FedEx Cup drama
The Wyndham Championship. This is the last week before the FedEx Cup play-offs and for some, the most important event of the year. If you are outside the top 125 in the FedEx Cup standings right now, you’re not playing next week. The importance for many is not only playing the play-off events but securing playing rights for the 2016/17 season. Those who rank 126-150 will have the chance to play next season but those beyond that will be looking to the Web.Com Tour Finals.
Recent history of the Wyndham Championship
Aside from the FedEx drama, the Wyndham Championship by its own right is a great event with a lot of history. Looking at the illustrious list of recent winners, it is fair to say the players like this one too.
In the last five years; Davis Love III, Camilo Villegas, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia and Webb Simpson have won here. These five have all won multiple PGA Tour titles. Whilst only Love and Simpson are major winners, Garcia and Reed are often touted as major winners in the waiting.
Reed beat Jordan Spieth in a play-off here in 2013 and they have since won 10 PGA Tour titles between them. Spieth got his play-off revenge on Reed at the Valspar Championship last year. Reed still remains in the shadow of Spieth, as the latter added two majors to his win tally in 2015.
Last year, Love became the oldest winner on the PGA Tour since the Champions Tour was established in 1980. At 51 years old, Love wound back the years to shoot an impressive -17 over the week. In a period where the young guns seem to be dominating this was even more impressive.
The Course (Sedgefield Country Club)
The Wyndham Championship returned to this, 7,127 yard, Par 70 in 2008 after being held at Forest Oaks from 1977-2007.
This course was designed by Donald Ross and will test players accuracy over length. Ball placement off the tee is essential, as players look for the best angle into these greens. There are several undulations in the greens, so players will need to be on form with their approaches and the short stick. At just 7,127 yards this is not a course where long hitters will have a significant advantage. In 2012 the greens were changed from Bentgrass to Bermudagrass. It is worth looking at those that excel on this type of putting surface.
What will it take to win the Wyndham Championship?
Much like last week, a low score is required. Reed’s winning score of -14 was the joint highest since 1998. Only he and Hal Sutton (2000) have failed to eclipse this score in that time frame.
In order to win these low-scoring events a good week with the putter is always important. You cannot win an event of this nature without putts dropping. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be a good putter generally though. Garcia, Reed and Simpson for example are not exceptional putters generally, but can get hot. When they do get hot they win events, like they did here.
If a player putts above expectations on Bermudagrass greens in comparison to others, it may be worth chancing them this week. There are plenty of players who hit the ball exceptionally well for long periods of time without putts dropping. Find that person and take a chance on them here if the stats add up to you.
A good guide to check out for this is www.futureoffantasy.com. Josh Culp (@futureoffantasy on Twitter) uploads and updates great stats like these on his site regularly.
Beyond that Driving Accuracy on the face of it looks key. Of the last five winners, Reed’s ranking of 16th in Driving Accuracy on the week is the worst and that may be the reason why his winning score didn’t match up with the others.
This may not be as most important as it seem however as the fairways are wider than the average Tour stop and the field average for Greens in Regulation here (over 70%) is higher than the average week.
Webb Simpson 25/1 (General)
An unoriginal pick but Simpson leads the way this week. There are players loving events and there is Webb Simpson and the Wyndham Championship.
Yes, Simpson has great form at this course (6-5-11-22-1-8-MC) but he also loves it so much here, he named his fourth and latest child, Wyndham!
This is not the reason to back Simpson though. The course form and solid current form in general makes 25/1 seem decent value. I say decent because although everything points to him this week, the fact remains he hasn’t won in almost three years.
He has looked in that winning form of late however and looks to have put the putting woes behind him. He has made his last four straight cuts, and has only missed four in total all season. In his most recent stretch of consecutive cuts, he has finished 6-39-13-34. The 13th came at the USPGA as well, which was a tough test, so his game is in good shape.
Before his missed cut at the U.S. Open, which can be forgiven he had finished T3 and T11 the two weeks prior as well, so he has been in contention in recent weeks.
In an interview with the Golf Channel after his opening round here two years ago he said “The course is just similar in the way it shapes, and the hills and undulating greens, to what I grew up playing,” he said. “I really see the tee shots well, where like Akron I don’t see the tee shots that well. I don’t see the lines that well. Guys feel that way about certain courses out here.”
Simpson clearly feels at home at this local event, so if you are going to back him at any time during the year, this is the best time to do so.
While Simpson is not directly in line for a Captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup, it is another incentive he may have in the back of his mind.
Ben Martin 70/1 (Bet365)
This may be an overreaction to his finish last week, but Martin is worth chancing this week at 80/1.
Martin finished 10th here last season, in just his second start at the Wyndham Championship. A missed cut on debut in 2011 was his first attempt. As noted earlier, the greens were changed to BermudaGrass in 2012 and this may have changed his fortunes.
Looking at Martin’s strokes-gained putting figures his 0.676 strokes-gained putting on Bermuda vs. his 0.267 strokes-gained putting total proves he prefers these surfaces.
Also worth noting are his ties to Carolina (born in Greenwood, South Carolina). Martin should feel comfortable in this part of the country given it isn’t far from home.
It is easy to forget how good Martin was in the 2014/15 season. He had five top-10’s, including a win at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and the 10th placed finish here. The talent is there and he will be hoping to replicate his success last year with another win. This could well be the best chance he has for the rest of the year.
It is easy to get roped in by that 2nd place finish at the John Deere Classic last week but he has been in form elsewhere. In the four events prior to last week, he had missed two cuts but also finished T7 at the Barracuda Championship and T20 at the Barbosol Championship two weeks after.
He has been inconsistent all season and that is an obvious concern but this sort of course (shorter) suits him, so he can go well. After shooting four rounds in the 60’s last week (including a 62 in round 3) he will be full of confidence and ready to go this week.
A bonus statistic is that Martin leads the PGA Tour in Total Eagles (15). With two short par-5’s on this course, Martin may well be able to take advantage. He is also T34 in Total Birdies.
These will be my only two bets this week. Other notables that came close include; Bill Haas, Bud Cauley and Harold Varner III.
Moving on, here are my DraftKings selections.
Webb Simpson ($10,200) – See above.
Jim Furyk ($11,000) – Furyk doesn’t normally put this event on his schedule, but when he last played here in 2011 he finished 9th.
On his last start he finished 5th at the Travelers Championship and he can contend here to get the win he needs ahead of the Ryder Cup.
The course suits, as outlined by his top-10 here and although his high salary puts me off slightly, I am hoping this will keep his ownership down.
Furyk hasn’t been consistent since his return from injury in May but his 2nd at the U.S. Open, 13th at the Canadian Open and his 5th at the Travelers were all good efforts. The Ryder Cup situation has swayed my decision. He will not want to settle for the Vice-Captain role at Hazeltine and a win here may change that situation.
This is the range where there looks to be multiple options.
Bill Haas’ course form in recent years is bettered only by Simpson. In his last four starts at this course he has finished 6-2-20-7. Three top-10’s and a top-20 makes him a solid play at $9,600 and I expect him to contend this week.
Haas currently ranks 14th in the Ryder Cup standings and while it will be a huge surprise if he is picked, he will have that in the back of his mind. With Bubba Watson, Matt Kuchar and Rickie Fowler all in the picture for a pick his chances however are slim-to-none.
William McGirt will be hugely popular this week at $8,700 but I will have him in some line-ups. He finished 10th at the PGA Championship, which is his first cut at a major championship this year. In the four events between the Memorial where he won and his 10th last week, he has two missed cuts, a T7 and a T59. The two missed cuts came at the U.S. Open and the Open Championship, otherwise he has been solid.
If you ignore the missed cuts at the two majors, a win, a T7 at the WGC Bridgestone and the 10th at the PGA Championship – which was his last start makes good reading.
In terms of his course form, McGirt’s last five efforts here read 14-8-65-MC-52. The 14th and 8th placed finishes are a huge improvement and I expect more of the same, if not better this week.
Justin Thomas at $8,600 looks to have huge up-side to me. He has five top-10s to his name this season including a 3rd placed finish at the Travelers Championship two weeks ago.
That performance at the Travelers is the sort of golf we expect from Thomas and he will play this course for a third time. Thomas played here as a 16-year old amateur in 2009 and was MDF (made cut but did not finish) at -2. He added to that by finishing 56th last year, so not great but hopefully he can find something else.
This is more a value pick than anything else. When Thomas starts to find some consistency again like he did earlier in the year, he won’t be this price often.
This season he has won the CIMB Classic and finished T3 at the Frys.com Open, the Honda Classic, the Players Championship and the Travelers Championship two weeks ago. Regularly in contention throughout the season he is no stranger to being atop the leaderboard and hopefully that happens again this week.
Kevin Kisner is starting to find great form again after struggling since his breakthrough win at the RSM Classic. In his first six events this season, he had four top-10’s including that win and a runners-up finish to Russell Knox at the WGC-HSBC Championship. It didn’t go to plan after that win though. He didn’t post another top-10 until May when he finished T10 at the Dean & Deluca, some ten starts after his win.
Since the Dean & Deluca he has top-25 finishes at the WGC-Bridgestone (T16) and the PGA Championship (T18). He also finished 26th at the Canadian Open the week before the PGA.
At this course Kisner’s form figures read 8-46-59 and that 8th came in 2014, which was his last start. This looks a good setup for Kisner and now he is finding his groove again, he looks a nice pick at $8,300.
Harris English has been solid, if not unspectacular at times this season. He has three top-10’s this year, including a 2nd and a 3rd, so he has also shown what he is capable of. English has made 18/23 cuts this year.
English has made his last seven cuts and we got a huge reminder of his obvious talent when 2nd at the Dean & Deluca back in May.
Finishes of 31st and 10th at this course in two starts give reason for optimism. For $7,500 you are getting a player with top-10 potential at this course.
I had Robert Streb in some line-ups last week and he failed to deliver, missing the cut. He was $9,200 last week, but at a much more modest $7,100 this week I am going to play him again.
In two starts at Sedgefield, Streb has finished 18th and 37th so there is at least top-20 potential there. Finishing 7th at the PGA Championship gave hope ahead of last week. He will be looking to reproduce a week like that, after having last weekend off.
One guy that needs a good week is Bud Cauley who currently ranks 143rd in the FedEx Cup standings. He needs to finish 4th or better this week to progress to the play-offs. In his four starts at the Wyndham Championship, he has missed his last two cuts after finishing 3rd and 52nd. Cauley may not finish 4th or higher as he needs to, but there is top 10/20 potential.
Cauley who is playing on a medical exemption has finished inside the top-20 three times this season. Two of those were top-10’s, which came at the Byron Nelson Championship (4th) and the John Deere Classic (T8). Given he was T8 on his last start he will have some confidence going into this week. He will be hoping he can replicate that 3rd placed finish he posted here in 2012.
Sub 7k range
Camilo Villegas remains the only player to win on two Donald Ross designs. Villegas won here in 2014 and at East Lake when winning the Tour Championship in 2008.
In five starts at the Wyndham Championship he has one win, a top-10, two top-30’s and a 70th. A mixed bag of results, but there is enough there to make him a worthwhile play at $6,400. His recent form is far from inspiring but he goes well here and hopefully that continues this week.
Chez Reavie continues to be cheap but that is because he flatters to deceive. After finishing T18 at the Byron Nelson he missed his next two cuts and then finished 44th at the Quicken Loans. It wasn’t until the Canadian Open (T14) that he made it into the top-20 again. Once again he couldn’t follow that top-20 up with anything better than a 47th at the Travelers Championship.
With that said the top-20 potential is there as it has been all season. In five starts here, Reavie has finished 9th, 10th and 58th when making the weekend. If he can finish in or around the top-10 as he has done twice here, he could be a good play.
Cameron Smith has posted 7/8 rounds in the 60’s in his last two events. This has led to finishes of 22nd and 34th, which is a positive sign for the young Australian.
Since finishing 4th at the U.S. Open last year, Smith has posted some nice results, including that 22nd last week. He has two top-20’s at Pebble Beach (T11) and the Shell Houston Open (T19) on the PGA Tour this year. His top-5 at the Australian PGA at the end of 2015 still remains his best finish since the U.S. Open, but he will look to change that sooner rather than later. At 22, Smith still has plenty of time to fulfil his potential. I am hoping a good finish this week will be the start of that. Smith finished 18th on his only start at this course last season. It is that top-20 potential that makes him a good option at just $6,000.
While he has missed his last two cuts at the Canadian Open and the PGA Championship, Harold Varner III still looks a great value play at $5,900. With five top-10’s to his name already this season, Varner will look for another close to home.
Whilst he hasn’t played the Ross Course, Varner finished 7th at the Dye Course at Sedgefield in 2013, at the Sedgefield Classic. This was only an eGolf-tour event and has no real impact on this week, but it is nice to know he has played well locally.
Blayne Barber is my last value pick at $5,600. Making his last five cuts, Barber has found consistency at the right time. At 120th in the Rankings, Barber is right on the bubble so will be desperate for a good week here. He missed the cut on his only start here last year but I think he can improve on that.
He putts better on Bermudagrass greens as noted on the futureoffantasy website. Barber’s strokes gained- putting stats are 0.336 on Bermuda vs. -0.027 in general. This ranks him in the top-25 in the (Bermuda Performance vs. Expected Strokes Gained) category.
Given his improved play of late and his liking for these greens I think he is worth chancing. His 3rd at the Honda Classic remains his lone top-10 this season.