So despite the bulk of our team playing fairly poorly at the PGA it was a great week for us in the end as Brooks Koepka produced another one of his magnificent Major displays to walk away with his second Major of the year and third in less than fifteen months.
With a wrist injury forcing Brooks to miss a large part of the early season including the Masters this means he has now won three of the last five Majors he has teed it up in, an incredible achievement.
At Bellerive he had a stellar list of names charging at him on Sunday including Tiger Woods who produced a magnificent final round of 64. However every time anyone got close to him or caught him Brooks seemed able to find the extra gear and birdie required to pull away again and in the end with Scott faltering slightly on the last couple of holes he was able to close things out fairly comfortably on the 18th.
So with the drama of the years last Major in the rear view mirror we move on to the Wyndham Championship.
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 web.com 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 Martin Piller and Tyrone Van Aswegen who occupy the last two spots at 124 & 125 respectively and Chad Campbell and Robert Garrigus who sit just outside at 126 & 127.
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.
As you would expect for an event sandwiched between a Major and the first Fedex Cup Play Off event the field is lacking in star names from the top of the rankings and the market is headed up by defending champion Henrik Stenson, Webb Simpson and Hideki Matsuyama.
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 the 2010 & 2011 AT & T Nationals [& is to host this years BMW Championship] and Plainfield which hosted the 2011 and 2015 Barclays.
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 2008.
The winners of these events have been as follows;
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
2008 C Pettersson
The first thing I have looked at with these past winners is how many of them played in the PGA Championship the week before and of those who did how they had performed and this has thrown up some quite interesting numbers.
The first thing to say is for the purpose of looking at these winners I have discounted Si Woo Kim’s victory in 2016 as this was the year the PGA was played earlier in July to accommodate the Olympics.
Of the remaining nine winners only five of them had played in the PGA. Of these five players D Love III, S Garcia and W Simpson had all missed cut in the years last Major.
The two had made the cut were Stenson last year who finished 13th in the PGA and Pettersson back in 2008 who finished 47th in the PGA.
In summary then only two of the last nine winners of the Wyndham had played four rounds in the PGA the week before.
To a certain extent of course this can be explained by the fact that the bigger names and higher ranked players who you would expect to have finished higher in the field at the PGA choose to take this week off, however it is still an interesting statistic.
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 land their first victory.
Finally when looking at the past winners of the event there is one other statistic that caught my eye which I mentioned on twitter over the weekend.
This is the fact that five of the last seven winners of this event had 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 two winners over this seven year stretch Villegas has a 3rd place finish to his name at TPC leaving only Reed without Sawgrass pedigree.
It certainly would seem sensible therefore to look at players who have performed well at TPC over the years.
Whilst some past course form is always useful it does not appear to be essential here with the last two winners Stenson and Si Woo Kim having played in the event four times previously between them prior to winning and neither of them had previously even made the cut.
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 last year 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 and for the first couple of days looks good unfortunately at the time of writing there is a greater than 50% chance of storms on both Saturday and Sunday.
This in principal would mean a firm course for Thursday & Friday before things soften up over the weekend.
Wind does not look to be an issue with Friday the only day showing the possibility of anything up to 10mph.
As I always say though…this could all change!
I have gone with five players this week as follows;
NICK WATNEY –90-1 - 1pt e/w 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED MC
My first selection this week is Vegas man Nick Watney.
There are several things I like about Nick this week, which I shall outline as follows;
As we know Nick has been on the comeback trail this season and we saw when he got in the hunt at the Wells Fargo in May that he has not lost the ability to compete on a Sunday.
Nick logged that second place finish in Charlotte on the back of nine straight steady but unspectacular results.
After that week however he went of the boil slightly missing two of his next four cuts however he has settled back in to a steady groove again recently, making the weekend in his last five starts.
As mentioned earlier based on past event history I am wary of getting too hung up this week on players who performed too well or were in the thick of things at Bellerive so I am quite content that Nick plodded around in 72nd place. It was however pleasing to see him shoot a second round 65 to make the cut so his game is obviously in reasonable shape.
Currently in 99th place in the Fedex Cup standings Nick has no worries about making the play offs so he can ‘free wheel’ things this week to look to achieve that comeback victory that would cap off a great year.
In addition having finished second on his last visit to North Carolina in the spring Nick should have positive vibes on his return to NC.
One other thing that I like about Nick this week is his form on Donald Ross courses and in particular the fact that he won the AT & T National at Aronimink in 2011.
On this point it is worth noting that Aronimink is the host of this years BMW Championship for which the top 70 in the Fedex Cup standings at the time will qualify. Therefore whilst Nick’s position on the Play Offs is secure I am sure he will be desperate to produce a couple of big weeks which will allow him to return there.
Nick also finished 10th at the rain shortened Barclays at Plainfield in 2011 and has a 4th place finish at Eastlake to his name.
With regards to form at Sedgefield itself Nick has twice finished in the top 6 here over the years and he also opened 66 65 here two years ago before faltering over the weekend so clearly the course is not an issue.
Nick currently sits 59th in GIR for the season so he should be able to find the high level of greens required and if he can hole his share of putts I can see a big week for him ahead.
WEBB SIMPSON – 14-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED 2nd
Whilst my preference this week is to focus on players who either did not play at Bellerive at all or who, if they did were not anywhere near the heat of the battle, I am going to run with one player who was on the fringes of things at Bellerive and that player is Webb Simpson.
Going in to the PGA whilst publicly if asked about the Ryder Cup I am sure Webb would have said all the right things about that his ‘focus was to win at Bellerive and anything else would then take care if itself’, internally I’m sure Webb’s main goal was to lock up that 8th automatic qualifying spot on the team.
It is to his credit therefore that with so much on the line Webb had a really solid week at Bellerive shooting four sub 70 rounds to finish 19th. This meant it was ‘job done’ on the Ryder Cup front.
With his seat on the plane for Paris secure Webb now heads to what is arguably his favourite venue on the PGA Tour, Sedgefield CC.
I say the above with a fair degree of certainty as since missing the cut here on debut in 2009 Webb has only finished outside the top 22 in one of his eight further visits.
In these eight starts he has notched a win and five 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!
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 with the highlight of course being his win at The Players Championship.
There is a small danger that with the pressure having been on over the past few weeks in relation to his Ryder Cup spot that with this now secured Webb may suffer a MLD [Mental Let Down] for a week or two with the edge going from his game, however the other way to view things is that he will arrive at his favourite track on tour in front of his ‘home people’ and with no pressure on what so ever and free wheel to a great week, and on balance this is how I think his week will play out.
On that basis I am keen to have Webb in our team this week.
HAROLD VARNER III – 50 -1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED 53rd
HVIII is yet to break his PGA tour duck however he has proven that he has what it takes to win after his memorable victory in the 2016 Australian PGA Championship.
The bulk of this season has been a struggle for Harold and until a month ago all he really had to show for it was a 7th place finish at TPC.
With regards to this finish there are two particular points to note from it. Firstly it of course joins the dots that I mentioned earlier between this event and Sawgrass. Secondly and perhaps even more interestingly as Harold now lives in Jacksonville Beach it showed he can produce in front of a home crowd and this is naturally relevant as he returns to the state he attended college in and still has huge affiliations to.
This time last month HVIII was potentially looking at a trip back to the web.com finals as he was languishing outside of the top 125 however all this has changed in the space of a few weeks as he has notched three consecutive top 20 finishes at the Greenbrier, The John Deere and The RBC Canadian Open.
This included 5th and 6th place in the first two. As a result of this Harold now sits secure in 104th spot.
Whilst Harold’s season long stats have been fairly poor befitting his overall play, in this recent three week period he has ranked 3rd, 15th and 27th in GIR so he is clearly striking his irons well at present.
As I mentioned earlier we have seen over the years that this is a good event for players to break their PGA tour win duck and I can see Harold continuing his recent great form and adding his name to that list this week.
WILLIAM MCGIRT – 100-1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED 57th
[UPDATE 15th AUGUST - Whilst I am not removing McGirt from my team I have subsequently become aware he has a hip injury, which he is nursing & due to have surgery on at the end of season. Please refer to my tweet from 14th August for more detail]
Another native of North Carolina who makes our team this week is Will McGirt.
McGirt was born in Fairmont, NC about 2 ½ hrs away from Greensboro, although he actually now resides in neighbouring South Carolina.
Since landing his maiden tour title at the Memorial back in 2016 McGirt has gone of the boil somewhat and this year in particular had been slim pickings with until recently nothing better to show than a 16th place at the Valspar.
Over the last three events however things have clicked in to place for Will and he has notched finishes of 12th, 29th and 6th over three consecutive events.
As a result Will now sits at 112th in the Fedex Cup Standings with his place in the play offs basically secured.
When at his best McGirt was known very much as a ‘fairways & greens’ player which in principal would make him a good fit for this course.
This season unfortunately though Will sits only 75th in GIR and is outside the top 100 for DA, which is a huge handicap for a guy who is short of the tee.
Last time out though Will finished the week 11th for GIR at the Barracuda and also improved his numbers of the tee.
In addition things really clicked for Will in the final round in Reno where he scored 20pts in the modified Stableford system to rocket through the field so he should be chomping at the bit to get going again.
It’s also worth noting that in Canada the week before Will ranked in the top 30 both for DA and GIR and his numbers in both of these categories were also solid the previous week at the Barbasol, so he definitely appears to found a bit of a groove of late.
Whilst McGirt has never really put it all together at Sedgefield CC he does have an 8th place and 14th place finish to his name here in 2014 & 2015 and over these two years he threw in two rounds of 64 and a 62. Clearly therefore the course is one that when he’s firing on all cylinders suits his neat and tidy game.
With no real pressure now and with his game starting to fire up again nicely I can see Will producing a big week in front of home fans and giving us a really good run at a juicy e/w price.
DANNY LEE 66-1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED 24th
For my final pick this week I am going to roll the dice with South Korean born Danny Lee.
As I mentioned last week it has been a great month or so for golfers of a Korean heritage with victories coming for both Kevin Na and Michael Kim and there are sound reasons to think that Seoul born Danny Lee can join Na in claiming a second PGA tour win this week.
Since landing his first PGA title at the Greenbrier in 2015 Danny hasn’t really pushed on as you would have expected him to do.
This season however after a difficult start to the year he sprang to life with a 7th place finish at Sawgrass. In the mix for the title this finish could have been even better had Danny not stalled slightly at the weekend.
Since then it has basically been feast or famine with Danny as in his subsequent nine starts he has missed the cut on four occasions, been disqualified once and finished in the top 21 on the other four!
In his last two starts Danny seems to have found some momentum having finished 21st at the Barbosol and 6th in Canada and you can’t help but wonder if he was inspired in to action by the performances of Na and Kim over the previous two weeks.
In addition lets not also forget that two further Koreans Ben An and Whee Kim played great golf in Canada so they appear to be spurring each other on at the moment.
The elephant in the room with Danny this week is the fact that he has missed the cut on his last four visits to Sedgefield however he did finish 20th here way back in 2008 before he even had a PGA Tour card and he shot four rounds in the 60s that week, so obviously he can play the course.
On that basis I am happy to take a chance that Danny can continue the recent run of great performances from the PGA Tour’s players of South Korean heritage and go close to adding his second PGA tour title this week.
UPDATED 15th AUGUST - TRADER
MARTIN FLORES FINISHED 65th BEST PRICE TRADED 25
There were several players I looked at for this slot this week based on their need to produce that one big week to make the top 125 and in the end I settled on the Texan Martin Flores.
As Martin currently sits 162nd in the Fedex Cup standings he is going to need to produce something pretty spectacular to make his way in to the top 125, however even if he cannot manage this a good week to climb inside the top 150 would guarantee him some starts on tour next year.
If there is a man however who knows how to produce something spectacular around Sedgefield when there card is on the line it is Flores and this is the crux of the pick.
For those who may not remember I am referring here to Martin's finish to the tournament last year.
This finish consisted of Martin making a hole in one on the par 3 16th, a par at the 17th and a closing birdie at 18.
This all added up to a final round 63 and with the Ace, Par, Birdie finish he climbed in to the 125 and retained his card.
So roll the clock on 12 months and once again Flores finds himself on the outside looking in and needing a big week.
In all honesty Martin's form at the moment is worse than it was coming in this time last year as in 2017 he came in to the week on the back of three top 20 finishes before opening here with a 64.
This year however his best result since May is a 50th place in Canada two starts ago, although this did include a closing round of 66.
The pure line of thinking therefore with this selection is the hope that a return to the scene of last years heroics will spark Martin to produce a vastly improved performance this week as he gives it 'one last big go'.
Teeing of at 7.20am on Thursday Martin has an ideal opportunity to make a fast start and on this basis I am rolling the dice with him as this weeks trader pick.
CURRENTLY TRADING @ 470