This week we travel to the Wyndham Championship, played at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro 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:
- Firstly, any non-exempt player outside of the top 125 in the FedEx Cup standings will lose their full playing privileges for 2019/20, requiring their participation in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals (players ranked from 126-200 if they so wish to compete). Naturally this will be a huge motivator for a large number of players in this week’s field. Noteworthy is that both Daniel Berger and Martin Kaymer are in serious danger of losing full playing privileges with their win exemptions ending this week.
- Secondly, improvement of their FedEx Cup standing will be important for a number of players like Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Jason Dufner, Branden Grace, Brian Harman, Russell Henley, Zach Johnson, Russell Knox, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed, Cameron Smith, Jordan Spieth and Aaron Wise. Both Dufner and Johnson are outside of the PlayOff positions right now. Remember the money and prestige available to those who progress to East Lake is tempting for any professional.
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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. But as the greens have settled, scoring continues to improve with -21/259, -22/258 and -21/259 being the latest winning totals.
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. 2017: 68.81 (-1.19), Rank of 37 of 50 courses. 2018: 68.69 (-1.31), Rank 40 of 51 courses.
Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for Sedgefield Country Club and how they compare to recent courses on Tour:
- Sedgefield: 250 yards from tee: 29 yards wide; 275:28; 300:26 325:23; 350:22.
- TPC Southwind: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:29; 300:28; 325:31; 350:25.
- Montreux G&CC: 250 yards from the tee: 37 yards wide; 275:41; 300:42; 325:40; 350:38.
- Keene Trace: 250 yards from tee: 34 yards wide; 275:31; 300:30 325:30; 350:29.
- TPC Deere Run: 250 yards from tee: 41 yards wide; 275:40; 300:36 325:33; 350:30.
- TPC Twin Cities: 250 yards from tee: 38 yards wide; 275:38; 300:31 325:30; 350:36.
- Detroit Golf Club: 250 yards from tee: 34 yards wide; 275:34; 300:35 325:34; 350:33.
- TPC River Highlands: 250 yards from the tee: 37 yards wide; 275:35; 300:28; 325:28; 350:27.
- Pebble Beach: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:33; 300:29; 325:30; 350:26.
- Hamilton: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:29; 300:29; 325:27; 350:28.
- Muirfield Village: 250 yards from the tee: 36 yards wide; 275:35; 300:30; 325:26; 350:30.
- Colonial: 250 yards from tee: 27 yards wide; 275:25; 300:26; 325:25; 350:22.
Course Designer Links: For research purposes other Donald Ross designs include:
- Aronimink – 2010/11 AT&T National
- Pinehurst Number 2 – 2014 US Open
- East Course at Oak Hill – 2013 PGA Championship
- Detroit Golf Club – 2019 Rocket Mortgage Classic
- Plainfield – 2011 & 2015 Barclays
- East Lake – Tour Championship
Course Overview: Sedgefield CC is perennially one the two easiest Par-70s on the PGA Tour alongside Waialae CC (Sony Open). Take 2018 when with 40 players 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 2017 and for the opening 36 holes last year), 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: 2018: Brandt Snedeker (-21); 2017: Henrik Stenson (-22); 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 | Combined Stats.
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 10 of my published predictor are Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama, Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Troy Merritt, Rory Sabbatini, Billy Horschel, Si Woo Kim and Paul Casey.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These top 20 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the RBC Canadian Open, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:
- Top 20 Driving Accuracy: 1) Adam Long; 2) Kyle Stanley; 3) Austin Cook; 4) Brendan Steele / Adam Svensson / Boo Weekley; 7) Abraham Ancer / Adam Hadwin; 9) Chez Reavie; 10) Si Woo Kim; 11) Russell Henley / Scott Langley; 13) Roberto Diaz / Viktor Hovland; 15) Jonas Blixt; 16) Ryan Armour; 17) Brice Garnett / Brian Stuard; 19) Alex Cejka; 20) Jason Dufner.
- Top 20 Greens in Regulation: 1) Corey Conners; 2) Paul Casey; 3) Martin Kaymer; 4) Charlie Danielson; 5) Vaughn Taylor; 6) Branden Grace / Martin Laird; 8) Hideki Matsuyama; 9) Viktor Hovland / Johnson Wagner; 11) Alex Prugh; 12) Abraham Ancer / Billy Horschel; 13) Kyle Stanley; 14) Brendan Steele / Sepp Straka / Kevin Streelman / Adam Svensson; 18) Lucas Bjerregaard / Brice Garnett / Nick Taylor.
- Top 25 Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Webb Simpson; 2) Adam Hadwin / J.T. Poston / Roger Sloan; 5) Doc Redman / Vaughn Taylor; 7) Jordan Spieth; 8) Stewart Cink / Peter Uihlein; 10) Patrick Reed; 11) Charlie Danielson / Denny McCarthy; 13) Abraham Ancer / Tom Lovelady; 15) Aaron Wise; 16) Bronson Burgoon / Peter Malnati / Joaquin Niemann; 19) Beau Hossler; 20) Pat Perez; 21) Brady Schnell / Wes Roach / Brandt Snedeker; 24) Wyndham Clark / Chez Reavie.
Winners & Prices: 2018: Brandt Snedeker 28/1; 2017: Stenson 14/1; 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: 129/1. Past 4 Renewals Average: 163/1.
- 2018: Thursday: Partly cloudy. High of 91. Wind SW 5-10 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy. High of 90. Wind SW 6-12 mph. Saturday: Mostly cloudy. High of 83. Due to a dangerous weather situation, round three was suspended at 3:27 p.m. and eventually called for the day at 6:45 p.m. Sunday: A total of 30 players were back in position at 8 a.m. Round three concluded at 10:24 a.m. Mostly cloudy. High of 88. Wind WSW 5-10 mph.
- 2017: Thursday: Partly cloudy, with an afternoon high of 90. Wind SSW 4-8 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 92. Wind SW 6-12 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 89. Wind WNW 4-8 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy. High of 91. Wind ESE 5 mph.
- 2016: Thursday: Mostly sunny, with an afternoon high of 90. Wind NNW 6-12 mph. Friday: Mostly cloudy, with an afternoon high of 88. Wind WNW 5-10 mph. Saturday: Mostly cloudy. High of 85. Wind 5-10 mph. Sunday: Mostly cloudy. High of 89. Wind W 10-15 mph with gusts of 20 mph.
- 2015: Thursday: Mostly overcast, with highs in the mid-80s. Winds SW at 10-20 mph. Friday: Mostly sunny, with an afternoon high of 85. Wind NNE at 5-10 mph. Saturday: Mostly sunny, with afternoon highs in the mid-80s. Winds NNE at 4-8 mph. Sunday: Mostly cloudy. High of 86. Wind SW at 5-10 mph.
Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Greensboro, North Carolina, is here. Expect plenty of birdies again this week on this drag-strip of a Par 70. With no wind to speak of across the tournament and temperatures up into the 32-34 degrees Celsius region, expect watered and receptive green surfaces. There could also be thunderstorms from Wednesday onwards, so the course could receive a dousing at any moment.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the past 7 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:
- 2018, Brandt Snedeker (-21). 315 yards (25th), 57.1% fairways (51st), 80.6% greens in regulation (19th), 27’10” proximity to hole (12th), 57.1% scrambling (46th), 1.64 putts per GIR (2nd).
- 2017, Henrik Stenson (-22). 294 yards (71st), 75.0% fairways (8th), 87.5% greens in regulation (3rd), proximity to hole 25’9″ (1st), 44.4 % scrambling (67th), 1.62 putts per GIR (2nd).
- 2016, Si-Woo Kim (-21). 307 yards (51st), 73.2% fairways (6th), 83.3% greens in regulation (8th), proximity to hole 24’11” (1st), 81.5 % scrambling (1st), 1.63 putts per GIR (2nd).
- 2015, Davis Love III (-17). 298 yards (33rd), 71.4% fairways (10th), 77.8% greens in regulation (18th), proximity to hole 29’1″ (7th), 75.0 % scrambling (9th), 1.71 putts per GIR (11th).
- 2014, Camilo Villegas (-17). 301 yards (39th), 76.8% fairways (6th), 77.8% greens in regulation (8th), 29’5″ proximity to hole (6th), 87.5 % scrambling (1st), 1.75 putts per GIR (24th).
- 2013, Patrick Reed (-14). 298 yards (11th), 64.3% fairways (42nd), 83.3% greens in regulation (1st), 29″6″ proximity to hole (2nd), 58.3% scrambling (56th), 1.72 putts per GIR (14th).
- 2012, Sergio Garcia (-18). 302 yards (26th), 73.2% fairways (13th), 72.2% greens in regulation (26th), 32″2″ proximity to hole (29th), 80.0% scrambling (1st), 1.63 putts per GIR (2nd).
Tournament Skill Average:
- Driving Distance: 37th, Driving Accuracy: 19th, Greens in Regulation: 12th, Proximity to Hole: 8th, Scrambling: 26th, Putting Average 8th.
Strokes Gained Tournament Trends:
- 2018, Brandt Snedeker (-21). SG Off the Tee: 47th, SG Approach: 3rd, SG Around the Green: 5th, SG Tee to Green: 2nd, SG Putting: 19th.
- 2017, Henrik Stenson (-22). SG Off the Tee: 35th, SG Approach: 3rd, SG Around the Green: 29th, SG Tee to Green: 6th, SG Putting: 3rd.
- 2016, Si Woo Kim (-22). SG Off the Tee: 1st, SG Approach: 5th, SG Around the Green: 42nd, SG Tee to Green: 1st, SG Putting: 34th.
Strokes Gained Tournament Skill Averages:
- SG Off the Tee: 28th, SG Approach: 4th, SG Around the Green: 25th, SG Tee to Green: 3rd, SG Putting: 19th.
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:
Brandt Snedeker: “Yeah, I’m playing a lot better than I have been early in the year. I’m excited about the way I’m rolling the ball, putting great again. For whatever reason, seems like every week I have a bad round or a bad nine holes that kind of keeps me out of contention. So a big focus this week is staying patient. This is a golf course I had a lot of success on, I love it. It breeds kind of my kind of play hit, hit fairways, hit some greets, lots of wedge opportunities. It’s going to turn into a birdie-fest like it always does because the course is in great, shape so you know what you have to do when you step up on the first tee, put the ball in play and give yourself a lot of opportunities. So excited about that and excited about seeing how my game’s feeling. After last week at the PGA I kind of found something I thought on the weekend and hopefully it kind of stays in there and gives me a good chance to win this week.”
Henrik Stenson: “I think whenever you play a week after a Major championship, which isn’t all the time for me I found in the past you can find the golf courses quite easy when you play the tougher course the week before and you still kind of keep a strong mindset in terms of one shot at a time which, again, you always want to have but probably even more so at the Majors. It’s crucial. I’ve had some good success in particular playing in Germany the week after the U.S. Open a lot of times and done well.
Have left the driver out this week. Strong 3-wood, 4-wood and 2-iron. Putting myself in position and trying to stay out of that bermuda rough. If you do that you got pretty short clubs and you can be accurate with your second shots. Plenty more of the same tomorrow. I’m trying to be kind of offensive to defensive spots, if you know, off the tee on a few of holes but then you get a lot of 8, 9 irons, wedges into these greens and they’re pretty receptive. You can be pretty aggressive if you’re feeling you got good numbers and feels right, go for it. We’ll produce a lot of birdie chances the first two days. My putting has been excellent. I’ve seen the lines nicely. Hit a lot of good putts and I’ve been hitting a lot of good iron shots as well, some wedges and some mid to short irons, and that’s kind of what I keep on doing and trying to hit a lot of fairways with the 3-wood and trying to attacking the hole and that’s been working nicely so far. No need to change that for tomorrow.”
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 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.”
Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 7 winners of this event:
- 2018 – Brandt Snedeker: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
- 2017 – Henrik Stenson: Round 1: 2nd, Round 2:3rd, Round 3: 1st.
- 2016 – Si-Woo Kim: Round 1: 41st, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
- 2015 – Davis Love III: Round 1: 7th, Round 2: 3rd, Round 3: 10th.
- 2014 – Camilo Villegas: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 7th, Round 3: 8th.
- 2013 – Patrick Reed: Round 1: 3rd, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
- 2012 – Sergio Garcia: Round 1: 20th, Round 2: 3rd, Round 3: 1st.
Shots From the Lead: Below are the last 7 winners and where they were positioned in terms of shots from the lead during the tournament:
- 2018 – Brandt Snedeker: Round 1: 4 ahead, Round 2: 2 ahead, Round 3: 1 ahead.
- 2017 – Henrik Stenson: Round 1: 1 back, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 1 ahead.
- 2016 – Si Woo Kim: Round 1: 5 back, Round 2: 2 ahead, Round 3: 4 ahead.
- 2015 – Davis Love III: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 4 back.
- 2014 – Camilo Villegas: Round 1: 1 ahead, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 4 back.
- 2013 – Patrick Reed: Round 1: 1 back, Round 2: 1 ahead, Round 3: level.
- 2012 – Sergio Garcia: Round 1: 5 back, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 1 ahead.
Incoming form of winners since 2010:
- Brandt Snedeker: 42nd PGA/ 8th Canadian/MC Open/3rd Greenbrier.
- Henrik Stenson: 13th PGA/17th Bridgestone/11th Open/ 26th Scottish Open.
- Si-Woo Kim: 25th Travelers/MC PGA/23rd Canada/2nd Barbasol.
- Davis Love III: MC PGA/MC Canada/54th Greenbrier/MC Travelers.
- Camilo Villegas: WD Canada/45th JDC/26th Greenbrier/MC Quicken National.
- Patrick Reed: 9th Canada/7th JDC/MC Greenbrier/34th Quicken National.
- Sergio Garcia: MC PGA/29th Bridgestone/MC Open/29th BMW Intl.
- Webb Simpson: MC PGA/9th Greenbrier/16th Open/8th AT&T National
- Arjun Atwal: MC Price Cutter/17th Witchita/68th Greenbrier/74th Canada.
First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave and winning score since 2010. Full First Round Leader stats are here.
- 2018 – Snedeker – AM -11/59 – 33/1.
- 2017 – Every – AM -9/61 – 200/1.
- 2016 – Cabrera-Bello/Na – Both AM -7/63.
- 2015 – Compton/Hoge/McGirt – 2AM/1PM -8/62.
- 2014 – Villegas – PM -7/63.
- 2013 – Fisher/Stroud – AM/PM Split -6/64.
- 2012 – Pettersson – AM -8/62.
- 2011 – Gainey/Quinney – AM/PM Split -7/63.
- 2010 – Atwal – PM -9/61.
For the record, here’s the breakdown of Bermudagrass PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:
- 4 – Bill Haas, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed.
- 3 – Ernie Els, Billy Horschel, Brandt Snedeker, Jordan Spieth.
- 2 – Daniel Berger, Paul Casey, Luke Donald, Jason Dufner, Fabian Gomez, Russell Henley, Si Woo Kim, Scott Piercy, Jimmy Walker.
- 1 – Ryan Armour, Aaron Baddeley, Jonas Blixt, Jonathan Byrd, Cameron Champ, Austin Cook, Harris English, Branden Grace, Cody Gribble, Adam Hadwin, Padraig Harrington, Charles Howell III, Mackenzie Hughes, Martin Kaymer, Patton Kizzire, Satoshi Kodaira, Martin Laird, Adam Long, Peter Malnati, Pat Perez, Rory Sabbatini, Webb Simpson, Cameron Smith, Scott Stallings, Robert Streb, Kevin Streelman, Brian Stuard, Nick Taylor, Michael Thompson, Johnson Wagner, Nick Watney, Aaron Wise.
Recent winning totals of -21, -22, -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. It’s also worth noting that we’re returning to a Champion Bermudagrass greened golf course this week – naturally many have played months of Bentgrass and Poa Annua grasses. On the current PGA schedule the only courses with Champion Bermudagrass greens feature at last weeks WGC venue TPC Southwind, Quail Hollow (since the 2017 PGA Championship) and the Country Club of Jackson.
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, Si Woo Kim, Henrik Stenson and Brandt Snedeker 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), Detroit Golf Club (this year’s Rocket Mortgage Classic), 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, 44th, 75th and 80th suggest that we should certainly look a little deeper than the very obvious candidates this week.
My selections are as follows: