Jim Furyk; 19) Jason Dufner.
Recent winning totals of -17, -17, -14 and -18 highlight that the key to success in Greensboro is two-fold: make plenty of eagles and birdies plus minimise dropped shots. Of the past 6 winners, every one of them has averaged 298+ yards from the tee (in essence average or above drivers) and it's worth noting that we're returning to a Bermudagrass golf course after weeks of Bentgrass and Poa Annua grasses.
It won't surprise in a tournament where 4 straight rounds of 65/66 is the target that streaky scorers dominate the contending positions. However game-wise since the swap to Champion Bermudagrass greens, it's safe to say that Garcia, Reed, Villegas and Love III all primarily won through their ability to create enough birdie opportunities with neat tee-to-green play which they then converted with a 'Bermuda-positive' putter. Those looking for Donald Ross-positive players should look no further than PGA Tour tracks Aronimink (AT&T National 2009/10), East Lake (Tour Championship) as well as Oak Hill (2013 PGA Championship) and Pinehurst No2 (2014 U.S. Open).
Sedgefield has a habit of producing 1st time PGA Tour winners with Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson, Arjun Atwal and Ryan Moore all recording their first main Tour victories here since 2008. FedEx Cup standings-wise, Webb Simpson was 12th in the standings when he captured his first title here at 20/1 in 2011. Since then 102nd, 78th, 105th and 187th suggest that we should look a little deeper than the very obvious candidates this week.
Bookmaker Offers. A couple of bookmakers have extended their each-way terms again this week plus there are a couple of other offers out there:
My selections are as follows:
Bill Haas is playing to his strengths right now: hitting fairways and greens whilst minimising mistakes. 12 pay cheques in his last 14 appearances include 2nd at Copperhead (Carolina-feel, Bermudagrass greens), 3rd at Congressional (Classical) and his first Major top 10 at Royal Troon. Haas though is winless this season so sits outside both the FedEx Cup top 30 (31st) and the Ryder Cup top 9 (12th) and has plenty to play for as he arrives at a tournament he holds dear.
Carolinian Haas arrives at a home state tournament where he's had much success knowing that a contending performance would be just the job. Finished 10th in 2009; since the introduction of Champion Bermudagrass greens Bill has ratcheted up his performances at Sedgefield with 7th in 2012, 20th in 2013, 2nd in 2014 (chasing a Ryder Cup Captain's Pick) and 6th in 2015. The change to Bermudagrass was perfect for the 34 year old who played his way into last year's President's Cup team as 4 of his 6 PGA Tour wins have been on Bermuda with his victory at Annandale in 2010 coming on the Champion strain. That liking for Champion Bermuda is there for all to see when you look at Bill's putting performances at Sedgefield since 2012 - bearing in mind that the flat stick is the weakest part of his game: Stokes Gained Putting - +1.12 (12th-2012), +0.972 (top 20 - 2013), +2.06 (1st 2014) and +0.82 (18th 2015).
Haas is the typical 'Horse for Course' pick this week who's minimising mistakes right now (12th in Bogey Avoidance) and it's worth remembering that he won the 2011 Tour Championship at the Donald Ross-designed par 70 at East Lake. RESULT: T22
Russell Henley is showing improving form as we enter the FedEx Cup PlayOffs and I like his chances on tournament debut this week. 22nd at the PGA Championship was followed last time out by 11th at the Travelers Championship - which could have been a lot better, again on tournament debut. 1 eagle and 18 birdies took Henley to -14 after 11 holes on Sunday - tied for the lead with Daniel Berger - but it all became too much as Henley went on to shoot 3 bogeys and a double to eventually finish 11th. That surprised me as since his promotion to the PGA Tour in 2013, Russell has been really solid when in contention and I'm going to put it down as a learning experience. Instead I think the 27 year old, who lives in Charlestown, South Carolina, will relish his first competitive visit to Sedgefield where his combination of long/accurate ball-striking and Bermuda-positive putting is potent. Wins at Waialae (2013) and PGA National (2014) have both been on par 70 set-ups with Bermudagrass greens and Henley has already finished 6th at Sea Island and 7th at TPC Southwind this season, again on the same course/grass combination. RESULT: T46
Harris English is another player who will welcome the brief return to Bermudagrass golf this week after a series of Major Championships plus the Bridgestone Invitational played on Poa Annua dominated surfaces. A winner on Champion Bermudagrass greens at TPC Southwind in 2013, Harris has always putted well on the Champion strain - indeed he was 10th here on course debut back in 2012 - powered by 5th in Greens in Regulation and 15th in Stokes Gained Putting performances. 8th after the 1st round, English went out in the 3rd last group on Sunday just 2 shots behind Sergio Garcia after rounds of 66-64-68.
So what of his current form? 2nd as recently as Colonial in May where he was beaten only by the short game brilliance of Jordan Spieth, English has been starting tournaments quickly of late - a real advantage at Sedgefield. 12th at the US Open, 9th at the Bridgestone Invitational and 5th at the PGA Championship 1st round performances are quite eye-catching, as was the fact English went off as short as 18/1 at TPC Southwind in June - a tournament where he was a factor across the opening 54 holes. Harris will enter Sedgefield this week with no Ryder Cup considerations and I can see him going very well. RESULT: T46
Robert Garrigus is another to follow this week as he's playing some top quality golf at the moment. Sitting at 108th in the FedEx Cup following a quiet 22nd at Deere Run last week - he was heavily backed, but has never delivered consecutive week top 10s in his PGA Tour career - Robert has earned his full playing privileges for 2016/17. That's a massive step for a player who's been through a career slump since 2014 which ultimately saw him earn his full card for this season via the web.com PlayOffs last year. 4th at TPC Four Seasons, 8th at Congressional, 11th at Robert Trent Jones (Champion Bermudagrass greens) and 5th at TPC River Highlands highlights a player whose confidence is undoubtedly growing. Garrigus has always performed best on Bermudagrass set-ups and his happiest hunting ground is the Southern United States: his only PGA Tour win was in 2010 at Disney Resort in Orlando, Florida where he shot -21/267 to both save his Tour card in the Tour's last event and redeem himself from the self-destruction he'd suffered at TPC Southwind the previous June where he threw away certain victory on the 18th. Prefers resort-level scoring and likes putting on Champion Bermudagrass greens; was 11th here in 2013 and is close to his best putting-wise after he switched to a new Cure putter at TPC Louisiana. RESULT: T22
Bud Cauley has it all to do this week. An amazing talent when he hit the PGA Tour in 2012, the 26 year old from Florida, following surgery on his left shoulder to repair a torn labrum in September 2014, didn’t play at all last season and picked up his career this season playing on a medical extension. 14th at PGA West was an eye-opener and since then 25th at Torrey Pines, 30th at Bay Hill, an exceptional 4th at TPC Four Seasons and last week's 8th at Deere Run sees Cauley at 143rd in the FedEx Cup standings. Put simply he needs to deliver a top 5 performance this week or will return to the web.com PlayOffs as he did in 2013 and 2014 (both successfully). An excellent driver with a decent touch around the greens by trade, Bud has been held back this term by a recalcitrant putter in the main. But that changed last week at the John Deere Classic where he delivered a much needed 8th powered by an excellent Greens in Regulation performance and some half-decent putting. Bud played brilliantly across both the par 4s and par 5s with a pair of eagles always coming in handy. As we saw back in 2012, when Cauley is confident with his approach play his performances elevate, especially on low scoring tracks, and he can string back-to-back top 10s together. 3rd here in 2012, going out in the final pairing with Sergio Garcia. RESULT: T10
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