One of the most thrilling and engrossing regular seasons in PGA Tour history has come to an end in appropriate fashion. In a year where one inspired player after another came back from the nadir of their careers, Brandt Snedeker ended a nearly three-year winless drought with a three-stroke triumph at the season-concluding Wyndham Championship.
Snedeker was a former Tour great who had become forgotten after an injury-truncated 2017 season, but in recent months was again threatening the lead on a regular basis. Opening the Wyndham, a sponsor closely affiliated with Snedeker, by becoming the ninth player in PGA Tour history to join the exclusive “59 Club”, the 37-year-old Vanderbilt product won his ninth career PGA Tour event to enter the FedExCup Playoffs on a hot streak, despite having a target on his back all week.
Given that Snedeker won the FedExCup, and its $10 million first-place prize in 2012, the other 155 players in the field at Sedgefield Country Club should be warned that they may have awakened a monster.
Winning by three strokes over C.T. Pan and PLAYERS Champion Webb Simpson with a Sunday 5-under 65, Snedeker suddenly finds himself relevant again, and at the best time to do so.
Final Top 10
1. Brandt Snedeker -21
2. C.T. Pan -18
2. Webb Simpson -18
4. Jim Furyk -17
4. D.A. Points -17
6. Brian Gay -16
6. Ryan Moore -16
8. Ryan Armour -15
8. Nick Taylor -15
8. David Hearn -15
11. Hideki Matsuyama -14
11. Billy Horschel -14
11. Rafa Cabrera Bello -14
20. Henrik Stenson -13
24. Sergio Garcia -12
33. Joaquin Niemann -11
41. Julian Suri -9
45. Sam Saunders -8
45. Bill Haas -8
57. Ollie Schniederjans -6
57. Graeme McDowell -6
66. Jason Dufner -4
How Snedeker Won the Wyndham Championship
Opening with a 59 would appear to make things easy going forward, but what that historic round did was give the field a common enemy. Everyone was gunning for Snedeker, and he just barely held on, becoming just the second golfer in 2018 to win an event wire-to-wire (Brice Garnett, Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship).
Snedeker was forced to finish his weather-shortened third round on Sunday morning, and after playing his final 11 holes of round three to 1 over, he entered the fourth round with just a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay and David Hearn.
But while Gay and Hearn got off to shaky starts on their final 18, Snedeker was flawless, shooting a bogey-free 3-under 32.
On the back nine, however, he faced intense pressure from two players who caught him on the closing stretch: C.T. Pan, who was gunning for his first career victory, and Webb Simpson, a horse for Sedgefield, who exploded into contention with a final-round 62.
Pan, a Chinese Taipei native, actually stood on the 18th tee box tied for the lead, but with his wife on the bag, he smashed his drive out of bounds, leading to final-hole double-bogey.
Pan’s double, coupled with a bogey by Simpson on No. 18, Snedeker reached the last just needing a bogey to win. He birdied, though, to take the title by three strokes.
For the week, Snedeker finished second in birdies, and a econd in strokes gained: tee-to-green – a stat that quite often leads to great results at Sedgefield.
What It Means For Snedeker
It means that he is good again. That is not to say he was ever “not good,” but after an injury cut short his 2017 season by several months, Snedeker has struggled to regain the previous form that led to eight wins over the previous eight seasons.
At the end of May, Snedeker had played 15 events without a top-10 finish, and failed to qualify for The Masters for the first time since 2010.
However, things started to turn around with a T6 at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in June, which he followed up with top 10s at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier (T3) and RBC Canadian Open (T8). Now, the man who had been on the periphery of even making the playoffs is in position to make another deep run, as the victory at Sedgefield gets him to 30th in the final regular-season standings.
Snedeker is a lock to make it through the first three rounds, and given that he has won the playoffs before, he’s not a player that the Tour Championship field will take lightly.
In an average year, 2.7 golfers play themselves into The Northern Trust, the first round of the FedExCup Playoffs, after entering the Wyndham Championship outside the top 125.
This year? Those who took the under were rewarded, as just two players played their way into the playoffs in Greensboro. Those two players were Canada’s Nick Taylor, who after a final round 63, good for a T8, moved from 129th to 119th, and Harris English, whose T11 jumped him from 132nd to 124th.
Taylor will be one of just two Canadians in the field (Adam Hadwin, 70th), while English will be in the playoffs for the 7th time in seven full-time PGA Tour seasons.
To make room for Taylor and English, Martin Piller (124th to 126th) and Tyrone Van Aswegen (125th to 127th) were pushed out of playoff contention. Both players missed the Wyndham cut.
The most notable player to finish outside the FedExCup’s top 125 is 2017 Masters Champion Sergio Garcia, who finished 128th.
Garcia, who will be missing the playoffs for the first time in his career, came into the week at 131st and was in good shape to play himself in after a 66-65-67 start had him in 8th place in the field going into Sunday, but three bogeys over the first six holes on the back nine led to a final round even-par 70, which dropped him to 24th place at the Wyndham, and kept him from making the playoff field. Garcia finished 128th in the standings.
The 2011 Wyndham Champion, Webb Simpson, is the tournament’s No. 2 all-time leading money winner, and was on pace for another solid finish, as he sat just outside the top 10 after three rounds.
However, despite having a high FedExCup position wrapped-up, in addition to a roster spot on the American Ryder Cup team, Simpson played with urgency on Sunday, and his 8-under 62 was the lowest final-round score in the field. He did most of his damage late, with birdies on 13, 15, 16, and 17 to tie for the lead, but a bogey on the par-4 18th made things just a touch easier for Snedeker.
Simpson finished the regular season 7th in the FedExCup standings, by far the best finish of anyone who played at Sedgefield this week.
Chris Kirk, a man who finished No. 2 in the final FedExCup standings in 2014 after getting hot late in the season, solidified his position inside the top 125 with a final round 6-under 64 that moved him 18 spots up the Wyndham leaderboard, into a tie for 11th place.
Kirk will enter the playoffs in the 59th position.
Matching Kirk’s Sunday 64 was Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello, who joined Kirk at T11. Cabrera Bello finished inside the top 10 at last week’s PGA Championship, and with back-to-back strong finishes, he is making a late impression on European Ryder Cup Captain Thomas Bjorn.
The man often called RCB for short, was one of Europe’s best-performing players at the last Ryder Cup in 2016.
Sergio Garcia’s final-round troubles was the most notable among Sunday’s strugglers, but he was far from the only player in the field who wishes they could have Sunday back.
Brian Gay snuck into the final pairing, threatening to win his first event since 2013, but the four-time PGA Tour winner bogeyed his first hole and failed to get back on track with a Sunday 1-under 69 that dropped him from second place to a tie for 6th.
Gay’s season will continue for at least a few more weeks, however, as he sits a respectable 48th in the FedExCup standings.
David Hearn, who was in the final Sunday threesome with Snedeker and Gay, did one stroke worse than Gay, carding bogeys on his first two holes to finish with an even-par 70.
Unlike Gay, the Canadian-born Hearn will not be in attendance in next week’s playoff opener, as his T8 finish at Sedgefield only moved him to 138th in the final FedExCup standings.
Sunday’s biggest drop came from a man who played himself into the playoffs at last year’s Wyndham, Rory Sabbatini. The South African played his final eight holes in 7-over, finishing with a 4-over 74 to drop 44 spots down the final leaderboard, and into a share of 57th place.
At 97th in the final FedExCup regular season standings, Sabbatini’s season is not over, but he cost himself considerable momentum with his Sunday troubles.
Historically, at least in recent years, the Ryder Cup captains have been players that are well past their prime, but for at least one day, American Captain Jim Furyk looked like a guy who could suit up for his team in September.
With a bogey-free 7-under 63 that was outdone only by Simpson, Furyk finished T4 at Sedgefield, his best finish on the PGA Tour since he was co-runner up to Dustin Johnson at the 2016 U.S. Open.
The 46-year-old 17-time PGA Tour champion fell just short of making the FedExCup playoffs (141st), but has to be feeling good after easily his best result of the season.
Next up for Furyk? He needs to choose the last four players who will be on the American Ryder Cup team.
Champion of the 2018 Wyndham Championship. Brandt, it’s evident listening to you talk that as a Wyndham guy and getting your first win here at this tournament that this means so much to you.
SNEDEKER: It does. It’s been a really emotional and stressful week, to say the least, to start the way I did [with 59] at a tournament that means so much to me. To have your first Tour win, which I don’t care, you ask anybody out here on Tour, it’s always special to him. To be able to come back here year after year and get close several times, not be able to do
it. To be a Wyndham guy now for, this is my 12th, 13th year with them, wanting so desperately to win this tournament, it was just a lot of emotion this week.
And to be able to cap it off the way I did today, to play pretty much a flawless round of golf except for the three-putt on 13, so proud of myself and so proud of the way I was able to hang in there. Just means the world to me that I was able to do it here in Greensboro with Wyndham Worldwide being the sponsor, it just means the world to me.