After a scintillating week at the PGA Championship, the PGA Tour comes crashing back down to normality, with its annual trip to the Wyndham Championship this week.
The Wyndham is a well-respected event in itself but after the excitement of the final round in St.Louis, there is every chance this tournament feels flat this week.
Tiger Woods, despite not hitting a single fairway on the front 9, managed to get to three-under for the day, heading to the 10th and continued his good efforts on the back-9, to finish on 14-under-par overall.
Determined not to get beat, no matter how good of a story it would have been, Brooks Koepka put his foot on the pedal, after a slight blip early in his round, and won his third major title.
At 28 years of age, Koepka joins an illustrious list of golfers who have won three majors before their 30th birthday, and to win the PGA and U.S. Open in the same year. Jack Nicklaus, Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods were the only golfers to win three majors before turning 30, since WWII and Koepka joined them last night. He also joined Nicklaus, Woods, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen as the only players to win the PGA and U.S. Open in the same year.
Switching our focus back to this week then, and despite being just a week removed from the final major of the year, there is a decent field here. With Ryder Cup spots up for grabs, there is plenty to play for, and those in the hunt for a Captain’s pick will have plenty of motivation to win.
The Course and what it will take to win
Sedgefield CC, 7,127 Yards, Par 70.
Another Par 70 course, making it three on the spin, following events at Firestone CC and Bellerive CC, but this time it is a shorter course, which is there to be scored on. Sedgefield was the original venue for this event, and despite an absent spell from 1977-2007, the event returned home once again in 2008 and has not left since.
Over the past five years, the winning score had ranged from 14-under-par to 22-under par, and the -20 mark will certainly be the aim this week.
This is a Donald Ross design, the same man who was responsible for the original designs of East Lake GC (Tour Championship) and Oak Hill CC (2013 PGA Championship), both of which were re-designed by Rees and Robert Trent Jones respectively. He was also the brains behind Pinehurst No.2 (1999, 2005 and 2014 U.S. Open’s).
Any links to the above courses will of course be beneficial and certainly worth bearing in mind, especially if it can be used as a tie-breaker between picks. We often see players continuously playing well on tracks by the same designer, which is clearly not always coincidental.
Given the low-scoring nature of this event, and the small Bermuda greens, anyone hoping to win here would benefit from hitting a good amount of fairways, to put them in position to make the necessary amount of birdies. Patrick Reed has been the lowest ranked winner in terms of Driving Accuracy (16th) since this event returned to Sedgefield in 2008, so it is clearly an important area to keep in mind. The last five winners have all ranked top-10 in this area.
The length of the course presents players with a good opportunity to take less-than-driver off the tee here, and this will certainly be the case at times.
Not surprisingly, Par 4 Performance is important again at this Par 70 track, with 9 of the last 11 winners here ranking 5th or better in that category. Webb Simpson (10th) and Ryan Moore (12th) are the only winners not to rank 5th or better in Par 4 Performance since the return to Sedgefield in 2008.
In addition to this, those that have ranked 1st in Par 4 Performance here have finished 1st or 2nd every year since 2008.
Simply put, if you score well on the intermediate holes, whilst keeping the ball in the fairway you are going to stand a good chance of success here.
Shane Lowry 25/1 (General) 1.5pts e/w:
So perhaps not the most exciting, nor the biggest priced selection this week, but Shane Lowry makes obvious claims here, where he finished 7th 12 months ago.
His T12 last week was the third top-15 finish in a row, and he will looking to capitalise on this good run of form and grab his second PGA Tour win.
A player with all the talent in the world, Lowry’s biggest demon is consistency, but when he is on, he is a threat in any field. A WGC winner and a runner-up at the 2016 U.S. Open, Lowry has proven his ability on the biggest of stages and now comes the time to start finding more success in regular events.
With the run of form behind him, plus the incentive of a very slim chance still of making the Ryder Cup, Lowry can take advantage of a good course setup for him this week, and get the job done for just his third win as a professional.
Harold Varner III 50/1 (Various) 1pt e/w:
A third-round 72 halted Varner’s progress at the RBC Canadian Open last time out, and in the end finished a decent, but disappointing 17th. Swap that 72, for a 69 though, which was his next worse score of the week, and suddenly Varner finishes inside the top-6 for the third straight event in a row.
Of course that is completely circumstantial and you can’t just change scores to support your theory, but it makes an interesting point that one, not even drastically bad round, has robbed him a trio of top-6 results.
A T5 at the Greenbrier, followed by a T6 at the John Deere were his two best finishes of the PGA Tour season, adding to his impressive T7 in the stacked Players Championship field.
Two starts here have seen him produce a top-10 and a missed cut, whilst he also finished 7th on this course in 2013 at the Sedgefield Classic, an eGolf Tour event.
This is virtually a home game for Varner, who was raised in North Carolina and the East Carolina alum will relish the crowd support he is bound to receive, should he get in contention.
If he carries his current form over, he will be a threat to those at the head of the market, based on his ability to take advantage of the easy par-5’s here (top-35 in Par 5 Scoring Average and Par 5 Birdie of Better %)
At 50/1 he looks a decent price in an average field, to realise his potential. A win in Australia is still his lone success on the main tours, so a win of any kind on this Tour will be a huge confidence boost.
Ryan Armour 125/1 (SpreadEx) 1pt e/w:
Ryan Armour has played some great golf this season, no more so than when winning at the Sanderson Farms Championship last October, and now he has the winning experience, he may well be able to add another here, where he impressed last year.
Armour has made three starts in this event, and despite missing the cuts twice, he finished 4th 12 months ago, and can go better this time around. Another bonus is Armour finished 8th at this course in the Sedgefield Classic in 2013, the same eGolf event Varner played in.
It has been a long time since that win last October, but whilst it has not been plain sailing since for the late bloomer, Armour has shown further signs he could double his overall tally in the same season.
Just last month Armour was a distant 2nd to Francesco Molinari as the Italian romped to victory at the Quicken Loans National to kick off July, but this ensured Armour posted his two best career-finishes in the same season. A T21 finish at the Greenbrier on his next start would have given Armour hope ahead of The Open and the PGA Championship, but he missed the cut in both.
Back in a more familiar territory this week, away from the pressures of a major championship, Armour will look to add to his fine effort here last season.
We have already noted how important Driving Accuracy is here, and Armour, who ranks 3rd in Driving Accuracy is amongst the straightest on Tour.
At 125/1 he is almost double the price I would make him, given he has finished 1st and 2nd already this season, and has also shown a liking for the course just last year.
Total Points Staked this week: 7
Profit/Loss for 2018: -113