We're off to North Carolina this week for the Wyndham Championship - the final counting event ahead of the FedEx Cup Series - so read our man's comprehensive preview ahead of Thursday's start here...
“This is the last event of the PGA Tour season before the FedEx Cup Playoffs begin with the Northern Trust Open next week and that looks like it might offer up a couple of good angles in.”
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 Northern Trust Open (formerly 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 the Liberty National next Thursday.
Sedgefield Country Club, Greensboro, North Carolina
Par 70 7,127 yards
Stroke index in 2018 - 68.69
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 Forrest 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. Since the event returned to Sedgefield, low scores have been the norm. We've seen two winners, Carl Pettersson and Arjun Atwal, both shooting 61 on the way to victory and last year's winner, Brandt Snedeker, went two better, firing a 59 on day one.
Changes were made to the greens prior to the 2012 renewal and they're now the same strain of Bermuda (previously bent grass) used at another North Carolina Tour stop, Quail Hollow, but it hasn't made the difference to the scores anticipated.
Patrick Reed's winning score of -14 in 2013 was the highest since the event returned to Sedgefield but the 2015 and 2016 winners, Camilo Villegas and Davis Love III, both reached 17-under-par and the last three winners have gone even deeper. Si Woo Kim tied the tournament record with a 21-under-par total in 2016, firing in a ten-under-par 60 in round two, but that record only lasted 12 months though as last year's winner, Henrik Stenson, amassed a 22-under-par total. Snedeker won in 21-under-par 12 months ago. It's not a tough track.
Sedgefield also hosted the Greensboro Open on the Web.com Tour between 1998 and 2000.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, beginning with Featured Group coverage at 18:00 UK time and full coverage at 20:00.
Last Five Winners
2018 - Brandt Snedeker -21
2017 - Henrik Stenson -22
2016 - Si Woo Kin -21
2015 - Davis Love III -17
2014 - Camilo Villegas -17
What Will it Take to Win the Wyndham Championship?
As you might suspect, given he opened up with an 11-under-par 59, Brandt Snedeker putted brilliantly last year, ending the week ranking second for Putting Average. He also ranked second for Strokes Gained Tee to Green and first for Sand Saves and Birdie Conversion but given he only ranked 51st for Driving Accuracy and 12th for Par 4 Scoring, his stats weren't typical of a Sedgefield winner.
Finding the fairways at Sedgefield, in order to best attack the small greens, is of more importance than hitting it miles off the tee and the vast majority of winners rank far better than Snedeker did from the tee. In the ten renewals prior to Snedeker's victory, since the event returned to Sedgefield, 16th (Patrick Reed) was the worst any winner has ranked for Driving Accuracy. Last year's winner, Henrik Stenson, ranked eighth.
For the first seven renewals back at Sedgefield, the number one ranked player on the par fours finished either first or second and that trend was back on the agenda after the 2017 renewal, with Henrik Stenson ranking second for Par 4 Scoring, behind Ollie Schniederjans, who finished second. Stenson played the par fours in a combined total of -10, Schniederjans played them in an incredible -15.
Is There an Angle In?
This is the last event of the PGA Tour season before the FedEx Cup Playoffs begin with the Northern Trust Open next week and that looks like it might offer up a couple of good angles in.
Firstly, those players bobbing around the 125 mark in the FedEx Cup standings (here) often raise their game in order to ensure they qualify and secondly, the last two winners of the Wyndham have both won the FedEx Cup. Were Snedeker and Stenson inspired by former FedEx Cup glory on the eve on a new series?
Looking back through past Wyndham Championships we find plenty of players that have raised their game in an attempt to get into the playoffs.
The two players tied for fourth last year - Jim Furyk and D.A. Points - begun the week in 171st and 214th place respectively, eighth placed, Nick Taylor, was 129th going in, and Harris English, who was 132nd in the standings, was in contention for a long way before eventually finishing tied 11th. Back in 2017, two of the top-seven, Rory Sabbatini and Martin Flores, both played their way into the Playoffs, three of the top-five and ties in 2017 (Luke Donald, Brett Stegmaier and Johnson Wagner) all guaranteed their spot at The Barclays (as it was named three years ago), having been ranked 99th, 119th and 109th at the start of the week. And looking even further back, the Bubble Boys have fared even better...
The 2015 and 2016 winners, Davis Love III and Camilo Villegas, both began the week outside the top-125 on the FedEx Cup Standings, as did the 2015 runner-up, Jason Gore. Charl Schwartzel, who finished tied for third four years 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 in 2015.
From a course correlation angle, form at Donald Ross-designed tracks tends to cross over well so a look at results from: Oak Hill Country Club, which was the venue for the 2013 USPGA Championship, won by Jason Dufner; for more recent form, check out the inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club, won easily by Nate Lashley in May; Aronimink Country Club, which hosted the AT & T National in both 2010 and 2011 and the BMW Championship last year; East Lake in Atlanta, home of the Tour Championship, but if you want a really strong course link you need to head to Florida and to the Pete Dye-designed home of the Players Championship, Sawgrass. Incredibly, five of the last eight Players winners have also won the Wyndham.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
Snedeker was winning the event for a second time 12 months ago and the 2015 winner, Davis Love III has won the title three times but this has been a decent tournament for first timer winners of late and five of the last ten victors were breaking their duck on the PGA Tour.
Snedeker was a solid [32.0] chance last year and Stenson was a well-fancied [15.0] favourite two years ago but outsiders have fared really well of late with the four winners before Henrik 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 [100.0], Camilo Villegas was a [150.0] shot in 2014, and the first three home in 2015 all went off at huge prices. The winner, Davis Love, Jason Gore in second, and Scott Brown, who finished tied for third, went off at odds of [1000.0], [440.0] and [320.0] respectively and the 2016 winner, Si Woo Kim, was matched at [220.0] before the off.
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 in 2009, having trailed by seven strokes with a round to go and in 2015 Davis Love was the third winner in eight years to win from four back after 54 holes, so even though the other eight course 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.
Kim trailed by five after an opening 68 in 2016 but he was never headed after his 60 in round two, Stenson was never outside the front three places or more than a stroke adrift all week long two years ago and Snedeker won wire-to-wire.
Kim was tied for 42nd after round one three years ago but the other ten course winners were inside the top-20 after round one. Since we returned to Sedgefield in 2008, six of the 11 winners have been in front at halfway and ten of the 11 were inside the front three places after 36 holes. The three men 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 ten 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.
If you're trading in-running, the finish to the course is worth getting accustomed to. The 14th is a tough par four measuring just over 500 yards and it was the third toughest on the course last year, averaging 4.1, and the par four 18th hole is the toughest on the course and last year it averaged 4.25 but four of the last six holes are gettable. Holes 13, 15, 16 and 17 last year ranked 14th, 17th, 10th and 13th hardest so the final third is a real mixed bag.
With course form figures reading MC-8-1-22-11-5-6-72-3-2, last week's runner-up and North Carolina native, Webb Simpson, is the very obvious favourite. He loves the tournament so much he even named his daughter Wyndham!
It's hard to envisage him not contending but he's short enough at around 11/1. That's only a smidgen more than the odds for a place last week in a limited field event.
Hideki Matsuyama, who was third here in 2016 and 11th last year, started last week's FedEx St Jude well with a five-under-par 65 but he shot over-par on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to eventually finish 43rd. He missed the cut in the Open Championship in his penultimate start but he'd been in fair form before that but he looks short enough to me given he hasn't won in very nearly two years.
Jordan Spieth was firmly on my radar. Like the last two Wyndham winners, he's a former FedEx cup winner and on his only previous visit to Sedgefield he was beaten in a playoff by Patrick Reed, in 2013. Spieth has been showing glimpses of form of late and last week's 12th place in Memphis was especially encouraging given he shot 66-68 on the weekend after starting with two level par 70s.
Spieth only entered the event last week so he's clearly looking to cash in on his recent upturn in form and while I respect his chances greatly, I wanted slightly bigger than 20/1.
Last week's Barracuda Championship winner, Collin Morikawa, is hard to assess. He arrives with PGA Tour form figures reading 14-35-36-2-4-1 and he's clearly an exceptional talent but he's no value to go back-to-back.
I liked plenty of fancied players here. Simpson is impossible to dismiss, Spieth was really hard to leave out, Patrick Reed has an obvious chance, and I was keen on the chances of another former FedEx Cup winner, Billy Horschel. One firm opened up at 40/1 about Billy yesterday and that would have tempted me in but he's won just one individual stroke play event in the five years since he won at East Lake and he's another that was just too short for my liking.
If I wake up on Friday morning to see a leaderboard dominated by those four players I'll regret not taking the plunge on one or two or all four but the chances of that happening are remarkably slim so I've decided to leave them all alone for now and have another look in-running. I have still managed to dig out a dozen outsiders to go with before the off though!
As highlighted above, we've seen a number of outsiders win at Sedgefield so I've thrown a few pounds at the 12 players listed below - the majority of whom are Bubble Boys ranked in and around the 125 mark on the FedEx Cup standings.
In addition to my outright bets, I've also had a small each-way bet on Nick Taylor in the First Round Leader market. He was sitting second after the first round in Reno last week and that was the fourth time in 11 starts that he'd finished inside the top seven places after round one.
Nick Taylor @ 150/1 (Sportsbook)
Jason Dufner @ [200.0]
Austin Cook @ [220.0]
Robert Streb @ [250.0]
Sebastián Muñoz @ [270.0]
Andrew Landry @ [330.0]
Joel Dahmen @ [360.0]
Wes Roach @ [400.0]
Johnson Wagner @ [500.0]
Ricky Werenski @ [560.0]
Patton Kizzire @ [700.0]
Jon Chin @ [720.0]
Nick Taylor each-way FRL @ 90/1
I'll be back on Friday morning with the In-Play Blog.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter