With the final major in the books, it’s time to coast to the finish line of the 2016-17 season.
The TOUR makes a short trip to Greensboro, North Carolina, this week to take on Sedgefield Country Club.
The course is a classical, par 70 that plays under 7,200 and was designed by Donald Ross. The greens are champion bermuda, just like last week so anyone that putted well on the tricky Quail Hollow greens may have some extra confidence this week.
The fairways are pretty tight at Sedgefield but unlike last week you don’t need to pound drivers. You will hear a lot about positioning off the tee this week, rather than pure distance. It’s really a second-shot course but if you are too wild off the tee you are still going to have a really bad time.
Translated to a stat view, that means GIR and/or scrambling is key. You have to be great at one or the other, having both skills is always nice but not that realistic for most golfers in this field. My preferred strokes gained stat this week is off-the-tee with a slight lean to the accuracy side of that equation. Distance is still an advantage but not so much off the tee this week. The edge for distance this week would come from hitting shorter clubs into the greens. Keep the ball in play and this course is quite easy.
Having comfort in the area is also a big bonus. The top four course horses in the field all have Carolina ties (Haas, Webb, Carl P, and Glover). That is not a coincidence. If someone grew up or went to school in the Carolinas then it’s worth a small boost this week.
Every year when this event rolls around, a huge FedExCup Bubble narrative gets thrown out there. I’m not buying it. If these golfers were good enough to turn it on and perform better on command then they wouldn’t be on the bubble to begin with!
For correlated courses, the main link was location and course type. The top 5 correlated events include: The RSM Classic, Valspar Championship, RBC Heritage, DEAN & DELUCA, and WGC-Bridgestone.
The weather forecast looks pretty similar to last week. Plenty of storms but also low percentage of precipation. That could change as we draw nearer so keep an eye out. One thing that looks certain is that it will be HOT. Expect temps in the upper 80s with the typical Carolina humidity added into the equation.
For additional course and tournament info in addition to golfer quotes, check out the Fantasy Golfanac.
Players to Watch
Bill Haas… He doesn’t have a true home-course factor but he’s very familiar with the area, having gone to Wake Forest. He considers this a home event and makes it an annual stop since they gave him a sponsor’s invite early on in his career. Now he’s figured out how to balance the local angle with playing good golf, picking up top 25s in his last five trips here. He’s gained the most strokes over the field here since 2007 and he’s playing solid golf at the moment. That makes him the man to beat in my eyes.
Henrik Stenson… On paper he should be the favorite in this field, but you have to question his motivation. He added this event to ensure he meets the minimum 15 events needed to keep his card (avoid Martin Kaymer’s fate). If he gets off to a fast start then sure, he’d love to pick up a nice top-heavy finish heading into the Playoffs but if he opens with an even-par 70 it wouldn’t be shocking to see him WD or go through the motions and miss the cut. Last time he was here he WD’d after R1 with a “bad stomach” and missed the cut in the two previous editions.
Webb Simpson… Returns to the site of his first win. He gets to sleep in his own bed throughout the week. Another Demon Deacon, like Haas. Named his third child after the event (Wyndham Rose). The level of comfort gives him a huge boost and makes him an easy plug-and-play this week.
Kevin Kisner… Looking at the correlated venues I’m targeting, Kiz has won at The RSM and Colonial while finishing runner-up at Harbour Town. These classical designs are perfect for him, and the location (Carolinas) certainly helps. Wouldn’t surprise anyone if he’s right in the mix again but also wouldn’t surprise anyone if he had a letdown week after the grueling week at Quail Hollow that saw him nearly pull of his first win in a major.
Ollie Schniederjans … He’s been quiet lately but one of the best iron players in the game when he’s clicking. That’s perfect on a classical design that forces position off the tee and then great approach. His two best PGA TOUR finishes have come on correlated tracks (T5 Heritage, T6 RSM).
Byeong Hun An… Posted a T18 at Sedgefield in his one attempt (2015). Lost 7.34 strokes putting that week. He still struggles with the flat stick, but shows some sings of life now as he gets more familiar with PGA TOUR green complexes/grasses/speeds. Still looking for his breakout on the PGA TOUR, would be a decent week to pull that off (familiar track, weak field).
Hao Tong Li… First off the board for me, purely due to lack of sample size on in the States. Over on the Euro Tour his round-by-round consistency grades out similarly to a golfer like Rafa Cabrera Bello or Shane Lowry. A world of upside, but I will make him prove himself Stateside before I fully jump in. For now, I’ll just take a small piece of the upside pie.
Bud Cauley… Watched his best friend JT win a major last week. If you’re into the inspiration narrative, then Cauley has to be leaping off the page this week. He’s also a good play without the narrative. His cut-made probability is a bit weaker but he makes up for it with a strong top-20 probability.
Ben Martin… If you like momentum plays then look no further than Martin. Has been T31 or better after R2 in five of his last six starts. Also has the Clemson-Carolina connection in his favor. Is just 1-for-3 at Sedgefield but that one was a T10 in 2015.
Lucas Glover… One of the rare times where Glover grades out in the top half of the field in terms of cut-made probability. Just like Martin (and Stanley, and Byrd) he has the Clemson connection on his side. Glover is 11-for-13 at this event with eight top 25s. We’re on bermuda which means we may see half-way decent putting out of the Glove.
Scott Brown… Kiz’ partner-in-crime, Brown sneakily picked up a T13 last week. Has a T3 on his Wyndham resume. Has signed for 68 or better in 9 of his 12 rounds at Sedgefield CC. Not in my top 25 but he shouldn’t be overlooked.
Blayne Barber… Said this in my 2017 preview… “He’s not a golfer you want to target every week, but he has the ability to rip apart shorter courses. With a little experience now under his belt, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him rip off five or so top 10s this season and potentially find the winner’s circle.” He’s definitely underperformed my expectations but this week fits the bill for courses to target him (shorter tracks with bermuda greens). Five of those breakout candidates from my column have gone on to win this year, Barber could make it a sixth. Okay, that might be a stretch but he’s certainly on my radar as a sleeper.
My Top 25 for the Wyndham Championship
1. Bill Haas
2. Webb Simpson
3. Kevin Kisner
4. Keegan Bradley
5. Jason Dufner
6. Ryan Moore
7. Kevin Na
8. Byeong Hun An
9. Ollie Schniederjans
10. Henrik Stenson
11. Russell Knox
12. Kevin Streelman
13. Chez Reavie
14. Ben Martin
15. Chad Campbell
16. Bud Cauley
17. James Hahn
18. Harris English
19. Robert Streb
20. Billy Horschel
21. Martin Laird
22. Kyle Stanley
23. Lucas Glover
24. Danny Lee
25. Seamus Power