It was a frustrating week for us in Detroit at the Rocket Mortgage Classic with two of our picks, Adam Scott and Cameron Champ producing three really strong rounds but out of nowhere throwing in one absolute shocker. Add that to our other three selections missing the cut and it just wasn’t our week.
The event itself was won by Tony Finau who after several years of well documented frustration as he failed to add to his initial Puerto Rico triumph, now seems to have found the winning knack landing back to back titles in a fortnight to add to his triumph in the Play Off’s at the Northern Trust last year.
Now that Tony has well and truly got the monkey off his back with regards to his ability to close out the sky is the limit for him and he will now be fully focused on looking to bag a Major next year.
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 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 Wallace and Bo Austin Smotherman who occupy the last two spots at 124 & 125 respectively, while Rickie Fowler sits just above them at 123, meanwhile on the outside looking in are Max McGreevey and Danny Willett who sit at 126 & 127.
The market is headed up Shane Lowry, Sungjae Im and Will Zalatoris. They are then followed by course specialist Webb Simpson and Billy Horschel.
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 & of course Detroit G&CC the home of the Rocket Mortgage Classic where we were last week.
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 2010.
The winners of these events have been as follows;
2021 K Kisner
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
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.
In 2020 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.
Last 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 as does Detroit CC.
Firstly if we look at the last ten winners here four of them have either before, or subsequently since, won The Players Championship.
These players are Stenson, S W Kim, Love III and Garcia. In addition 2011 champion here Webb simpson has also triumphed at TPC Sawgrass. In addition of the other five winners over this stretch Villegas has a 3rd place finish to his name at TPC, Snedeker has a fifth place there, Poston has played strongly there and to bring it right up to date last years champion here Kevin Kisner lost in a play-off to Rickie Fowler at Sawgrass, 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, while 2015 veteran champion here Davis Love III collected Plaid Jackets for fun at the Heritage in his earlier years on tour. Finally to bring us up to date and Kisner, as he has at Sawgrass has also lost in a play off at Hilton Head.
Finally if we look at 2020 leaderboard here the Champion Herman had produced his best full field finish of 2020 at Hilton Head prior to his win here.
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 four of the past six 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 2020 winner Herman had shown a liking to the course before with two top 20 finishes in four starts in years gone by. Similarly last years winner Kevin Kisner was clearly a ‘horse for the course’ finishing third here the year before his triumph.
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.
2021 K Kisner 63 73 8 5
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
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 which will be pushing the high 90s.
As is often the case with these conditions storms are showing as a possibility over the weekend.
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;
SHANE LOWRY – 16/1 – 2.5pts E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 83rd
In a week where by and large I am going to keep things fairly predictable I am going to start off by siding with Shane Lowry.
Lowry has played a lot of really good golf this year however the one thing that has continued to elude him is his first win since his 2019 Open triumph, something, which I am sure will be a source of frustration to him.
From that point of view then I am sure Shane will be keen to finish his PGA Tour season in a positive fashion and potentially bag that win, and this trip to Sedgefield CC looks a perfect opportunity for him to do that.
Looking at the Irishman’s record here and he has tee’d it up four times on the Donald Ross design missing the cut once and posting a best of seventh in 2017. Not a spectacular record then however it his form this year and over the recent years at all the right correlating tracks that make me feel this is a perfect venue for him.
Firstly looking at TPC Sawgrass and we see that over the past couple of visits Shane has posted a 13th and an eighth place finish there while at Hilton Head, which as noted earlier also ties in really well here, he has posted two third place finishes and a ninth in his last four starts there. Clearly then Lowry is at home on the shorter tracks, which link so well to this venue.
Focusing on Shane’s form this season and his iron play has been the strongest part of his game and he currently ranks 11th in approach play for the season, which if he maintains that position will be his best season long ranking for that stat on PGA Tour. The area that has been slightly problematic to Shane at times though is the putter and over his recent starts including at the Open it is what has held him back. As we know though as a whole Shane is one of the stronger proponents of the flat stick on the PGA Tour, something his season long ranking of 38th shows us, and it is only a matter of time until it catches fire again.
Rested then for a couple of weeks since the Open the hope is that Shane will spark to life on the greens this week and if he combines that with continued strong iron play he looks sure to have a really big week.
SI WOO KIM – 28/1 –1.5pts E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED WD
Next up and perhaps the most obvious bet in the field this week is Si Woo Kim.
Si Woo as we know is something of a mercurial player who can blow hot or very cold.
One venue though we can normally rely on Si Woo to warm up at is Sedgefield CC where he landed his maiden tour title in 2016 and has subsequently posted three top five finishes in his last three visits.
The 21/22 campaign has been a fairly typical one for Si Woo with sporadic patches of form, usually involving a couple of decent finishes on the spin before he has fallen away again for a few weeks. True to form then the 27yr old followed a good week at the Memorial with three straight missed cuts before bouncing back at the Open to finish 15th.
Based on that performance at St Andrews I was tempted to include Si Woo at the Donald Ross designed Detroit CC last week and for a large chunk of the way it looked like I had made a mistake in not doing so, however a slightly disappointing 70 to close saw him slip out of the places and in to 14th.
In the end then what we had in Detroit was another solid result which should stand him in to good stead heading in to this week.
Looking at the young Korean’s stats from last week and it is clear most of his strong work was done in the short game department as he ranked sixth around the green and 11th in putting. Meanwhile he after a positive opening day from tee to green where he gained over three shots in this area he regressed on this front for the remainder of the week. Normally I admit this would be of some concern, however I return to the fact that Si Woo seems to come alive here, as he does at the correlating Sawgrass of course, with only one of his recent top fives here coming on the back of some decent form so I am not going to get too hung up on that.
To sum up then Si Woo is a threat whenever he tee’s it up here and he is a must for me this week.
BRIAN HARMAN – 40/1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 71st
Next up is another player who has the perfect profile for this type of test Brian Harman.
Harman, very much like last years champion here Kevin Kisner is a player who lacks length off the tee and therefore is very much at his best on shorter tracks where his lack of distance is not a disadvantage.
One look at Brian’s resume over the past couple years tells us all we need to know. Firstly in the 20/21 season his best finishes included an eighth at the Amex, which links nicely here with Si Woo Kim, a third at Sawgrass, 13th at Hilton Head, eighth at Colonial and fifth at the Travelers. Meanwhile this year he has posted another top five at the Amex an eighth at the Travelers and most recently an excellent sixth at the Open. If we head back further meanwhile we will find another top ten at Sawgrass on the resume.
Looking at Brian’s stats this season and he finds the fairway with regularity, while his putter co-operates reasonably well as we know, however the weak link has been in his approach play, interestingly though in his last three starts on US soil he has gained strokes in this area before he dipped slightly over in Scotland. Meanwhile the putter, which had cooled off slightly in the US showed up at St Andrews. Clearly then we are waiting for all the components to piece together in one week and it is surely only a matter of time till this happens.
Finally while a quick look at the lefty’s performance in this event in years gone by shows us a mixed bag with a sixth and a third to his name we certainly know he can handle the track.
Harman last posted a win on tour at the 2017 Wells Fargo in North Carolina at the Wells Fargo so he should have good vibes in the area and arriving here on the back of a great week at the Open I can see him making a bold bid at a long overdue third tour win.
HAROLD VARNER III – 40/1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
I will admit that Harold Varner III has been a player that I have very much avoided on the PGA Tour over recent times due, to put it bluntly, that whenever Stateside he has been seriously in with a winning chance he has very much looked like a rabbit in the headlights.
As we have seen though over recent years firstly with Jason Kokrak, then with Luke List and then of course with Tony Finau, if the player has the ability they will more often than not work out how to get the job done eventually. In addition let’s not forget Harold does have two high class wins under his belt firstly in Australia in 2016 and then earlier this year in Saudi Arabia so he clearly does know how to win.
So what draws me to Varner III this week? Well firstly and foremostly as with our first selection this week Lowry, he really does have a perfect CV of form on the right correlating courses. To expand further and Harold finished sixth at TPC Sawgrass earlier this year and also seventh there back in 2018, while if we look at his record at Hilton Head and he was third there this year and second in 2021.
If we then look at Harold’s record here and after missing the cut on debut he has made the weekend on his last five visits posting best finishes of tenth and seventh. Furthermore on his way to seventh here in 2020 he opened with a 62 so clearly he is comfortable round here.
Looking at the 31yr old’s form of late and it has been a really solid run for him as since that sixth place at Sawgrass he has only missed one cut at the US Open and the only thing that has held him back has been the putter for which he ranks 111th on the season. Time and again though as know a poor putter can catch light on the greens to transform there week and I will take a chance Harold can do that here.
Harold bases himself in Charlotte some 90 minutes or so away from here so this is very much a home game for him so this would be a perfect place for him to bag his first tour win and I am happy to take a chance on him this week.
JASON DAY - 55/1 –1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED WD
Finally this week I am going to take a chance that Jason Day will take to Sedgefield CC on his first visit since missing the cut way back in 2008.
Backing Day as we know can be a risky business with potential injury problems always a possibility however of late he does seem to be relatively healthy with no injury or illness related withdrawals of late.
Looking at Day’s 21/22 season and he currently sits at a 106th in the Fedex Cup standings meaning that he is safe for the play offs regardless as to what he does this week.
From a results point of view since a third place at the Farmers back in January Jason has settled in to a run of consistency, which has seen him make six of his past seven cuts with the highlight coming when he held the half way lead at the Wells Fargo before struggling on Saturday and eventually finishing tenth. Nothing spectacular then, however lets not forget that this year has been clouded for Jason by the sad passing of his Mother and I am sure this will have understandably effected things on the course.
Last week in Detroit however Jason produced a strong all round performance to finish 17th saving his best effort of the week, a 66, for Sunday.
On to this week then and like I say although this is Day’s first visit to Sedgefield in a long time as someone who has thrived at Sawgrass over the years posting a win and two other top tens in his last six appearances there, he should be chomping at the bit allowing for the similarities.
Furthermore having posted a win at the Wells Fargo only 90 minutes or so away from here in Charlotte he should certainly be comfortable in the area.
While still only 35 Day is something of a veteran of the PGA Tour these days and from that point of view I can’t help but draw similarities with another former Sawgrass champion Henrik Stenson who won the trophy here in 2017, and at what are attractive each way odds I am happy to wrap things up by chancing Jason this week.