Wyndham Championship: Wrap-UpOver the past several months, the 2021 PGA Tour season has erupted into the Year of the Playoff. It was appropriate that their regular-season finale ended in a crazy, six-man affair.
GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA – AUGUST 15: Russell Henley of the United States waves on the 18th green during the final round of the Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club on August 15, 2021 in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Greensboro, North Carolina’s Sedgefield Country Club was the host venue to the thrilling showdown, with Kevin Kisner carding an incredible birdie on the second extra hole to knock off Kevin Na, Branden Grace, Si Woo Kim, Adam Scott, and Roger Sloan at the Wyndham Championship, the final event before the FedExCup Playoffs begin in a week.
It was the fourth victory of Kisner’s career, and first since dominating the field at the 2019 WGC-Match Play Championship. Strangely, despite the match-play prowess he has consistently exhibited, the 37-year-old had been 0 for 5 in playoffs in his career.
Kisner’s victory breathes life back into his season, which had stagnated with finishes of 73rd and 63rd in his last two starts after back-to-back top 10s early last month.
The six-man playoff tied the 1994 GTE Byron Nelson Golf Classic and the 2001 Nissan Open for the most-ever participants in extra holes of a tournament. It came just two weeks after The Olympics, not an official PGA event, hosted a seven-man playoff for the bronze medal.
And the playoff very nearly had seven. Russell Henley, the Wyndham leader after each of the first three rounds, and a three-stroke advantage heading into the final day, suffered a three-putt bogey on the 72nd hole, to miss the playoff by one stroke. It was the 13th consecutive Tour event where the 54-hole leader was unable to close. The last to do it successfully was 51-year-old Phil Mickelson at the PGA Championship in May.
In addition, two other players missed the playoff by a stroke, and 23 players finished the week within three strokes of the lead. It was as crowded of a leaderboard as the Tour has seen in recent memory.
As exciting as the regulation finish was, it was nothing compared to the playoff. The first playoff hole, played at the 18th, saw all six golfers par to live another hole. All six players took different routes to card their par, with four of them needing to get up and down from off the green. It appeared that Scott might put an end to the playoff then, but after a brilliant approach shot to four feet, he missed the pressure putt, something that has plagued the Aussie in his career. Making matters worse, Kim had just hit his par putt on the same line just barely behind him.
Back to 18 again, it was Kisner who executed the pristine approach. Each of the other five players carded their second consecutive par before Kisner calmly sunk the tournament winner from three feet.
Final round tee times had been pushed up considerably to avoid incoming storms, adding in another complication for a final day that was difficult to process. Finishing at 14-under-par, one stroke out of the playoff was Henley, 2011 Wydham Champion and two-time runner-up Webb Simpson, and two-time PGA Tour winner Kevin Streelman.
2021 Wyndham Championship
<>h5>Leaderboard: Top 10
Pos-Player-To Par (Final Rd)
1. Kevin Kisner -15 (-4)*
2. Roger Sloan -15 (-4)
2. Adam Scott -15 (-5)
2. Branden Grace 15 (-4)
2. Kevin Na -15 (-4)
2. Si Woo Kim -15 (-6)
7. Webb Simpson -14 (-4)
7. Kevin Streelman -14 (-4)
7. Russell Henley -14 (+1)
10. Nick Taylor -13 (-6)
10. Brendon Todd -13 (-5)
10. Adam Hadwin -13 (-4)
10. Justin Rose -13 (-3)
10. Rory Sabbatini -13 (-2)
How Kevin Kisner Won The Wyndham Championship
At last week’s WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, Kisner’s disaster weekend ended with a Sunday 9-over 72 that included two double-bogeys and a quadruple-bogey 8, the third eight on his card for the week.
He was able to quickly forget what happened a week ago, however, when he opened the Wyndham Championship with a 5-under 65. After a 68 in the second round and a 66 in the third, Kisner came into the final round at 11-under, four shots back of Henley.
Kisner needed little time to make up the gap, carding birdies on 1, 4, 5, and 6. He made the turn at 3-under and lost further ground on Henley with a bogey at 14, but he got back on track with birdies on 16 and 17, while Henley floundered on the back nine and nobody else was able to get ahead of 15-under-par.
Kisner’s final round was a second consecutive 4-under 66.
He looked nearly done for on the first playoff hole, and a wayward second shot that landed well off the green. He barely missed holing the pitch shot, however, and stayed alive with the Scott missed birdie.
For the week, Kisner had 23 birdies, which tied for fourth in the field. As usual, his putting was his biggest asset, as he finished eighth in the field in strokes gained: putting. He was also eighth in greens in regulation and 12th in strokes gained: tee-to-green.
What It Means For Kisner
With the win, Kisner moved 40 spots up the final FedExCup standings from 69th to 29th. With the top 30 after the second round moving onto the Tour Championship at East Lake, he put himself in excellent position to make the finale for the sixth time in the last seven seasons. He will also see a considerable jump in his No. 52 world ranking. He started the season 25th.
Where it really gets interesting with Kisner, though, is in regards to next month’s Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits. His win moves him to 18th in the American standings for the 12-man team. The top six make it automatically, while captain Steve Stricker will decide the other six. Momentum helps Kisner considerably, and he also has a tremendous match-play record. Still, he is a short-hitter, which makes him an awkward fit at the course, and there are many great players in the running.
FedExCup Playoff Movement
Despite a constantly changing leaderboard, and the Wyndham field comprising of nearly every player on or near the FedExCup playoff bubble, only three golfers this week moved from outside the top 125, that being the cut-off for next week’s The Northern Trust.
Roger Sloan, an unheralded Canadian, moved from 131st to 92nd with the runner-up finish. In addition Scott Piercy jumped from 126th to 116th, and Chesson Hadley moved from 132nd to the final spot (125th).
On the other side, a pair of Buckeyes fell out of the top 125: Ryan Armour, who dropped from 122nd to 127th, and Bo Hoag, who fell from 125th to 129th. Other other player to drop out was Patrick Rodgers, who fell from 123rd to 128th.
Former World No. 1 Justin Rose was projected to make the top 125, but a bogey on the 72nd hole made him the first player out. Rose had made the playoffs every year since they began. Other notables missing the playoff cut were Camilo Villegas (130th), recent Olympic silver-medal winner Rory Sabbatini (133rd), and previous playoff regular Rickie Fowler (134th).
In order to sneak into the FedExCup playoffs, Chesson Hadley needed the round of his life, and executed it perfectly. His 8-under 62 was Sunday’s low round, and included five birdies and his first career hole-in-one on Tour, which happened on the par-3 16th. Hadley moved 36 spots from T51 to T15.
Among the six players in the Wyndham playoff, the man who came from further back was Si Woo Kim. The three-time Tour champion shot a bogey-free 6-under 64 that jumped him from T15 to T2. He got up-and-down for par on both extra holes.
Adam Scott, 41-year-old former Masters champion looking for the 15th win of his PGA Tour career, carded eight birdies on his way to a 5-under 65. He will be remembered for missing that four-footer on the first playoff hole, and has a history of some notable missed putts, but many would be surprised to know that he actually ranks 16th on Tour this season in strokes gained: putting.
Aside from Henley, who also held the 54-hole co-lead at the U.S. Open before finishing T13, the most disappointing final round was likely from 30-year-old Tyler McCumber, who began the final day in solo second place. McCumber had three birdies to three bogeys on his Sunday to fall from second to T15.
England’s Tommy Fleetwood, arrived at Sedgefield at 136th in the FedExCup standings, and needed a strong result to get into the field for next week’s The Northern Trust. Fleetwood dropped four shots over his final five holes to shoot 3-over 73, and drop 14 spots to T65 on the final leaderboard. He played both his weekend rounds over par.
Sunday’s biggest dropper, by far was Tyler Duncan, who was in second place through 36-holes after a Friday 8-under 62. Still T9 after a third-round 69, Duncan was ghastly on Sunday, with just one birdie in a field-worst 6-over 76 that plummeted him 48 spots to T57. He finished the season 162nd in the FedExCup standings.
“Yeah, it was a heck of a week. To be honest, coming down with three or four holes to go, I really didn’t think I had a chance to win. I wasn’t watching the boards all day. When I birdied 16, I looked up and saw that I was only one back and I knew that 17 was a birdie hole and if you could hit a good drive on 18 you could have a chance. It’s a crazy way to break the no-wins-in-playoff streak, but it was a fun week, awesome week put on by everyone here in Greensboro.”
– Kevin Kisner, Wyndham Championship Winner