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So the final Major Championship is now in the rear view mirror and we move inexorably towards the end-of-season PGA Tour PlayOffs. 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:
The European Tour action returns to mainland Europe with the Made in Denmark at the Himmerland Golf & Spa Resort where Marc Warren defends his title. Paul Williams has cast is eye over the tournament and you can read his thoughts on that event here.
2015 Punters League. Another incredible win for Punters League leader Sean Colgan who pipped Gary Bryan with his inspired selection of Anirban Lahiri at 300/1. Sean is having an amazing run and extends his overall Punters League season lead after Week 32. With a weekly £/€25 free bet prize, new entrants are always welcome - so enter your 6 players across the Wyndham Championship and Made in Denmark events via our 2,700-strong facebook group now!
With a stronger than usual field and plenty riding on the event, Sedgefield Country Club will be the scene of plenty of drama this week. Here's my Wyndham Championship preview which walks you through some interesting angles that have shaped my final selections:
Course Guide: Sedgefield is a 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 is not 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.
Course Overview: Sedgefield CC was the easiest Par 70 on the PGA Tour in 2014 with 23 players 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 wide for a course that measures just over 7,200 yards and Ross's green complexes, 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, that's the green light for low scoring. Winners here have to hit a minimum 13 greens per round (12.5 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 they keys to victory, plus it's noteworthy that the front 9 plays far easier and has to be capitalised upon.
Winners: 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 Wyndham Championship predictor is available here. You can build your own tailor-made model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Key players included in the Top 5 of the Predictor include Brandt Snedeker (Predictor number 1), Webb Simpson, Justin Thomas, Ryan Moore and Bill Haas. Lower down in the Top 25 David Toms (125/1), Jonas Blixt (125/1) Robert Garrigus (250/1) and Jerry Kelly (125/1) offer up some value.
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 both PGA Tour and European Tour. 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: 2014: Villegas 125/1; 2013: Reed 80/1; 2012: Garcia 40/1; 2011: Simpson 20/1; 2010: Atwal 200/1; 2009: Moore 66/1. For a summary of winners' odds on the PGA Tour for the past 5 years based on the 2015 schedule click here.
Weather Forecast: The latest PGA Tour weather forecast for Greensboro is here. The course was hit with plenty of rain at the start of last week and it's raining at the course as I write this preview. Expect receptive greens and the inevitable low scoring that goes with them, especially as the tournament is set to see hardly any wind apart from Thursday afternoon breezes, which may make players from the AM wave preferable if you're looking at first round leaders.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the past 3 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:
Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 3 winners at Sedgefield:
So let's take a view from players as to just what the key attributes required are at the Wyndham Championship this week:
Carl Pettersson: "Well, it's changed slightly. When they changed the greens from Bent to Bermuda, but it's still a scorable 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."
Webb Simpson: "I love this golf course and I speak on behalf of the all players, Sedgefield is one of our favourite courses on Tour. Seems like modern day courses are moving to big parkland, open, long courses and this feels old school, shorter, tighter, little trickier but it's so nice to be back and look forward to playing and seeing how the golf course is today."
Recent winning totals of -17, -14, -18, -18 and -22 highlight that the key to success in Greensboro is two-fold: make plenty of eagles and birdies plus minimise dropped shots. However dig a little deeper and across the past 3 renewals and Camilo Villegas, Patrick Reed and Sergio Garcia have entered the tournament in the Top 50 of Par Breakers. Of the past 5 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 'Up-state' grass.
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 and Villegas 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 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, Ryan Moore and Brandt Snedeker all recording their first main-Tour victories here since 2007. 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 and 105th suggest that we should look a little deeper than the very obvious candidates this week.
Key Bookmaker Offer: Paddy Power have again gone 6 places each-way at the Wyndham Championship. Full details and latest odds here.
My selections are as follows:
Justin Thomas has been in my mind for Sedgefield since he finished 4th at the CC of Jackson (Champion Bermudagrass greens) back in November. Plenty of punters have already lost patience with him and I can understand that, but I'm sticking to my guns and very much see a similarity between Thomas's and Webb Simpson's situation back in 2011. We all know the win is coming, it's just a matter of where and when. Well Sedgefield this week has prime potential for me and it's not just because Thomas, who sits 19th in Driving Distance, 24th in Bogey Avoidance, 7th in Par Breakers and 7th in Putting Average Tour skill categories, fits Sedgefield statistically like a glove.
Plenty of you will be aware that Justin and Jordan Spieth are very close friends and that kinship goes back to their time on the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) where they met and competed against each other most weekends. The Footjoy Invitational hosted at Sedgefield is an established stop-off for the juniors and Spieth enjoyed success here finishing 6th in 2008 and 4th in 2009 - naturally he went on to finish 2nd at Sedgefield on his professional debut in 2013. Justin Thomas beat Spieth and won the Footjoy title here in 2009 as a 16 year-old (as a result he played here in the 2009 Wyndham, shot 65 in Round 1 and made the cut) and finished 2nd the following year. So Thomas arrives in Greensboro with both positive memories and excellent knowledge of the course and we all know that he is more than comfortable on Champion Bermuda. RESULT: T56
60/1 about Will Wilcox is a spectacular price when he's more generally available at 40/1 and I love the look of the 2nd-season 29 year-old for this test. The University of Alabama at Birmingham product has been in fine form all season with 4 Top 10s and a further 4 Top 22 finishes retaining his PGA Tour card comfortably (83rd FEC standings), a totally different scenario from 12 months ago when Wilcox was way outside the Top 125 and left North Carolina facing the trauma of the web.com Finals. Despite his predicament, Will finished a comfortable 24th (-9/271) on course debut at Sedgefield and tied 1st for Greens in Regulation.
12 months down the track the World Number 121 is now thought of as a late-developing talent and his skill statistics seem perfect for the course: 52nd Driving Distance, 2nd Bogey Avoidance, 23rd Par Breakers, 20th Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green, 40th Strokes Gained Putting. Excellent stats don't always translate to progression towards victory, but that isn't the case with Wilcox who almost pipped Scott Piercy to the Barbasol Championship title in his home state last month, a result that's sure to have boosted confidence. I also like his Champion Bermudagrass green form which reads 14th CC of Jackson, 12th TPC Southwind and the aforementioned 2nd on the RTJ Grand National Course. RESULT: T26
5-time PGA Tour winner Carl Pettersson is your typical 'horses for courses' selection this week. Carl, who sits 6th in this week's Predictor Model, has 6 Top-20 finishes from 12 appearances at Sedgefield, including 5th in 2007, 1st in 2008, 4th in 2011 and 4th on the new Champion Bermuda greens in 2012. We could stop right there! Pettersson has always played in patches and an awful start to 2014/15 has been the pre-cursor to a return to form in the latter half of the year. 5th (-13/267) at TPC River Highlands promoted the Raleigh, North Carolina-residing Swede back into the Top 125 of the FEC standings and since then 12th (-15/269) at Deere Run and 4th (-12/276) at Robert Trent Jones GC highlight a returning confidence and a particularly hot-putter. Pettersson loves resort-level scoring and Par 70s in equal measure and the big-Swede has finished 7th, 5th and 2nd in the Birdie category across the Travelers, John Deere Classic and Quicken Loans National. RESULT: T6
A rested Johnson Wagner could push on to challenge this week at a low scoring event where the Texan tends to thrive. Wins at the GC of Houston (2008), El Camaleon (2011) and Waialae (2012) have come at -18/270, -17/267 and -13/267 respectively. Since April the Charlotte, North Carolina resident has re-established his full Tour playing privileges for 2015/16 with some excellent performances at GC of Houston (2nd -16/272 in soft conditions), Deere Run (5th -18/266 in soft conditions) and Robert Trent Jones Grand National Course (10th -12/272 with receptive greens). Despite the excellent Bentgrass green showings in 2015, Wagner has always favoured Bermudagrass greens and that's a danger for a player who sits 12th in Greens in Regulation, 28th in Proximity to the Hole and 28th in Bogey Avoidance Tour skill categories this season. Tie that in with the fact that he made 2 Eagles and 54 Birdies across his recent outings at the John Deere Classic, Barbasol Championship and RBC Canadian Open. RESULT: MC
Finally I can't resist Boo Weekley who sparked with a cracking 65 on Saturday at Whistling Straits. Weekley is always a danger on Bermudagrass greens and even though putting is his obvious weakness, there have been undoubted signs all season that Weekley is close to tournament winning form. Asked about his putting on Saturday, Weekley said "Well, my guy I work with now, my caddie, David Robinson, he is a real good putter, and he played the mini tours and he played on the web.com, so he's got me to change up a little things and we started practicing like 4-footers, 6-footers and then doing speed drills and stuff like that, because he said if you can make these 4-, 6-footers, you can make 75 percent of them, you're going to be ahead of the game. So, I used to think that I'm just going to hit it closer. But out here you can hit it always close." 7 Top-10 finishes in his last 19 appearances sees Boo at Number 60 in the FEC Standings, but it's the detail that fascinates me. 6 of those finishes have been on Bermudagrass greens (the remaining was on Paspalum) and results include totals of -14/274, -20/268, -20/268 and -13/271. At a track that needs a fast start, Boo has been 8th, 10th, 13th, 1st and 1st after Round 1 across 5 of his last 7 domestic Tour tournaments (not including The Players and PGA Championship) and he sits 54th in Par Breakers season to date. His Champion Bermudagrass green form is also stellar reading 2nd (CC of Jackson)-8th(TPC Southwind)-6th(and RTJ Grand National Course). RESULT: MC
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