Wyndham Championship Starter: Storylines, Power Rankings, and Whatnot

Wyndham Championship
Chez Reavie tees off on the 2nd hole during the final round of the 2017 Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield CC in Greensboro, NC. Photo by William Howard/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The PGA Tour concludes its regular season this week as it makes its annual post-majors trip to Greensboro for the Wyndham Championship.

If that feels early… well, that is because it is. The changes to the yearly PGA Tour schedule that were implemented for the 2019 season have put this final week of the regular season at the beginning of August, rather than the end, as has been in the past.

What remains, however, is the same high-stakes conclusion to the Tour’s regular season. The top-125 players in the FedExCup standings will be in the field the following week for the Northern Trust Open – the first round of the new, revamped three-week FedExCup playoff.

As ridiculously lucrative as the playoffs are (and the prizes are going up this year), it should come as no surprise that the field at Sedgefield Country Club – the host venue of the Wyndham Championship, is replete with players on that playoff bubble, hoping to make the playoffs and the myriad exemptions that come with it.

An event that opened a year ago with Brandt Snedeker becoming the eighth player in PGA Tour history to shoot a 59 on his way to victory, the Wyndham Championship has been an entertaining scorefest in recent years, and this year should be no different.

The top of the FedExCup standings are largely missing, but the field is still strong, headlined by the likes of Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson, and Hideki Matsuyama, along with rookie sensations Matthew Wolff, Collin Morikawa, and Viktor Hovland.

It should be a fitting end to an unforgettable regular season.


The Skinny

Tournament: Wyndham Championship
Dates: Aug. 1-4, 2019
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
Purse: $6,200,000
Winning Share: $1,116,000
Trophy: Sam Snead Cup
Defending Champion: Brandt Snedeker 
Marquee Players: Webb Simpson, Hideki Matsuyama, Jason Dufner, Chez Reavie, Patrick Reed, Paul Casey, Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland, Matthew Wolff, Brandt Snedeker, Billy Horschel, Jordan Spieth, Joaquin Niemann


TV & Online

Rd 1: Th 3-6:00 pm (GOLF)
Rd 2: Fr 3-6:00 pm (GOLF)
Rd 3: Sa 1-2:45 pm (GOLF)
Rd 3: Sa 3-6:00 pm (CBS)
Rd 4: Su 1-2:45 pm (GOLF)
Rd 4: Su 3-6:00 pm (CBS)
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History Spotlight

Sam Snead
52-year old Sam Snead poses with the trophy after winning the 1965 Greater Greensboro Open at Sedgefield CC in Greensboro, NC. Credit: AP Photowire

The Wyndham Championship is one of the longer-running events on the PGA Tour, with roots dating all the way back to 1938, when the inaugural event was won by the legendary Sam Snead. That would be just the beginning in Greensboro for Snead, as he would go on to win the event a record eight times. The last of those wins occurred in 1965 when Snead became the oldest player to win on the PGA Tour (at 52 years old), a record that still stands today. Needless to say, it was the final victory of record-setting career.

That inaugural event was held at Sedgefield, just as this year’s event is. The Wyndham Championship has flipped between three courses, all in the Greensboro, North Carolina area, with Sedgefield again becoming the permanent venue in 2008.

In addition to Snead, notable winners of the tournament include Ralph Guldahl, Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Lloyd Mangrum, Billy Casper, Julius Boros, Gary Player, Seve Ballesteros, Raymond Floyd, and Davis Love III.

Love has three victories, which puts him second in event history, although still well behind Snead. Interestingly, Love was also in his 50s the last time he won, the last victory of his Hall of Fame career. Eight other players have also won the event multiple times.

History: Tournament Names

2007-19: 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

2018: Brandt Snedeker (-21)
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)

History: Records

Scoring:
258 Henrik Stenson (2017)
-23 Jesper Parnevik (1999)

Wins:
8 – Sam Snead (1938, 1946, 1949-50, 1955-56, 1960, 1965)
3 – Davis Love III (1992, 2006, 2015)


Storylines

1. Last Chance For FedExCup Playoffs

Pat Perez
Pat Perez watches his ball on the 13th tee during the first round of the BMW Championship at Aronimink GC on Sep. 6, 2018 in Newtown Square, PA. Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

As it always is in this event, the big story is the race for the FedExCup playoffs. In an average year, 2-3 players make their way from out of the projected top 125 to into it in this last week of the regular season.

Last year that number was two, and in recent years, the number has been as high as five.

The Wyndham Championship field is heavy on players on or around that top 125 bubble with notables including Pat Perez (122), Patton Kizzire (129), Peter Uihlein (130), Jason Dufner (136), and Bill Haas (140).

This event is not just for the bubble guys, however. Those who are higher up in the standings have a better shot at making the Tour Championship at East Lake (Top 30), so the field also contains a considerable amount of players who are safe to make the playoffs, but are looking to improve their chances for a deep run.


2. Snedeker Defends

Brandt Snedeker
Brandt Snedeker celebrates on the 18th green after making birdie to win the Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield CC on August 19, 2018 in Greensboro, NC. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

A year ago, Brandt Snedeker opened the Wyndham Championship with a 59, just the ninth time in PGA Tour history that a player who shot a sub-60 round. That considerable cushion allowed him to transmute that very low first round score into a tournament victory: a three-stroke victory over Webb Simpson and C.T. Pan.

It was not quite as much of a romp as the final score makes it look, however, as he and Pan were tied going into the final hole, which Pan absolutely butchered.

It was Snedeker’s second career Wyndham victory, having also taken the 2007 edition the year before it was moved to the current venue. On the current season, he has four top-10 finishes in 23 starts, with a high of second at the season-opening Safeway Open.


3. Spieth Tuning Up

Jordan Spieth
Jordan Spieth lines up a putt on the third hole during the final round of The Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club on June 02, 2019 in Dublin, Ohio. Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

The trials and tribulations of the disappointing 2019 season for 11-time Tour winner Jordan Spieth have led to a surprising late entry in this year’s Wyndham Championship.

This will be Spieth’s first time playing this event since he finished runner-up in a playoff to Patrick Reed in his 2013 rookie season.

The FedExCup Champion four years ago, Spieth is looking to improve his standing in a year where he currently sits at 67th in the standings, well below the lofty standards he has set. His 2019 season was an absolute disaster until he managed a T3 finish at the PGA Championship in May.

The 25-year old Texan has been better over the second half of the season, but has struggled badly in closing events, which was on display two weeks ago at The Open Championship when he shot a final round 77 to drop from 8th to T20.

Spieth was T12 at last week’s WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, off the strength of a 66-68 weekend.


4. Red-Hot Morikawa

Collin Morikawa
Collin Morikawa poses with the trophy after winning the Barracuda Championship at Montreux Country Club on July 28, 2019 in Reno, Nevada. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The big story at last week’s opposite-field event, the Barracuda Championship, was the PGA breakthrough of rookie wunderkind Collin Morikawa, a 22-year-old who just turned professional in June.

Not yet a member of the PGA Tour, by winning the Barracuda, Morikawa gained membership and the non-member FedExCup points he had previously earned became relevant, vaulting him to No. 46 in the standings, the highest ranking of anyone who has made fewer than 10 starts on the season.

The Cal product made waves when he battled fellow recently-turned pro Matthew Wolff down to the final hole at the recent inaugural 3M, and he has managed to stay hot since, with a T4 at the John Deere Classic before last week’s win.

Morikawa has gone from a somewhat unknown to one of the favorites in this week’s event.


5. Hovland Looking To Join Rookie Peers

Viktor Hovland
Viktor Hovland lines up a shot on the 16th hole during the final round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic at the Detroit Golf Club on June 30, 2019 in Detroit, MI. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

It seems likely that nobody in this week’s field is more jealous of Collin Morikawa and Matthew Wolff than Viktor Hovland.

A 21-year-old Norweigan star, Hovland also turned professional recently – the week after setting the all-time amateur scoring record in a T12 performance at the U.S. Open. He has been phenomenal in the four starts since turning pro, but unlike Morikawa and Wolff, he does not have a win yet, so the FedEx points he’s accumulated (as a non-member) do not count. If they did, he would easily qualify for the playoffs, which should give him some extra motivation to win this week’s event – his last chance to make the postseason despite just four starts on tour.

In his past three starts, Hovland has finishes of T13-T-13-T16 respectively, and has shone on Sunday in all three starts, posting rounds of 64, 65, and 64 to make large late jumps up the leaderboards. Big things are likely coming regardless of this week, but a win would be especially enormous.


Power Rankings

1. Webb Simpson
2. Patrick Reed
3. Hideki Matsuyama
4. Brandt Snedeker
5. Lucas Glover
6. Billy Horschel
7. Collin Morikawa
8. Jordan Spieth
9. Paul Casey
10. Joaquin Niemann


Top Sleeper: Brice Garnett

Brice Garnett tees off during the third round of the Corales Puntacana Championship. (Credit: Getty Images/Christian Petersen)

This week, the bubble guys on the FedExCup standings deserve an extra look, and none appear to be in a better position to thrive this week than Brice Garnett. The 35-year-old currently sits in the danger zone at No. 121, and the sense of urgency could do him well in an event that he has played exceptionally well at in his past two attempts.

A year ago, he used bookend 65s to finish at 13-under, which was good enough for a T20, the same result he had in his prior attempt two years earlier. He does not have a top 10 finish since November, but his game has been rounding out well as of late, with three finishes of T23 or better in his last four starts, and he has gone five consecutive starts without a round of worse than 71. He also ranks 7th on Tour in driving accuracy and 21st in greens in regulation.


Stat of the Week

Brandt Snedeker 59
Brandt Snedeker tees off on the 7th hole during round one of the 2018 Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, NC. Photo by Jeremy McKnight/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

60.3 – The last three winners of the Wyndham Championship have averaged a 60.3 in their lowest round of the tournament. In addition to the 59 posted in the first round by Brandt Snedeker last year, Henrik Stenson posted a first round 62 in his 2017 victory, and Si Woo Kim had a 60 in the second round when he won in 2016.

It should also be noted that all three of those low rounds were before the weekend, showing the importance of getting off a strong start at Sedgefield.


End Quotes

“If a lot of people gripped a knife and fork the way they do a golf club, they’d starve to death.”
Sam Snead, 8-time Wyndham Championship winner

“I don’t really know where this puts me, but my purpose is to win next week. Thankfully, I’ve played it before. It’s been a while since I played it. Obviously it’s going to play a little different, but to get on a course I’m finally familiar with a little bit, know some lines, and it’s not going to be brand new to me, it’s going to be a little easier.”
Collin Morikawa, last week’s winner of the Barracuda Championship

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