WYNDHAM CHAMPIONSHIP: The PGA Tour has made an annual stop in the Greensboro, North Carolina area since the 1930s, and though this tournament has changed names and venues a few times, the Tour’s commitment to the area has not wavered, and this event is embraced and supported by the local community like few others on the schedule.
That said, tradition and community support are not what drives the players teeing it up this week, as this is the last tourney before the cash bonanza known as the FedEx Cup Playoffs, which get underway with next week’s FedEx St. Jude. In other words, this is the final opportunity for those outside the top 125 in the standings to squeeze into the Playoff field, and the last chance for those on the bubble to solidify their spot. There may not be many big names in action this week, but this is a huge opportunity for lots of players and it’ll be a fun four days for those of us who like to follow the drama on the margins.
The course, Sedgefield Country Club, is a classic Donald Ross design that was lengthened and modernized in the early 2000s and has played host to this event since 2008. A par-70 that measures just 7,127 yards, it’s still rather short by Tour standards and isn’t terribly penal off the tee, but the sticky Bermuda rough must be avoided if the players hope to keep pace in what is always a green-light birdie fest. If you’re putting the ball in the fairway Sedgefield is pretty much target practice with wedges and short irons, and though the green complexes do have some Ross-inspired trickiness and subtlety, they aren’t able to provide a stern enough defense against the world’s best players. Last year was the first time since 2015 that the winner of this tournament didn’t reach 20-under, with Kevin Kisner’s 15-under total the second-highest winning score we’ve seen since 2008. I wouldn’t expect that trend to continue given the perfect weather forecast for this week, so we’re looking for guys who can take it deep.
It’s worth mentioning that we’ve seen some exciting finishes at Sedgefield, with 7 of the past 9 champions either prevailing by a single stroke or in a playoff. That makes for a fun week… as does having a player in the mix on Sunday, which has been a pretty consistent feature of this column lately. Here are three to consider for this week:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Si Woo Kim (28.0)- Zalatoris (17.0), Lowry (18.5), and Im (18.5) are the betting favorites this week, and you can put that in the category of “Si Woo Kim disrespect.” I know I would feel a bit disrespected if I were Kim and saw the likes of Lowry and Im listed ahead of me at Sedgefield. I mean… what more do you have to see from Kim at this course? His record here includes a victory in 2016, a T5 in 2019, a 3rd-place showing in 2020, and a runner-up last year, when he made the 6-man playoff but couldn’t match Kisner’s birdie on the second hole. He’s a machine at Sedgefield, and he’s in good form at the moment, with top-15s at the Open and the Rocket Mortgage in his last two starts. Kim is looking awfully tasty this week at a price like 28.0.
J.T. Poston (47.0)- This price seems kind of big for Poston, who ticks both the “current form” and “course history” boxes this week. After all, he’s only three starts removed from his victory at the John Deere Classic, and we last saw him at the 3M Open, where a Saturday 64 propelled him to a T11. In Poston’s last 12 rounds on American soil he is a combined 46-under par, so all the red numbers being thrown up at Sedgefield this week won’t phase him at all. A native of Hickory, North Carolina who played his college golf at Western Carolina, this is essentially a home game for him, and his victory here in 2019 was a turning point in his career. The Post Man has been delivering on Sunday plenty this year, and I have a feeling he’ll be in the mix again this week. At better than 45/1, Poston may be the best value on the board.
Kevin Streelman (90.0)- This is an interesting week for many of the longer-odds types because there is so much on the line– playing status for next year, a potential Playoff berth, Korn Ferry Finals, etc. Streelman sits at 85th in the FedEx Cup rankings so he’s safe from all that worry, but this is a big week for him nonetheless, as tournaments like this– shorter course that he’s familiar with, field devoid of big names– are traditionally where he does his damage. He has a couple of wins under his belt and a handful of runner-ups, so he’s no stranger to contention, and he loves tight courses, ranking 9th on Tour in driving accuracy. Sedgefield is a near-perfect fit for him stylistically, and he’s enjoyed considerable success in this event over the years, notching his first top-10 here (T6) way back in 2008 and his most recent just last year, when he shot 66-66-68-66 to finish 7th. He’s taken some time off this summer but is just two starts removed from a runner-up finish at the Barbasol Championship, so there are no concerns about his form or confidence. I believe Streelman should be backed enthusiastically at the current price.