It was a ‘game of two halves’ for us last week as we struggled to get anything going at the WGC but more than made up for it at the Barracuda.
In Memphis we were never really at the races with any of our selections and in the end we were purely a spectator as the drama unfolded down the stretch on Sunday.
Ultimately in a finish few could have predicted Abraham Ancer took advantage of Harris English’s collapse to find himself in a play off and land a long overdue and well deserved first tour title.
At the Barracuda however it was a different story as 100/1 pick Scott Piercy went in to the final day with a great chance. In the end, in an event which saw another PGA maiden Erik Van Rooyen bag his first tour title, Piercy came up just short in third place, however the full place return alongside a full return for 60/1 pick Brandon Hagy, who made a welcome Sunday charge, meant it was a profitable week for us overall, which is all we can ask for.
Moving on and hard as it is to believe we have reached the last regular event of the PGA Tour season before we head in to the Play Off’s , 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 also guarantees you your playing privileges on tour for the following year.
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 Matt Kuchar and Bo Hoag who occupy the last two spots at 124 & 125 respectively, and Scott Piercy and Nate Lashley who sit just outside at 126 & 127.
In addition several bigger names and/or long standing play off regulars like Rickie Fowler, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Francesco Molinari and Ryan Moore currently sit outside of the 125 and they will need to produce a big week to play their way in to the Play Off’s.
With the event falling on the back of the Olympics and a WGC and right before the Play Offs start the field, even with the incentive of the Comcast Rewards pot [formerly the Wyndham Rewards] to be distributed to the top ten in the Fedex standings at the end of this week is understandably a weaker one.
The market is headed up by course specialist Webb Simpson, Hideki Matsuyama and Louis Oosthuizen.
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 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.
The winners of these events have been as follows;
2020 J Herman
2019 JT Poston
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
With this event until 2018 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 and this year with the scheduling change we are back in that situation.
Last year after a year of the new schedule when the PGA was played in May, due to the Covid 19 pandemic the event again had a spot after the PGA Championship, and this possibly contributed to the huge priced shock winner we saw Jim Herman. This year though this point of course becomes redundant again.
Looking at correlating course form and TPC Sawgrass and Hilton Head certainly jump of the page.
Firstly if we look at the last ten 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 five winners over this stretch Villegas has a 3rd place finish to his name at TPC, Sneds was fifth there this year and Poston has played strongly there, so that leaves only Reed and Herman without Sawgrass pedigree.
If we then look at the RBC Heritage, which is another shortish Carolina’s design we see that 2019 champion Poston has two top tens there, 2018 runner up CT Pan was victorious at Hilton Head while 2017 Wyndham Champion, Brandt Snedeker is a former Hilton Head Champion, if we then dig a bit further we can see that course specialist 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. Finally if we look at last years leaderboard here the Champion Herman had produced his best full field finish of 2020 prior to his win, while other Harbour Town specialists Kisner and Simpson again finished in the top ten.
The message is therefore loud and clear, players with Sawgrass and Hilton Head form go seriously well here.
As for past course form at Sedgefield itself whilst this is always useful it does not appear to be essential as three of the past five winners here, Herman, Poston, Stenson and Si Woo Kim had played in the event six times between them prior to winning and had only made one cut between them posting a best place finish of 50th!
Conversely though the 2018 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, while last years winner Herman had shown a liking to the course before with two top 20 finishes in four starts in years gone by.
Next let’s 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.
2020 J Herman 77 MC MC 33
2019 JT Poston 29 MC 11 MC
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
As we can see from this table there is no hugely clear picture here with only four of the past ten winners having posted a top ten finish in their previous four starts.
Another thing to look at is how many of these winners were first time winners on tour. The answer to this is four with Poston, S W Kim, Reed & Simpson all landing their first PGA Tour title in this event. This is certainly a good chance then 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 Poston in 2019 and Stenson in 2017 who both got the job done with a -22 total with Poston memorably going all four rounds bogey free while 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.
We look to have warm, muggy temperatures this week in North Carolina with the first couple of days pushing the high 90s before the weekend sees the heat drop ever so slightly.
As is often the case with these conditions storms are a possibility throughout the week including in the lead in days so the players may well be throwing darts at a soft golf course.
Wind does not look to be to much of an issue with nothing more than more than 10-15mph in the forecast all week.
As I always say though…this could all change!
I have gone with five players this week as follows;
WILL ZALATORIS – 25/1 – 2pts E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 29th
I will start this week with what I believe is a ‘first’ for me and that is siding with Will Zalatoris.
I will readily admit that I have been reluctant to jump on the Zalatoris bandwagon over the past year as it has been clear that he is one of those players the layers aren’t willing to take any chances with and as such his odds are often more restrictive than I would expect them to be.
Ultimately though there is no doubting that Will is a class act who you would think is surely destined for some big wins and I have decided it is belatedly time to jump on board.
So why this week at odds, which again could certainly be seen restrictive for someone who is yet to get the job done at this level?
Well firstly if we look at the skill sets needed for this week it would seem that Zalatoris is exactly the type of player we are looking for, this is backed up by a quick look at the recent winners stats here and indeed the names of some of those who have triumphed. The roll of honour over the last ten years see’s the likes of Sergio Garcia, Davis Love III, Henrik Stenson, Si Woo Kim, Camillo Villegas and of course standing dish here Webb Simpson, making an appearance, all high quality ball strikers on their day, who at any time can get hot with the putter, they are then completed with Herman, Poston and Snedeker over the past three years who all had great weeks with their irons when they won, ranking first, third and third in approach play respectively.
From this point of view Zalatoris who sits seventh on tour in approach play this season and his best known for his approach play is a perfect fit.
Looking at Will’s recent form and there is no doubt that since his purple patch in the spring at the height of, which he came close to winning the Masters on his debut, he had gone off the boil and a light schedule, perhaps to manage fatigue saw him post finishes of 59 MC and 77 from the end of May through to July before he was forced to withdraw from the Open with an injury.
Last week however the 24yr old bounced back to form with an eighth place finish at Memphis. What really caught the eye in this performance was that that not only was Will’s trademark long game on display, he ranked 13th from tee to green and 14th in approach play, but his weakest link, the putter, was firing and he finished ninth for the week in that department, any kind of repeat of that combination this week will surely see him right in the hunt come Sunday.
So, despite a MC here in his only previous visit back in 2018, there is no doubt in my mind that Zalatoris is a good fit for Sedgefield and that his form based on last weeks showing seems to have returned at just the right time, however the clincher for me is that there is only one result that will do for Will this week and that is a win.
The reason for this is that due to the quirks of the changes made around the covid 19 pandemic Zalatoris still doesn’t have full PGA Tour status and he continues to play on a Special Temporary Membership. Next season this will of course change, however at present the Wake Forest grad [which FWIW is where course specialist here Webb Simpson attended] does not have a Fedex Cup ranking and unless he wins this week, something, which will automatically gain him his full card with immediate effect, he will spend the next three weeks with his feet up, watching the big names share the big dollars.
It really is win or bust for Will then at Sedgefield and with him surely being highly motivated to do so I can see him making a big bid for his first PGA Tour title this week.
RICKIE FOWLER – 50/1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
Next up I am happy to chance that Rickie Fowler can continue his recent positive strides forward and make a serious challenge to return to the winners enclosure.
Fowler as we know has struggled hugely over the past couple of years and at a current ranking of 130th in the Fedex Cup standings if he doesn’t produce the goods this week he will be having to resort to a lifetime money list exemption in order to maintain his full playing privileges, something which would have been completely unthinkable a few years back.
Of late however Rickie has started to show some far more encouraging signs with an eighth place finish at the PGA Championship in May a prelude to a run of four further made cuts in five events on the PGA Tour including an 11th at the Memorial.
At his most recent start at the 3M Open Fowler opened up the week with a round of 64, a score, which came on the back of a closing 65 at the Open Championship the previous week. Unfortunately though as is often the case with a player who is struggling to put it all together Fowler was unable to build on that start and he gradually slipped down the board before finishing 34th.
To me though these scores along with the other more positive results show there is some good stuff on the verge of coming out and if we look more closely at Rickie’s closing two rounds at the 3M there were plenty of red numbers in there, which were mixed in with the mistakes, including an eight on Saturday at the 18th, which along with two further bogeys earlier on the back nine, turned a -6 round in to a -1 round. Again though I will take the positives from the six birdies in the first ten holes he made that day.
This week as mentioned Fowler needs a big performance and with his putter now firing again if he can find just a fraction more consistency with his iron play he could be a serious threat here.
As a former Champion at TPC Sawgrass Rickie ticks the correlating course form box here that many of the recent winners do and solid 22nd place here on his only previous visit in 2016, a result, which came straight on the back of an appearance at the Olympics in Rio, offers more encouragement.
There is no doubt in my mind Fowler has turned a corner and I expect him to do enough this week to push himself in to the top 125 and I am also optimistic he can go far beyond that and make a strong bid for a comeback win.
CHARL SCHWARTZEL – 50/1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
If Rickie Fowler is heading in the direction of a comeback one another player who is knocking the door down in that department is Charl Schwartzel.
As regular readers will know we were onboard with Charl a few weeks back at the 3M Open and while, allowing for the fact we were on the winner Champ at 125/1, we weren’t unduly concerned that he didn’t close things out, his second place finish was another clear sign that he is really close to a return to the winners circle.
At the 3M Schwartzel did most of his damage with the putter ranking fourth for the week with the flat stick, however his approach play held him back slightly as he only ranked 37th in this department.
In his previous outing however, when Charl knocked off the rust from a month long break by finishing 26th at the Barbaso,l he ranked 16th for the week in approach play, so it is now really a case of waiting for the week he puts the key components together.
This week the former Masters Champion tees it up on a course that he has finished third and 14th at in two of his previous three visits and as a former runner up at TPC Sawgrass he also ticks the correlating course form box. In addition, while it may be something and nothing two former Augusta Champions, Reed and Garcia have triumphed here over the past ten years and it could just be the undulating Donald Ross greens the players face here loosely link well with the Augusta test.
Either way while Sedgefield has seen its share of shock winners over the years it has also been kind to experienced campaigners like Snedeker, Stenson, Love III and Garcia and Charl’s name would certainly fit well with that list.
Finally with last weeks Barracuda seeing Erik Van Rooyen become the third South African to win on the PGA Tour this season it is quite possible that Schwartzel will take some inspiration from this and I am keen to side with him again this week.
MACKENZIE HUGHES – 70/1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 37th
Another player who has been very much catching the eye of late is Mackenzie Hughes.
After playing his way in to the Tour Championship last year Hughes started his 20/21 campaign strongly with two top ten finishes in the Fall events at the Corales Puntacana and in Houston.
The 2021 calendar year however initially proved slightly tougher for the Canadian as after a top 20 at the Sony Open he was unable to produce anything better in strokeplay than 36th at the Honda until he snapped a run of five straight missed cuts with a 15th place at the US Open in June, a result, which could have been much better but for a somewhat predictable final day 77.
Clearly buoyed by that performance though the Canadian has kicked on and a 14th place at the Ross designed Detroit GC was followed by a fantastic 6th place at the Open.
Rested now after a trip to Japan for the Olympics Hughes returns to Sedgefield CC for the first time since finishing 22nd here in 2019 when he opened up the week with a round of 63 to sit third after day one, and it should be noted that on that occasion he had arrived here having finished MC 66 in his previous two starts.
One of the stronger putters on tour, currently ranking 25th with the flatstick this season, Mackenzie has shown us time and again of late that he holes as many long putts as pretty much anyone out there and as a player who often produces his best on shorter tracks, notably of course when he won the RSM, if the anticipated softer conditions lead to a putting contest this week this will be right up his alley.
It is nearly four years now since the Canadian landed that lone tour title to date and his play over the last twelve months or so has clearly shown he has another win in him. Arriving here then in strong form on a course, which suits, he looks a great bet to me this week at good each way odds.
CAMILO VILLEGAS - 250/1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 46th
Finally this week my eyes keep getting drawn back to what I see as very generous odds for Camilo Villegas and as such I can’t resist a roll of the dice on the Colombian.
Currently at 129th in the Fedex Cup standings Camilo is another player who arrives at Sedgefield needing a big week to finish in the top 125 and as is the case with backing any of the players around the bubble there is always the risk they just focus on doing enough to get that job done and no more.
A former champion here though Villegas has shown time and again over the years that he is at his best on Bermuda greens and at reproducing the goods on coursesw he has played well on before and if he is to return to winning ways this event ranks as one of his best opportunities.
After a couple of years where Camilo was understandably focused on anything but golf due to well documented person tragedy it is of huge credit to the 39yr old that he has found the courage to focus on his golf career again this season and a campaign, which has seen him post top tens at the RSM and the Honda as well as an 11th at the Valspar shows that he has plenty of good golf left in him.
While the most recent of these high finishes came all but three months ago Villegas last our starts has seen four solid made cuts, which included an opening round of 64 at the John Deere.
Looking more closely at Camilo’s numbers in some of those performances at the 3M he ranked 24th for the week in putting whereas last week at the Barracuda he ranked 19th in good old fashioned GIR but putted really poorly. This week back on the bermuda if he can keep the iron play going and improve his putting on greens he knows well then a big performance is more than possible.
As well as his win here Villegas has a ninth place and 16th place finish to his name in this event so along with the likes of PGA National, where he produced the goods again this year, this is clearly one of his favourite stops on tour and I can see him going really well this week at huge odds.
UPDATED 10th AUGUST
FANTASY DRAFT KINGS PICKS
PICK 1 - HENRIK NORLANDER - DK VALUE $6800 - WITHDREW BEFORE THE START
To be honest if you are looking for one DK play in the sub $7K region this week my recommendation would be Camilo Villegas who is in my main bets team, however as always I will put forward another two DK plays in this price range.
First up then is Henrik Norlander. The Swede who has had a really solid season currently sits a comfortable 83rd in the Fedex standings.
This week he arrives in North Carolina on the back of five straight made cuts on tour including a fifth place last time out at the Barbasol.
Norlander is at his best on courses which reward solid iron play and a lot of his best performances since he has been out here have come on shorter tracks such as Sea Island and Waialae CC.
Two made cuts here in three previous vists including a top twenty finish offers further encouragement and I expect another strong week this week.
PICK 2 - AUSTIN COOK - DK VALUE $6300 - FINISHED MC - DK POINTS TOTAL 18.5
After he won his lone tour title to date at the RSM Classic in his first full season on tour Austin Cook looked destined for big things however since then things have gone badly awry.
This week Cook finds himself entering the regular season finale at 134th in the Fedex Cup standings and unless he produces a big week he will be headed for the Korn Ferry finals.
After what has been a ghastly 2021 Cook produced his best finish of the calendar year last week, a 15th place at the Barracuda, which came largely due to a Sunday charge..
As a result of this Austin should have renewed confidence he can produce the result he needs to this week on a course he has played solidly at over the years.
Cook's record at Sedgefield is not spectacular, however he has made all three cuts here, furthermore on his last two appearances he has closed with rounds of 75 and 76 to take the gloss of three good opening days. Clearly then this is a track Cook is comfortable on and with motivation high I expect him to perform well again here this week.