It was unfortunately another frustrating week for us at the WGC-Fedex St Jude as despite being in a great position going in to Sunday with Horschel & Thomas, both men stalled on the last day and we came away empty handed.
The event was won by Brooks Koepka who turned in one of his imperious major type performances to overturn a one stroke deficit on Rory McIlroy on Sunday, before sauntering to a three shot lead.
The victory not only gave Koepka his first WGC Title but also secured him the $2 Million Wyndham Rewards first prize [More of that later] and, barring something incredible from Alex Noren, he is also set to bag the $1 Million on offer for the Aon Risk Rewards, [hands up if you have the remotest idea how that works….], a good weeks work all round for Brooks.
Meanwhile over at the Barracuda Championship, the opposite field event, Collin Morikawa followed in Matthew Wolff’s footsteps by becoming the second member of the ‘class of 2019’ to secure his first PGA Tour title, in only his sixth start on tour, an incredible performance.
From our point of view we at least secured a share of the place money in Reno with Martin Laird, however all in all it wasn’t the end to the week we were hoping for across the two events.
Moving on and despite it still being July as I type we have now reached the final event of the regular PGA Tour season, The Wyndham Championship.
The Wyndham Championship was first played on tour in 1938 and was initially known as the Greater Greensboro Open.
Historically the event was always played in April/May time, however in 2007 it was renamed the Wyndham Championship based on its new sponsor and at the same time it moved to its current spot.
The Wyndham Championship has carved out a niche spot for itself on the PGA Tour over recent years as the last regular season event before we head in to the play offs, and it’s now last chance saloon time for those on the bubble of making it in to the top 125.
All week long we will see the names of the players in the field roll alphabetically through the bottom of the screen in either green or red to indicate their position and whether they are ‘in or out’.
The significance of finishing inside the 125 for players not already exempt for the following year [through a victory in the previous season for example] is huge, as not only does making the top 125 secure you a spot in the first play off event, The Northern Trust and give you a chance to progress further, but it guarantees you your playing privileges on tour for the following year.
Those finishing outside the 125 and not already exempt for next year will be heading to the kornferry finals in the hope they can secure their card based on results there, otherwise they will be relying on getting in to the field of lesser events based on their status or receiving invites.
Every putt, birdie and bogey counts and be prepared for the inevitable heroics and heartbreaks come Sunday as someone either birdies the last three holes to get in at 125 or three putts the last to fall from 122 to 128.
The current ‘bubble boys’ who I am sure we will see plenty of on our screens for the first couple of days at least are Robert Streb and Alex Noren who occupy the last two spots at 124 & 125 respectively, and Austin Cook and Richy Werenski who sit just outside at 126 & 127 [although Cook is exempt for the 19/20 season based on his win at the RSM Classic early in the 17/18 season].
In addition this year there is an added ingredient in play as the season long Wyndham Rewards Bonus comes to a conclusion.
The Wyndham Rewards is basically an extra pot of $10 Million that is split between the players who finish in the Top 10 of the regular season long Fedex Cup points race, which concludes after this week in North Carolina.
The player who finishes in first spot will take home a cool $2 Million, the runner up $1.5 Million and so on all the way down to $500,000 for the player who finishes in 10th.
Based on this you would think that the big name players who currently fill those positions would be turning up in droves to in an attempt to clinch the top prize in this pot and this was no doubt the hope of the sponsors when they committed to this bonus fund.
Unfortunately however Brooks Koepka has already sown this up courtesy of his win at the WGC-Fedex St Jude on Sunday so this has somewhat petered out.
In addition as most of the games elite names have more money than they know what to do with anyway even prior to Brooks sowing this up the position of the event in the schedule meant that only nine of the top 30 in the Fedex rankings at the time of Friday’s commitment deadline had chosen to tee it up this week.
The field and the market therefore is headed up by in form course specialist Webb Simpson, Hideki Matsuyama, last weeks Barracuda winner Collin Morikawa and Jordan Spieth.
Sedgefield CC is a par 70 measuring just over 7100yds.
The greens are Bermuda.
The course was designed by Donald Ross and opened for play in 1926.
Other Donald Ross designs used on tour include East Lake, home of the Tour Championship, Aronimink which hosted last years BMW Championship as well as the 2010 & 2011 AT&T Nationals & Detroit G&CC the new home of the Rocket Mortgage Classic.
In summary Sedgefield CC plays as one of the easiest Par 70s on tour and is a course that the shorter hitters tend to perform well on.
Finding the fairways and greens here is the order of the day with GIR being particularly significant as this will give you the opportunity to make the birdies that will be required to get the job done.
So let’s take a look at the last ten winners since 2009.
The winners of these events have been as follows;
2018 B Snedeker
2017 H Stenson
2016 S W Kim
2015 D Love III
2014 C Villegas
2013 P Reed
2012 S Garcia
2011 W Simpson
2010 A Atwal
2009 R Moore
With this event historically coming the week after the PGA Championship the key point that we used to have to consider is whether to side with players who had been in the hunt at the previous weeks major. This year however with the scheduling change this is not an issue so instead I shall move straight on to look at the main thing catches my eye and that is the correlating course form with TPC Sawgrass and Hilton Head.
Firstly if we look at the last eight winners here five of them have either before, or subsequently since, won The Players Championship.
These players are Stenson, S W Kim, Love III, Garcia and Simpson. In addition of the other three winners over this eight year stretch Villegas has a 3rd place finish to his name at TPC and Sneds was fifth there this year so that leaves only Reed without Sawgrass pedigree.
If we then look at the RBC Heritage, which is another shortish Pete Dye design we see that last years runner up CT Pan was victorious at Hilton Head this spring while last years Wyndham Champion, Brandt Snedeker is a former Hilton Head Champion, if we then dig a bit further we can see that Si Woo Kim, winner here in 2016 was runner up at Hilton Head last year, while 2015 veteran champion here Davis Love III collected Plaid Jackets for fun at the Heritage in his earlier years on tour.
The message is loud and clear therefore, players with Sawgrass and Hilton Head form go seriously well here.
As for past course format Sedgefield itself whilst this is always useful it does not appear to be essential as two of the past three winners here, Stenson and Si Woo Kim had played in the event four times between them prior to winning and neither of them had previously even made the cut.
Conversely though last years winner Brandt Snedeker, who memorably opened up his week with a 59, had a raft of ‘previous’ here, notching his first tour victory here in 2007 before posting four top eight finishes in his most recent eight starts.
Next lets take a look at how important recent good form coming in to the week has been over the years. Below is a table showing the last ten winners and their four previous starts coming in to the week with the most recent start shown first.
2018 B Snedeker 42 8 MC 3
2017 H Stenson 13 17 11 MC
2016 S W Kim 25 MC 23 2
2015 D Love III MC MC 54 MC
2014 C Villegas WD 45 26 MC
2013 P Reed 9 7 MC 34
2012 S Garcia MC 29 MC 38
2011 W Simpson MC 9 16 8
2010 A Atwal 68 74 41 64
2009 R Moore MC 34 11 4
As we can see from this table there is no hugely clear picture here while five of the past ten winners had posted a top ten finish in their previous four starts the other five were in no great form coming in.
Another thing to look at is how many of these winners were first time winners on tour. The answer to this is five with S W Kim, Reed, Atwal, Moore & Simpson all landing their first PGA Tour title in this event. This is certainly therefore a good week for maidens to grab their first victory.
Finally, as mentioned above Sedgefield CC is one of the easiest par 70s on tour and this is reflected in the winning scores notched.
The lowest winning number over the past ten years was recorded by Stenson in 2017 who got the job done with a -22 total whilst the highest winning score was Reed’s -14.
On average though somewhere around the -18 to -20 mark is required to walk away with the trophy.
Whilst the forecast going in to the week is fantastic unfortunately at the time of writing there is a possibility of storms in the forecast on all four tournament days, hopefully though this wont come to fruition.
Temperatures look set for the mid to high 80s all week while the wind does not look to be an issue with nothing more than more than around 8mph forecast all week.
As I always say though…this could all change!
I have gone with five players this week as follows;
WEBB SIMPSON – 11-1 – 4pts Win - FINISHED 2nd
I shall make no apologies this week in starting with the blindingly obvious in the shape of Webb Simpson.
The case for Webb is an obvious one right there in front of us but I shall make it briefly anyway.
Since missing the cut here on debut in 2009 Webb has only finished outside the top 22 in one of his nine further visits.
In these nine starts he has notched a win and six further top 11 finishes.
The win here in 2011 was Webb’s first on the PGA Tour and as a result of this he and his wife Dowd memorably named their daughter who was born in 2014, Wyndham!
I think it is therefore safe to say that Sedgefield CC is probably Webb’s favourite venue on tour!
If this isn’t enough to confirm Webb’s bond with the event you only need to remember that he was born in Raleigh, North Carolina and that he now lives in nearby Charlotte.
Simpson has played incredibly solid golf this year and since missing the cut at the Valspar in March he has posted six top twenty finishes including three top tens and finished no worse than 30th.
Last year Webb arrived here having just secured his Ryder Cup spot at the previous weeks PGA Championship so there was a possibility that he would take his foot off the gas, however he still closed out with a 62 to grab second place.
This year Webb arrives on the back of a cracking week at the WGC-Fedex St Jude where he finished with a round of 64 to chase Brooks Koepka home and the former Players Champion will surely arrive here in great heart.
Some weeks it naturally pays to look outside of the obvious and there is no doubt we have seen our fair share of shock winners on the PGA Tour this year. This week however, whichever way I turn it has hard to see too far beyond Webb and I am happy to side strongly with him.
CAMERON SMITH – 45 -1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 6 - FINISHED MC
Next up for me this week is a player who seems to be emerging from a mid-season slump, Cameron Smith.
The Aussie opened his 18/19 campaign with a string of strong finishes including top ten finishes at the CJ Cup, The Farmers Insurance Open and the WGC Mexico and it looked only a matter of time before he finally posted that maiden solo PGA Tour win. However after missing the cut at the Honda things went awry for Cam and he posted nothing better than 56th at the Players all the way through to the summer, before finally turning the corner with a 29th place at The Rocket Mortgage Classic on the Donald Ross designed Detroit CC.
Following that result Cam finished 20th at the British Open and then followed this up with a 12th place at the WGC-Fedex St Jude at the weekend, where he finished the week 11th for SGOFTT, 8th for SGATTG, 17th for SGP and 12th for SGT.
Smith has made three trips to Sedgefield CC over the last few years and with a seventh place and 18th place finish to his name in two of those visits it seems fairly clear that the course fits his eye.
Currently sat in sixth place in the standings for the International Presidents Cup Team Cam with three qualifying events left Cam appears to have found his form in the nick of time to wrap up his spot, however he will be conscious of wanting to lock his place up completely with another big week and with many of his rivals for a place not in action this week this is a great opportunity for him.
It is only a matter of time before the 25yr old finally bags himself a PGA Tour trophy and on a course that can often turn in to a putting contest I fancy that armed with his strongest club in the bag, his flatstick, this could be the week that Cam finally gets over the line.
BRIAN HARMAN – 80-1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED T6th
Next up for me this week is another player who has quietly rediscovered some form of late Brian Harman.
32yr old Harman has two PGA Tour victories to his name with the most recent coming in the state of North Carolina at the Wells Fargo Championship.
After that victory in 2016 Harman began his 2017/18 campaign really strongly however after a top ten finish at The Travelers in the summer of 18 the Georgia native fell away and he didn’t post another top 10 on tour till he popped up at TPC Sawgrass with an eighth place finish in March this year.
A further run of missed cuts duly followed from Brian until he finished 31st at the Charles Schwab Challenge in May this year and since then he has made five of his following seven cuts including another top ten finish at the 3M Open.
Apart from the fact that Harman appears to have turned a corner of late what makes him of particular interest this week is how he consistently pops up with strong results on the correlating courses we are looking at.
Two top tens on his CV at TPC Sawgrass, including one earlier this year, along with two top tens at Hilton Head are testament this.
In addition Brian has a raft of form on further shortish par 70s used on tour such as TPC River Highlands, Waialae CC and Colonial CC. Basically the lefty is at his best on shortish par 70 tracks.
With regards to Sedgefield CC Brian hasn’t been here since 2016 and on his last three visits he has missed the cut. Not exactly encouraging stuff for sure, however if we go a year further back Brian actually finished third here so clearly he can handle the track.
In addition Brian was in poor form when he missed the cut here in 2016 & 2015, while in 2014 he had posted his maiden tour win a few weeks previously at the John Deere and he was understandably suffering a lull in form at the time following this.
If we put to one side Harman’s recent MC at the Open Championship where he has no record whatsoever Harman arrives this year in a strong vein of form and I am confident he will put in big performance on a course, which certainly play to his strengths when he is on song.
MARTIN KAYMER – 50-1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
When looking at the connection between past Sawgrass Champions in this weeks field one name that leapt out to me was that of Martin Kaymer.
The German has undergone somewhat of a resurgence in form of late and since finishing third at The Memorial in June he has gone on to post five more top 35 finishes.
Two of these top 35 finishes came in Ireland and Scotland as Martin made last ditch efforts to qualify for the Open Championship however despite putting in strong performances in both events he fell agonisingly short of bagging one of the places for Royal Portrush on offer.
The end result of this was that the two time Major Champion found himself as first alternate at Portrush and heartbreak followed as he waited out Thursday to no avail.
On the back of what was probably an emotionally draining week Kaymer made the trip out to Reno and it is perhaps not unsurprising that with an eight hour time change he turned in a steady but unspectacular showing on a course he will not have been familiar with.
This week however Martin now arrives at a track that he has finished in the top twenty at on both of his previous visits and you have to think that it is a venue, which must suit his game.
As noted at the start of the preview there will be a huge amount of focus on players this week who sit on or around the ‘bubble’ of the 125 and who are looking to secure their card and my strategy over the years has tended to be to avoid these players this week, as there sole focus will be on doing just enough to keep their card and not in winning a golf tournament.
In Kaymer’s case though he currently sits 146th in Fedex Cup standings so really and truly a really big finish or indeed the W is what’s needed by the German to make the 125 and to keep his card, as his current 5yr exemption on tour for winning at Pinehurst in 2014 expires this year.
Kaymer actually had to be given a special exemption to have his PGA card reinstated this year as he had a previous one year ban for not playing in the minimum number of events in a season. Having therefore made a concerted effort to play the full required schedule this season on the PGA Tour, despite not being eligible for WGC’s etc, the German will now be desperate to make it all count by producing a final big week and I can see him rising to the challenge he faces.
NICK TAYLOR - 150-1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
For my final pick this week I am going to return to a player we sided with a couple of times earlier in the year, Nick Taylor.
When we were onboard the Canadian at the Valspar he gave us a great run at a big price before unfortunately stalling down the stretch on Sunday.
Since then Taylor went slightly off the boil early summer before returning to a really strong level of consistency over the past couple of months.
This level of consistency saw Taylor basically lock up his card with a 15th place finish at The Barbasol last time out and he arrives here in 114th place in the Fedex Cup standings and with the pressure off.
One of Taylor’s strongest performances this season came at TPC Sawgrass and this is another factor, which brings him to my attention this week.
Finally as regular readers will know I am always keen on the idea of a player having positive vibes when returning to a venue where they have had previous success and I am sure Nick on that basis will have very fond memories of his performance here last year.
The reason for this is that Taylor arrived here last year in 129th place on the Fedex Cup standings and closed out on Sunday with his best round of the season, a 63, to finish eighth and to push in to the top 125 to lock up his card.
Returning now to the scene of that performance where he delivered the goods under huge pressure must surely fill the Canadian with confidence and with no such pressure on this time around I can see him free-wheeling to a great week.
UPDATED 31st JULY
TRADER - BEAU HOSSLER - FINISHED MC
This weeks trader pick is all about siding with a player who needs a huge week to salvage their tour card in the shape of Beau Hossler.
After a really solid debut season on tour, which saw Beau come agonisingly close to clinching his maiden tour title [when we were on at 150s...] in Houston, Beau has struggled in his sophomore season to the extent that he finds himself 143rd coming in to this week and in need of a huge effort if he is to avoid a trip to the Korn Ferry Tour finals.
2019 has seen Beau post nothing better than 15th place at The Gemini Championship all year, however he has at least made three of his last four cuts and posted three top 35 finishes in those starts so there is a sign that better stuff is on the way.
Hossler currently sits 8th on tour in putting, something thst bodes well for a week where a hot putter is required and the hope is that in a week that he must produce he can get off to fast start from his early 7.20am tee time.
CURRENTLY TRADING @ 290