Wyndham Championship: Course specialist Webb worth chancing

Sedgefield specialist Webb Simpson
Sedgefield specialist Webb Simpson

We're off to North Carolina on the PGA Tour this week for the final event before the FedEx Cup Playoff Series begins so read Steve's in-depth preview ahead of Thursday's start here...

“The 2011 winner, Webb Simpson, absolutely loves Sedgefield and I simply couldn’t leave him out. His form figures here read MC-8-1-22-11-5-6 and he was beaten by just two strokes last year, despite missing eight putts from inside six feet!”

Tournament History

Sam Snead won the first Wyndham Championship in 1938 when it was known as the Greater Greensboro Open and he won it for the eighth time in 1965, at the age of 52 years and 10 months! That still stands as the most wins of a single PGA Tour event and he's still the oldest winner on Tour.

The Wyndham is the last counting event before the FedEx Cup Playoff series begins next week with The Barclays so players are looking to finish inside the top-125 on the rankings to secure their playing privileges for next season and to gain a place in the field at Bethpage Black next Thursday.


Venue

Sedgefield Country Club, Greensboro, North Carolina


Course Details

Par 70 7,130 yards
Stroke index in 2015 - 68.86

Founded in 1926, the Donald Ross-designed Sedgefield Country Club was the event's original venue but between 1977 and 2007 the tournament's permanent home was Forest Oaks Country Club. The Wyndham Championship returned to Sedgefield Country Club in 2008 - a year after Kris Spence had restored and lengthened the course so it could stand up to the modern game.

In typical Ross fashion, the greens are smaller than average, undulating and fairly fast, and they're usually set to run at around 12 on the stimpmeter. In the eight years since the event returned to Sedgefield, low scores have been the norm, with two winners, Carl Pettersson and Arjun Atwal, both shooting course record rounds of 61 on the way to victory.

Changes were made to the greens (bentgrass to Bermuda) prior to the 2012 renewal but it didn't seem to make the difference to the scores anticipated and although Patrick Reed's winning score of -14 in 2013 was the highest since the event returned to Sedgefield, the last two winners, Camilo Villegas and Davis Love III have both reached 17-under-par.

Sedgefield also hosted the Greensboro Open on the Web.com Tour between 1998 and 2000.


Weather Forecast


TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 20:00 on Thursday


Last Five Winners

2015 - Davis Love III -17
2014 - Camilo Villegas -17
2013 - Patrick Reed -14 (playoff)
2012 - Sergio Garcia -18
2011 - Webb Simpson -18


What Will it Take to Win The Wyndham Championship?

Following on from last week's similar test at the John Deere Classic, the Wyndham is another event in which length is not the be all and end all. Finding the fairways at Sedgefield, in order to best attack the small greens, is of more importance than hitting it miles off the tee. In the eight renewals here, since the event returned to Sedgefield, 16th (Patrick Reed) is the worst any winner has ranked for Driving Accuracy.

Davis Love ranked fifth for Par 4 Scoring 12 months ago and the runner-up, Jason Gore, ranked 16th and that was first time since 2008 that the number one ranked player on the par fours didn't finish first or second so that looks a key stat.


Is There an Angle In?

This is the last event of the PGA Tour season before the FedEx Cup Playoffs begin with The Barclays next week and so those players bobbing around the 125 mark in the FedEx Cup standings often raise their game. The last two winners, Love and Villegas, both began the week outside the top-125 on the FedEx Cup Standings, as did last year's runner-up, Jason Gore. Charl Schwartzel, who finished tied for third 12 months ago, had begun the week ranked at 125th and although he collapsed quite badly right at the end, Jonas Blixt moved up from 135th to 121st to get himself into the field at The Barclays after he'd finished 10th here.

From a course correlation angle, form at Donald Ross-designed tracks tends to cross over well so a look at form at Oak Hill Country Club, which was the venue for the 2013 USPGA Championship, won by Jason Dufner. Oakland Hills, which hosted six US Opens between 1924 and 1999, as well as the USPGA Championship in 2008. Aronimink Country Club, which hosted the AT & T National in both 2010 and 2011, East Lake in Atlanta - home of the Tour Championship, and if all that isn't enough and you fancy some old Ross track form, you could also check out Irondequoit Country Club, which hosted the Xerox Classic on the Web.Com Tour in the four years between 2005 and 2008.


Is There an Identikit Winner?

Although Love was winning his 21st PGA Tour title 12 months ago, this has been a decent tournament for first timer winners and four of the last seven victors were breaking their duck on the PGA Tour. Outsiders have fared really well of late too with the last three winners all being matched at a triple-figure price before the off.

Patrick Reed won his first PGA Tour title here in 2013, having been matched at 100.099/1, Villegas was a 150.0149/1 shot in 2014 and the first three home last year all went off at huge prices. The winner, Love, Gore in second, and Scott Brown, who finished tied for third, went off at odds of 1000.0, 440.0439/1 and 320.0319/1 respectively.


In-Play Tactics

From an in-running perspective, we've seen a mixed bag of results here since the tournament returned to Sedgefield and it's slightly misleading. Jason Bohn was beaten in a playoff here in 2009, having trailed by seven strokes with a round to go, and Davis Love is now the third winner in eight years to win from four back after 54 holes, so even though the other five winners were all in front after three rounds, it's clearly somewhere you can win from off the pace, although I'd still heavily favour the frontrunners.

All eight winners were inside the top-20 after round one and inside the top-ten at halfway and the three winners to win from four adrift after three rounds - Love, Villegas and Ryan Moore (in 2009) - all bounced back after disappointing third rounds. Only one of the eight winners since 2008 (Webb Simpson in 2010) has been trailing by more than two strokes after 36 holes but he was tied for second and only three back.


Market Leaders

The 2013 winner, Patrick Reed, could barely be in more consistent form after his fast finishing tied 11th in Rio on Sunday and his recent form figures now read 10-12-13-11-11.

In addition to his win here, he finished 66th on debut in 2011 before missing the 2012 renewal and he finished 24th when defending in 2014. He skipped the event 12 months ago and I'm a bit surprised he hasn't given it a miss this year given how much he's played of late.

Having backed him last week in the Olympics, the law of sod dictates he'll contend this week but there's a lot more depth to this field and he's a similar price so I'm more than happy to swerve him.

Hideki Matsuyama's tee-to-green game can be insanely good at times and it was at Baltusrol last time out. The Japanese star ranked 20th for Driving Distance, 10th for Driving Accuracy, fifth for Scrambling and fourth for Greens In Regulation but he could only finish fourth because yet again, his putting was poor. He has a devil's own job just to keep sane given how often he knocks it close and misses and for that reason I'm happy to leave him out too. His form figures at Sedgefield are none too encouraging either, reading 15-MC-MC.

It was in North Carolina, at the Wells Fargo Championship, that Rickie Fowler won his first PGA Tour event in 2012 and he finished second in this state at Pinehurst in the US Open two years later so he has an affinity to the location but he's never played Sedgefield before and apart from a third round 64 in Rio on Saturday, he's pretty much out of form. He too looks one to avoid.

Jim Furyk hasn't played Sedgefield since he finished ninth here in 2011 so it's perhaps a bit of a surprise to see the veteran in the line-up. Injury has blighted his season but there have been bright spots. His runners-up finish in the US Open was a notable highlight and the last time we saw him he was shooting the PGA Tour's first ever 58 at the Travelers Championship. There's bound to be plenty of media interference before the get go for Mr. 58 and that could prove a bit of a negative so he's not for me either.


Selections

The 2011 winner, Webb Simpson, absolutely loves Sedgefield and I simply couldn't leave him out. His form figures here read MC-8-1-22-11-5-6 and he was beaten by just two strokes last year, despite missing eight putts from inside six feet!

With the anchoring ban coming into force, Webb was transitioning from long to short putter last year and how the short-stick behaves will determine how he performs this week. There have been some very encouraging signs with the putter of late - enabling him to finish third at the Dean & Deluca invitational, sixth at the Quicken Loans National and 13th at the USPGA Championship and I fancy him to go really well this week.

Harris English has been ticking along nicely without doing anything spectacular but I like his chances this week. He was unlucky to run into an inspired Jordan Spieth at the recent Dean & Deluca Invitational and he faded after a bright start in the USPGA Championship last time out. He finished 10th here on debut in 2012 but that was after he'd sat third at halfway, after opening rounds of 66 and 64, and he faded to finish 31st last year (when not in the best of form) in his only other appearance, so he clearly has an aptitude for the venue.

After that, I've played three of the four players ranked 125 and 129 on the FedEx Cup standings - Whee Kim, Scott Stallings, Nick Taylor and Steve Marino.


Selections:
Webb Simpson @ an average of 30.029/1
Harris English @ 75.074/1
Whee Kim @ 300.0299/1
Steve Marino @ 300.0299/1
Nick Taylor @ 300.0299/1
Scott Stallings @ 400.0399/1


I'll be back tomorrow with my D&D REAL Czech Masters preview.


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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