This week’s Wyndham Championship on the PGA Tour is a tale of two contests — there’s the race to capture the Sam Snead Cup, awarded to the winner of the tournament, and then there’s what is usually a mad scramble deeper in the field amid constantly changing calculations for those anxiously trying to crack the top-125 mark in the season-long FedEx Cup standings.
The last regular-season event of the 2017-18 PGA Tour season annually sends players to wildly differing fates. Those who finish inside the top 125 advance to the playoffs: three events with a gradual cutdown each week before the season culminates with the top 30 players in the standings playing for next month’s Tour Championship. All of the top 125 are also guaranteed to retain their tour cards for the 2018-19 season.
But those who finish from 126-200, unless exempt by another criteria, are relegated to the purgatory option of competing in the Web.com Tour Finals to try and keep their tour cards.
So, that said, what stories are likely to emerge as the weekend progresses? As you would expect after back-to-back weeks where events featured all 50 of the top players in the world, the depth of talent will drop substantially.
Only three of the current top 20 players in the Official World Golf Rankings are playing in Greensboro — No. 16 Hideki Matsuyama, No. 19 Henrik Stenson and No. 20 Webb Simpson.
Stenson is the defending champ, but he’s been battling a left elbow issue of late and missed the cut at last week’s PGA Championship. Out of the current top 30 in the FedEx Cup standings, just two of the top 30 players are playing this week, Simpson at No. 12 and Chesson Hadley, currently at No. 26.
Sitting right on the proverbial hot seat at position No. 125 in the FedEx Cup standings is Tyrone Van Aswegen, with Martin Piller seven points ahead of him at No. 124 and Chad Campbell just three points behind at No. 126. Taking a wider view, 13 players are outside the top 125 right now who have qualified for all 11 previous FedEx Cup playoffs, and there surely will be a lot of talk about two of them — Sergio Garcia, who won this event in 2012 but is currently No. 131 in the FedEx Cup standings, and Bill Haas, the 2011 Tour Championship winner, currently at No. 150.
On three occasions, as many as five players have done enough at the Wyndham to move back inside the top 125 and bump out another player. With a spread of just 37 FedEx Cup points separating the seven players at No. 123 to No. 129, this could be another of those years.
The 2018 Wyndham Championship will also be honoring the memory of PGA Tour member Jarrod Lyle, who passed away on Aug. 8 in his native Australia. A display will be included on the first tee which will feature replicas of Lyle’s golf bag and clubs. Lyle’s final start on the PGA Tour was the 2016 Wyndham Championship, before he was diagnosed with his third bout with leukemia.
Tournament: Wyndham Championship
Commonly Called: The Greensboro
Dates: Aug. 16-19, 2018
Where: Greensboro, N.C.
Course: Sedgefield Country Club
Distance: Par 70, 7,127 yards
Architect: Donald Ross
Format: 72-holes, stroke play, 36-hole cut
Winning Share: $1,080,000
Trophy: Sam Snead Cup
Defending Champion: Henrik Stenson
Marquee Players: Stenson, Webb Simpson, Hideki Matsuyama, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Chesson Hadley, Brendan Steele, Adam Scott, Si Woo Kim, Jason Dufner, Brandt Snedeker, Sergio Garcia, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Shane Lowry, Billy Horschel, Joaquin Niemann, Davis Love III
TV AND ONLINE
Round 1: Thu 3-6:00 pm (GOLF)
Round 2: Fri 3-6:00 pm (GOLF)
Round 3: Sat 1-2:45 pm (GOLF), 3-6:00 pm (CBS)
Round 4: Sun 1-2:45 pm (GOLF), 3-6:00 pm (CBS)
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For a second consecutive non-major, the PGA Tour is playing an event where the all-time victory holder has the record in a runaway. It was Tiger Woods at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational two weeks ago, an event he has won eight times. At the Wyndham Championship, that man is also the man with the most victories in PGA Tour history, Sam Snead.
Snead first won the tournament in 1938, which was the inaugural event, and went on to win eight times total, five more victories than second-place Davis Love III. Snead’s last Wyndham triumph, in 1965, was notable as the then 52-year-old became the oldest player to win a PGA event, a record that still stands today.
The trophy was eventuiallIn his later years, Snead took on the role of hosting the tournament. The winner’s trophy is called the Sam Snead Cup.
The beginnings of the Wyndham Championship can be traced all the way back to 1938, when it was known as the Greater Greensboro Open. The tournament has been played at three different courses, all in the Greensboro, N.C. area.
The current host venue, Sedfield Country Club, was the home course off and on in the early years before moving there permanently from 1961-1976 and then again from 2008-present.
In addition to Snead, notable winners include Ralph Guldahl, Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Lloyd Mangrum, Billy Casper, Julius Boros, Gary Player, Seve Ballesteros, Raymond Floyd, and Sandy Lyle.
HISTORY: TOURNAMENT NAMES
2007-18: Wyndham Championship
2003-06: Chrysler Classic of Greensboro
1996-02: Greater Greensboro Chrysler Classic
1988-95: KMart Greater Greensboro Open
1938-87: Greater Greensboro Open
HISTORY: RECENT 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)
258 Henrik Stenson (2017)
-23 Jesper Parnevik (1999)
8 – Sam Snead (1938, 1946, 1949-50, 1955-56, 1960, 1965)
3 – Davis Love III (1992, 2006, 2015)
Henrik Stenson set the tournament aggregate scoring record in winning the 2017 Wyndham Championship, posting a 22-under par total of 254 to edge Ollie Schneiderjans by a single stroke.
Stenson, playing in his first Wyndham since withdrawing from the first round in 2012, held a one-stroke lead after three rounds, and faced fierce competition early on Sunday.
His first seven holes included four birdies and two bogeys, keeping him out front, but in a sizeable crowd. At different points on the back nine, he briefly lost his lead to Kevin Na and Ryan Armour, but in both cases, he came back quickly to tie it up.
Stenson was just 2-under on the day after 12 holes, but then exploded down the stretch, birdieing four of his next five holes, highlighted by a 27-foot putt for birdie on 17.
That final birdie putt ended up being surprisingly important, as Schneiderjans had turned on the jets a group ahead of him, and came within inches of a final-hole eagle, which would have tied the lead.
Stenson needed just a par on 18 to win, and was able to get up-and-down from just off the green to secure the victory. Stenson said after the round that he thought he had a two-stroke cushion playing the final hole.
FINAL TOP 10
1. Henrik Stenson -22
2. Ollie Schneiderjans -21
3. Webb Simpson -18
4. Ryan Armour -17
4. Rory Sabbatini -17
4. Kevin Na -17
7. Martin Flores -15
7. Cameron Smith -15
7. Shane Lowry -15
10. Harold Varner III -14
10. Davis Love III -14
10. Richie Werenski -14
Normally, you would probably anoint defending champion Henrik Stenson as the favorite, especially after posting a tournament-record scoring performance last year. But tenderness in an elbow that apparently contributed to his missing the cut at the PGA Championship makes his chances somewhat iffy.
Momentum, along with some home cooking, would seem to be on the side of Webb Simpson. He’s coming in off a top 20 showing at the PGA, and earlier this year won THE PLAYERS Championship, his first Tour win in five years. The North Carolina has been a solid bet at past Wyndhams, with five top 10 finishes in nine starts, including winning the title in 2011.
Hideki Matsuyama has struggled most of the year, with only two top 10 finishes all season. The best positives you could cite for his chances are that he finished tied for third in 2016, the last time he played the Wyndham event, and he is coming in off a final round 66 at the PGA, his lowest round in almost two months and one which helped boost him to an overall tie for 35th.
Two other international players who were in the mix at the PGA would seem to be solid options for this week. Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello is the highest-ranked player in the Official World Golf Rankings (currently No. 30) without a PGA Tour victory. But he’s coming in off a tie for 17th showing at the WGC-Bridgestone and then a tie for 10th at the PGA last week. He last played the Wyndham in 2016, posting a tie for fifth that week.
Ireland’s Shane Lowry rode a second-round 64 to a tie for 12th overall at the PGA Championship, making three straight weeks he’s been in the top 15. He tied for 15th in the alternate event Barracuda Championship two weeks ago, and posted a tie for 12th the week prior to that at the RBC Canadian Open. Last year, he finished in a tie for 7th at the Wyndham.
One youngster to keep an eye on would be 19-year-old Joaquin Niemann from Chile. He was the world’s No. 1-ranked amateur until turning pro earlier this year, and has responded with four top 10 finishes in 11 starts while playing under Special Temporary Member status on the PGA Tour. His best showing was a tie for fifth at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier.
FULL FIELD AND ODDS
Wyndham Championship | Sedgefield CC | Greensboro, NC | Aug. 16-19, 2018
Credits: PGA Tour Media, Getty Images