What a difference one weekend can make!
Coming into Wyndham Championship, the final week of the PGA Tour’s regular season, Jim Herman was in 192nd place in the FedExCup Standings. The 42-year-old from Cincinnati had made just seven cuts in 18 starts, with his best finish coming at January’s Sentry Tournament of Champions. He finished T27… in the 34-man field.
He was T55 at Pebble Beach in early February, and had made the cut just one additional time before last week’s PGA Championship, where he plummeted to T77 after a 72-75 weekend.
Desperately needing the week of his life to jump into the top 125 for the playoffs, the world No. 318 shot 66-69 to clear the cut line by two strokes. Then came the weekend: THE weekend.
Herman exploded up the leaderboard after a Saturday 61, more than ten strokes better than his 72.1 scoring average, which ranked 198th on Tour. Expecting another round like that bogey-free 9-under seemed unthinkable, and as a 600-1 longshot, few had that faith in him.
He proved them wrong.
Somehow, someway, Herman found a 7-under 63 on Sunday, not only winning at Sedgefield Country Club in an event than boasts Sam Freakin’ Snead as an 8-time champion, but making the biggest final-week jump since 2009, moving from that 192nd spot all the way to 54th, guaranteeing his spot in the field at next week’s The Northern Trust, the first event of the EXTREMELY lucrative playoffs.
Herman’s ridiculous weekend got him to 21-under for the week, one stroke better than 2014 FedExCup champion Billy Horschel.
In outdueling a leaderboard that included names like two-time major champion Zach Johnson, 2012 U.S. Open Champion and two-time season winner Webb Simpson, eight-time Tour winner and green jacket owner Patrick Reed, and former PLAYERS champion Si Woo Kim, Herman said it best on Twitter after his triumph: “Anybody do anything fun this weekend?”
Leaderboard: Final Top 10
Pos-Player-To Par (Final Rd)
1. Jim Herman -21 (-7)
2. Billy Horschel -20 (-5)
3. Kevin Kisner-18 (-6)
3. Webb Simpson -18 (-5)
3. Doc Redman -18 (-2)
3. Si Woo Kim -18 (E)
7. Harold Varner III -17 (-5)
7. Zach Johnson -17 (-5)
9. Denny McCarthy -16 (-7)
9. Patrick Reed -16 (-6)
9. Russell Henley -16 (-5)
9. Sungjae Im -16 (-5)
23. Shane Lowry -12
31. Paul Casey -9
37. Rafa Cabrera Bello -8
42. Brandt Snedeker -7
51. Davis Love III -6
59. Tommy Fleetwood -5
66. Sergio Garcia -4
72. Jordan Spieth -2
How Jim Herman Won The Wyndham Championship
Jim Herman had won twice before on the PGA Tour: the 2016 Shell Houston Open, sandwiched between a T63 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and a 9-over weekendless Masters, and then again at last year’s opposite-field Barbasol Championship, an event that contained a whole six players who finished the season in the top 100 of the FedExCup standings, where Y.E. Yang and Mike Weir were headliners, and was called off after three rounds. It was one of five cuts he made in that season, and his only top 50.
With a physique that could probably be described as wiry at best, it should not surprise anyone to hear that Herman ranks 188th on Tour in driving distance (285.1). His short game had not been much better in 2020; he was 209th in strokes gained: around-the-green, and 142nd in putting coming into the week, but it was what carried him most in North Carolina. He gained nearly six strokes on the field with his putter over the weekend, helped by hitting 13 of 14 fairways on both Saturday and Sunday, and missed just four greens over his last 36 holes.
After his 61, Herman came into the final round in fifth place, four strokes back of Si Woo Kim. An eagle on the par-5 fifth hole, which came courtesy of a 59-foot putt tied him for the lead. A bogey on 6 kept him behind Horschel for a time, but he bounced back with a birdie on 8. He played his back-nine in 3-under with birdies on 13, 15, and 17, the last of which got him 21-under. Billy Horschel had the chance to force a playoff, but his 9-foot birdie attempt, slid past the hole, even after his playing partner, Doc Redman, had just missed the same putt from a foot further away.
Herman’s birdie average of 3.30 ranks 198th on Tour, but he found a way to card 15 over the weekend. His 23 for the week ranked 7th in the field, and combined with just 8 bogeys, six of which came in round 2, he was 72nd in the field in pars. He led the field in greens in regulation and was third in strokes gained: putting.
Herman’s Winning Numbers
Driving: 298.4 yards (51st)
Fairways: 46/56, 82.14% (4th)
Greens: 63/72, 87.50% (1st)
Putts Per GIR: 108/1.714 (23rd)
What Winning Means For Herman
It means that the University of Cincinnati product has his Tour card for at least the next two seasons. Without this win, he was hoping to be accepted into the Korn Ferry Tour finals.
Now, he holds the 54th position in the FedExCup standings with the top 70 moving onto the BMW Championship. It also gives him some momentum with two more majors on the way this year. His previous best finish in a major was a T43 at the 2016 Open Championship at Royal Troon, which was 25 strokes behind winner Henrik Stenson.
The win also moves Herman back into the top 100 in the world rankings for the first time since hitting 68th after his 2016 victory at the Shell Houston Open.
Herman’s 2020 Season
Cuts Made: 7
Wins: 1 (Wyndham)
Additional Top 10: 0
Earnings: $1,356,000 (60)
FedExCup Pts: 581 (54)
World Rank Before/After: 318/100*
In a typical year, which does not describe this season whatsoever, 3-5 golfers play themselves from outside the top 125 of the FedExCup Standings to into it in the final week of the regular season. This year? Three… so at least one thing was predictable.
In addition to Herman’s absurd 138 spot rocket up the standings, Zach Johnson, who uncharacteristically missed the playoffs last season jumped from 129th to 104th, and reigning Open Championship winner Shane Lowry went from 131st to 122nd.
To make move for that well-recognized trio, Argentinan Fabian Gomez dropped from 122nd to 126th after missing the cut, Scotland’s Russell Knox fell from 124th to 127th after a T72, and former Masters champ Charl Schwartzel was unable to hold onto the last position moving from 125th to 128th.
Ironically, Wyndham Clark holds the final position in the standings after the Wyndham Championship.
121. Beau Hossler
122. Shane Lowry
123. Tom Lewis
124. Bo Hoag
125. Wyndham Clark
126. Fabian Gomez
127. Russell Knox
128. Charl Schwartzel
129. Rafa Cabrera Bello (bogeyed last three holes on Sunday)
130. Bronson Burgoon
Other notable finishes: Sergio Garcia (135), Danny Willett (146), J.B. Holmes (148), Jason Dufner (164), Branden Grace (165), Jimmy Walker (179)
Herman’s 61 was the low score in the field on Saturday, and his Sunday 63 was matched by only one player: former Korn Ferry Tour finals champion Denny McCarthy, who jumped 14 spots up the leaderboard with his efforts, into a tie for ninth place. The 27-year-old will begin the FedExCup playoffs in 65th position.
World No. 34 Kevin Kisner had eight Sunday birdies on his way to a 6-under 64. The match play extraordinaire netted his second third-place finish since the COVID-19 restart, also finishing in the tertiary position at last month’s Rocket Mortgage Classic.
It was another year, another high Wyndham finish for Webb Simpson. The man who named his son Wyndham after taking the 2011 title matched his Saturday 65 with another 5-under effort to finish T3. Simpson finished runner-up at both the 2018 and 2019 events, third in 2017, sixth in 2015, fifth in 2014, and 11th in 2013.
The first time in real contention at a PGA Tour event did not in storybook fashion for Rob Oppenheim. Playing in the final pairing after a Saturday 62, the 40-year-old was unable to extend his season to his home state of Massachusetts.
With bogeys on three of his final six holes, the world No. 481 was 10 shots worse on Sunday, shooting a 2-over 72 to finish T15 and 138th in the FedExCup standings.
While Herman and several others moved themselves into the right side of the playoff bubble, one player who was not so fortunate was Peter Malnati. The 33-year-old Missouri product will not be returning to the top 125 after an even-par 70 dropped him from T7 to T20, which locked him into the 137th position.
The biggest drop down the final leaderboard came from a surprising place in early PGA Championship contender Tommy Fleetwood. The Englishman was at 9-under to being the final day, but a 4-over 74, which included zero birdies caused him to plummet 36 spots from T23 to T59.
Final Question For Jim Herman
Q. This place is normally packed on Sunday. What was the vibe like out there today being in contention without any galleries?
JIM HERMAN: “Yeah, obviously I played six events since the restart and didn’t feel too much different other than coming down the stretch on the 18th hole, 9th hole, especially for me not being in the featured pairings or anything like that, so it really didn’t feel too much different until, like I said, the galleries around the 18th hole.
“Sometimes it’s difficult to see how well you hit a shot. That was weird coming up 18. I’m sure if I had a one-shot lead and the full gallery and I hit that shot on 18, I would have got quite the applause. I really didn’t know, I couldn’t see where it was, so it was definitely weird.
“It’s just something we all have to deal with. And we all look forward to having the fans back out here just cheering us on. We love playing, but we love playing for everybody, everybody watching at home and everybody that’s here in the local communities. We look forward to whenever that might be.”