Congratulations to Justin Thomas who deservedly won the PGA Championship last week at Quail Hollow. Always a favourite player of mine, Thomas has delivered profit and near misses (take this year's U.S. Open for example) for me since he arrived on the PGA Tour in 2014. A phenomenal talent, this first Major Championship victory will be the first of multiples and in what was an exciting finish it was also good to see my selection Hideki Matsuyama right in the hunt. Critically he missed too many short putts, but undeniably his time will also come.
This week we travel to the Wyndham Championship, played at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, just 100 miles north-east of Quail Hollow and still in North Carolina. It's 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:
Wyndham Championship - Featured Bookmaker
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Over on the European Tour, Paul Williams has some picks for the Paul Lawrie Match Play and Fiji International - you can read his preview here.
Course Guide: Sedgefield is an original Donald Ross design which has typical Carolina course overtures. 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. But as the greens have settled, scoring continues to improve.
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: 12ft; 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. 2016: 68.97 (-1.03), Rank 37 of 50 courses.
Sedgefield Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for Sedgefield CC and how they compare to recent courses that we've seen on Tour:
Course Designer Links: For research purposes other Donald Ross designs include:
Course Overview: Sedgefield CC is perennially one the two easiest Par 70s on the PGA Tour with Waialae CC (Sony Open). Take 2016 when with 32 players (up from 30 in 2015) finishing double-digits under Par. Set to the south-east of Greensboro, the course has a typical Carolina feel with tree-lined fairways, pine straw 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, are Ross's green complexes 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 (as they were in 2016), that's the green light for low scoring. Winners here year-in, year-out, must hit a minimum 13 greens per round and invariably break par every 1 in 3 holes. A fast start, excellent and consistent approach play and a reasonably hot putter are they keys to victory, plus it's noteworthy that the front 9 plays far easier and has to be capitalised upon.
Winners: 2016: Si-Woo Kim (-21); 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's event that are well worth a look. Naturally they'll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Top 20 Finishes.
Published Predictor Model: Our published 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 Ryan Moore, Grayson Murray, Camilo Villegas, Chris Stroud and Kevin Kisner.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on a 10-tournament window that stretches back to the FedEx St Jude Classic/Lyoness Open and includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 main Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:
Winners & Prices: 2016: S.W. Kim 150/1; 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. Average: 159/1.
Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Greensboro, North Carolina is here. It's been raining in Greensboro across Monday evening into Tuesday morning with more electrical storms forecast for later in the day. We'll see humid conditions across the full week, with Friday looking prime for more precipitation, so the course is likely to be receptive across tournament week. This is also going to be one of the hottest tournaments seen for a while with 'feels like' temperatures with the humidity approaching 37 degrees Celsius.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the past 5 winners here since the green complexes were changed to Champion Bermudagrass 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:
Luke Donald: "It's a course I really enjoy. I love the design of this course. The greens are very true, very fast, quite undulating. You have to have some imagination. And nice to get off to a solid start. Conditions were nice out there. The greens are holding for the most part and not too much wind. So, you're playing well there's some opportunities out there. I struggled a little bit visualizing that tee shot. It was a couple tee shots you don't see them land and 18 is one of them. I hit a poor tee shot left and had to chip out. I had a good number with a little wedge, stick it to that pin. Would have been disappointing to drop one there after playing so well for the rest of the round."
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. 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 5 winners:
Incoming form of winners since 2010:
First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their group and winning score since 2010. Full First Round Leader stats are here.
For the record, here's the breakdown of Bermudagrass PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:
Recent winning totals of -21, -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 7 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 Champion Bermudagrass golf course - for those not present at Quail Hollow last week, many have played months 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, Love III and Si-Woo Kim 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 Si-Woo Kim, 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, 187th and 44th suggest that we should certainly look a little deeper than the very obvious candidates this week.
Bookmaker Offers: Latest offers and extended each-way places are detailed below.
My selections are as follows:
At the sharp end of the betting, Ryan Moore has plenty to play for this week with the Presidents Cup team announced in only 3 weeks time. At 18th in the current United States team standings, Moore must know that he needs to put his foot to the floor over the next 3 weeks to get into Steve Stricker's thinking, but a pot full of points from last season's Tour Championship at East Lake where he finished runner-up to Rory McIlroy in turn grabbing Davis Love III's last Ryder Cup spot, plus the 3rd at this year's Tournament of Champions at Kapalua and 9th at The Masters, means that the Nevada man is still in touch with the likes of Matt Kuchar and Charley Hoffman when it comes to automatic qualification. A win this week at a course where he grabbed his maiden PGA Tour victory in 2009 would be ever so sweet and it's certainly not beyond the realms of possibility.
Since that win here in 2009, scored at 66/1, Moore has gone on to win 4 more times. He's a true short course specialist who simply loves resort-level scoring. -16/264 (2009 Wyndham), -24/260 (2012 Shriners), -14/274 (2013 CIMB Classic), -14/271 (2014 CIMB Classic) and -22/262 (2016 John Deere Classic) have been his winning totals and the eagle-eyed amongst you will also note 2 of those wins were in August. Since the green changes here in 2012, Moore has finished 37th, 10th and 53rd - his 10th place finish here in 2015 featured rounds of 66-69-65-67 and he played with eventual victor Davis Love III on the Sunday shooting -3/67 to Love's -6/64. I also like Moore's Donald Ross record which includes his win here, 2nd at East Lake last term, 3rd at East Lake (2012) and 2nd at Aronimink behind Justin Rose in 2010. 13th last week on a course which was far too long, Moore tied Louis Oosthuizen for least bogeys (10), and was 5th for Greens in Regulation so he's ready for a title challenge. Number 1 selection in this week's Published Predictor Model. RESULT: T24
In Ben Martin we have a player who now sits at 116th in the FedEx Cup standings after 5th at TPC Potomac, 6th with us on-board at RTJGT and 14th last time out at Montreux has saved his full playing privileges for 2017/18. But the South Carolinian is a must-back this week on the basis that he's hitting plenty of greens of late and has real history across resort scoring tests. 6th at Montreux in his rookie 2011 season was by far his best finish of the year. After 2 seasons in the web.com, 3rd at Coco Beach Resort (-17/271) in 2014 marked his return to the main Tour and from there 3rd at Harbour Town and 3rd at Congressional marked him out as a great talent. His first PGA Tour win was not too far away winning the 2014 Shriners Open (-20/264). Since then we have seen flashes of brilliance, with 5th at Bay Hill in 2015, 4th at The Players Championship in 2015, 7th at Montreux in 2016 and 2nd at Deere Run in 2016 all marking him out as a player who thrives in resort scoring tests and/or on Bermudagrass greens. Naturally with his upbringing allied to his Clemson University golf education, his ease on Bermuda makes perfect sense and to back up my thoughts that he will go well this week, he finished 10th here at Sedgefield in 2015 when his game was on the slide. RESULT: DQ
Billy Horschel loves Champion Bermudagrass greens, Donald Ross designs, Par 70s and humid conditions so I love the fact we can get on this week at a very nice each way price. 18th (2011) and 3rd (2012) at Annandale plus 10th (2013), 6th (2014), 8th (2015) and 4th (2017) at TPC Southwind highlight a player who performs well on Champion Bermudagrass putting surfaces. 7th (2013) and 1st at East Lake (2014) across an elite-class field also shows that Horschel likes the rigours of a Donald Ross test. Success here at Sedgefield had been limited with a 30th, 46th, 47th and a MC from 4 appearances until 12 months ago when Horschel off of the back of some indifferent non-Bermuda form, very reminiscent to what we are seeing from him at the moment, finished 5th. Naturally with a Floridian upbringing, this Bermudagrass narrative makes plenty of sense and in this season alone, Horschel has finished 2nd at Sea Island, 4th at PGA National and 4th at TPC Southwind, with Bermudagrass making up 3 of his 4 top 5 finishes. A winner at TPC Four Seasons in May which again features Bermudagrass from tee-to-green and with a maiden victory at TPC Louisiana (2013) earned at -20/268, Horschel has plenty to play for across the next 3 tournaments with the Presidents Cup points cut off and Steve Stricker announcing his 2 Captain's picks post Deutsche Bank Championship. RESULT: T60
Robert Streb will never be a sexy selection, but he has a lot about him that I really like this week. 3 pay cheques here from 3 appearances include 37th (2013), 18th (2014) and 33rd (2016). Across 2014 and 2016 he finished 7th and 3rd for Greens in Regulation, so the course clearly fits his eye, but the putter has held him back. However fast-forward to now and Streb is one of the hottest putters on Tour and sits 2nd in my 10-week rolling Putting Average Tracker, after putting beautifully across TPC Southwind (Champion Bermudagrass), Old White TPC and last week at Quail Hollow (Champion Bermudagrass), where he was 15th for Putts per GIR and 4th for Putts per Round. A stress-free 22nd in the PGA Championship last week included 2 eagles and only 13 bogeys (Thomas had 12) and Streb, who is ranked 78th in the FedEx Cup standings, is clearly playing some nice stuff after just losing out to Xander Schauffele at Old White TPC last month. However I've always had Robert down as a Bermudagrass positive performer after his PGA Tour win at Sea Island in 2014, plus 2nd at TPC Louisiana (2014), 8th at CC of Jackson (2014), 8th at Kapalua (2015) and 4th at Quail Hollow (2015). Makes sense when you realise he's from Oklahoma and now lives in Florida. RESULT: T72
Matt Every is showing definite signs of improvement of late and we know that he simply thrives on Bermudagrass greens. First signs of new growth came at TPC Southwind where he shot -6/64 to be first round leader, before finishing 27th. That was his best finish since a 24th at TPC Scottsdale back in 2015! A fortnight later at TPC River Highlands another opening -5/66 shot Every into the limelight again, before eventually finishing 35th. However the biggest strides in his rehabilitation came at a very soft and receptive Glen Abbey 3 weeks ago where an opening round -7/65 again led to him leading on Thursday. He then backed that up with rounds of 68- (he was still 2nd after 36 holes)-70-70 saw the Floridian finish 14th. As the confidence builds with his driving, his ball-striking and putting is improving too to a point where I think he has a chance this week on a course where he finished 14th in 2012 and 5th in 2013. A winner of the Invitational-status Arnold Palmer Invitational in both 2014 and 2015, Every has no playing privilege issues this week, but I'm sure he would like to continue the progress this week and make a play for the top 125 in the FedEx Cup standings. Worth covering in the First Round Leader market as well at 200/1 with Sportingbet. RESULT: FRL Winner; 13th Overall.
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