If you’re betting in the First Round Leader market then check out our new combined FRL form and event FRL form stats here!
If you’re betting in the First Round Leader market then check out our new combined FRL form and event FRL form stats here!
It was fantastic to see Brooks Koepka deliver a 20/1 win return for this column last week. Landing a Major Championship is always hugely satisfying and Justin Thomas also gave us a slightly reduced each-way return. I know both were popular with readers so congratulations to all who backed them. Bellerive was a typical PGA Championship venue where power ultimately won out, but you have to say that yet again the PGA of America fashioned an exciting finish with Brooks holding off the revitalised forms of Adam Scott and Tiger Woods. You get the feeling that the likes of Spieth, Scott and Woods are looking forward to the FedEx Cup Playoffs which start next week.
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:
Over on the European Tour, Paul Williams previews the Nordea Masters – you can read his thoughts on that event here.
Paddy Power are attacking this week’s Wyndham Championship and are offering a massive 8 places each-way at 1/5 odds. If you haven’t already got a Paddy Power account then new customers can access a £/€20 risk-free bet which is refunded in CASH if it loses. 18+, T&Cs apply: Promo code YSKA01 required – use this qualifying link to claim.
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 with -21/259 and -22/258 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.
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 alongside Waialae CC (Sony Open). Take 2017 when with 25 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), 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: 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. NEW! Combined Current and Course Form is now available here.
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 Webb Simpson, Henrik Stenson, Hideki Matsuyama, Danny Lee, Billy Horschel, Ricky Barnes, Brandt Snedeker, Chesson Hadley, Whee Kim and Si Woo Kim.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on a 10-tournament window that stretches back to the FedEx St Jude Classic and includes both 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:
Winners & Prices: 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: 141/1. Past 4 Renewals Average: 197/1. For a full summary of winner’s odds on the PGA Tour since 2010 click here.
Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Greensboro, North Carolina, is here. I’m expecting soft conditions again this week in North Carolina. 26mm of rain fell last week and in total there’s been 133mm in early August so I’d expect at least Thursday and Friday’s action to feature receptive conditions. There’s a 50% chance of thunderstorms across Friday and Saturday evening. Winds in general will be light with the potential for 15mph breeze on Saturday, but with 33-34 degree Celsius temperatures forecast the 2018 Wyndham Championship will be another birdie-fest.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the past 6 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:
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 6 winners of this event:
Incoming form of winners since 2010:
First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave and winning score since 2010. Full First Round Leader stats are here.
For the record, here’s the breakdown of Bermudagrass green PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:
Recent winning totals of -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 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 and Henrik Stenson 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, 44th and 75th suggest that we should certainly look a little deeper than the very obvious candidates this week.
My selections are as follows:
Brandt Snedeker undoubtedly arrives in North Carolina with unfinished business. 80th in the FedEx Cup Standings is not where the 8-time PGA Tour winner usually resides but his fight back from last year’s sternum injury has taken time. Progress though of late has been excellent: 6th on the Champion Bermudagrass greens of TPC Southwind, 3rd at Old White TPC and 8th at Glen Abbey since the start of June has been the kind of haul of results we expect from the man from Tennessee. So a return to Sedgefield where Brandt has finished 5th (2009), 8th (2010), 5th (2014) and 3rd (2016) is a very timely one on the basis that he has the kind of lofty ambitions you expect from an ex-elite level player. Asked about jumping from 115th to 91st position in the FEC after the Greenbrier, Snedeker commented, “It’s a big jump, but not anywhere I still want to be. I’ve got to keep moving up that leaderboard. FedEx Cup is so important to me, obviously. Being a past champion, I kind of quantify my year like if I make it to East Lake, it’s been a good year, if I don’t, it’s not. So I’ve got a long way to go to get into the top 30. So I know I’ve got a lot of work in front of me. But glad I’m playing good again and playing back to my capabilities.“
24th for Strokes Gained Putting, the difference with Sneds of late has been his ability to hit fairways and greens on a far more regular basis and his scoring has been spectacular. 5 Eagles and 15 Birdies in Canada is a rarity to say the least and he was in the top 3 for birdies made at the Greenbrier Classic when finishing behind Kevin Na and Kevin Kraft. Brandt clearly loves Champion Bermudagrass greens and his record on Donald Ross designs on top of the 4 top-10s here includes 3rd at Plainfield in 2011 and a win at East Lake in 2012. RESULT: Winner
An auto bet in reality. Si Woo Kim won his first title here 2 years ago and we know that he thrives on Bermudagrass greens. Well backed last week for the PGA Championship, the bomber’s paradise that transpired was never going to suit the World Number 51. But prior to that 10th at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational was a great effort with the South Korean thriving in the soft course conditions, shooting 64/68 to sit 6th after 36 holes. 10th at Kapalua (2018), 4th at Waialae (2016), 9th at Austin (2018), 2nd at Harbour Town (2018), 1st at TPC Sawgrass (2017) and 2nd at RTJ Trail (2016) spells Bermudagrass monster to me. I’m keeping faith for just one more week prior to the PlayOffs. RESULT: MC
Chris Kirk is another who deserves respect this week. Within my top 10 of resort-level scoring players in this field, Chris has won 4 times on the PGA Tour. His maiden win at Annandale – Champion Bermudagrass – in 2011 (at -22/266) and his 3rd and 4th titles came on tree-lined tracks at TPC Boston (2014) and Colonial (2015). Kirk was solid last week at Bellerive finishing 37th – his best Major finish for 4 years – and I love his chances here in North Carolina. 53rd for Par Breakers, 13th in SG Approach and 7th in Proximity to Hole, Chris has noticeably started to putt much better of late, with him finishing 6th and 14th for SG Putting across St Jude Classic and the PGA Championship outings. That turns the Georgia man into a serious danger this week on the basis he putts so well on Champion Bermudagrass. 6th as recently as TPC Southwind in June, Kirk also has a win (2011), 10th (2012) and 9th ( 2013) to his name at Annandale plus a 2nd at the CC of Jackson (2016). He has a decent Donald Ross record to boot with 8th at Aronimink (2011) and 4th at East Lake (2014). A 54 hole leader at TPC Sawgrass (2015) the World Number 131 is upwardly mobile, loves Bermudagrass and birdie shootouts. RESULT: T11
I backed Nick Watney for this back in 2014. Back then Nick played brilliantly shooting 67-64-65 to lead by 2 strokes going into Sunday. A final round 70 put paid to his chances of victory but he finished 5th and that performance has always stuck with me when it comes to the Wyndham. That top-5 was the latest in the string of great Donald Ross finishes across Aronimink (1st 2011), Plainfield (10th 2011) and East Lake (4th 2010) and the 37 year-old, who lives in Nevada, is also a decent enough performer on Champion Bermudagrass. 8th at Annandale (2006), 12th at Atlanta Athletic Club (2011), the aforementioned 5th here and 2nd at Quail Hollow as recently as May highlights a player comfortable on these specialised putting surfaces. It also highlights a talented player who can still mix it on occasion. Nick also traditionally likes this late summer stage of the season: 6th at Forest Oaks as long as ago as 2006, he won at Bethpage in 2012 and was 2nd at Conway Farms in 2013. Nick has shot excellent single rounds across 3 of his last 4 performances namely Bellerive, Glen Abbey and Old White TPC and the putter definitely warmed in Canada where he was 10th for Putts per GIR which powered a 29th place finish. He’s simmering and with top results at the likes of Doral (1st 2011), TPC Sawgrass (4th 2011), Plainfield and Bethpage his CV correlates well with Wyndham champions Stenson, Villegas, Reed and Garcia. RESULT: MC
Whee Kim is at a career-high World Ranking and must arrive in North Carolina in great spirits. Already this season he’s finished 4th at the CJ Cup, 2nd at the Shriners Open, won the Descente Korea Munsingwear Matchplay in his homeland and finished 2nd at the RBC Canadian Open. Impressive when in contention, the 26 year-old is a superb putter who comes to the fore on receptive formats and he’s more than useful on Bermudagrass greens – this should be right up his street. 5th at Coco Beach (-17/271 – 2017) and 8th at TPC Louisiana (-17/271) show an ability to shoot low totals. 6th at Harbour Town (2015) on a Carolina set-up links in beautifully and then we have some strong Champion Bermudagrass links: 3rd at the 2015 Barbasol Championship at RTJ Trail and 2nd at the 2017 FedEx St Jude Classic at TPC Southwind highlights a player who thrives on Champion. 31st for Eagles per Hole, 66th for Par Breakers, 53rd for Proximity to Hole and 19th for Strokes Gained Putting are season-long PGA Tour statistics I love for the Wyndham test this week. RESULT: MC
Watch these tips on YouTube with Steve Bamford: Golf Betting System YouTube Channel
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