It’s a bit of a letdown week on the PGA Tour following Rory McIlroy’s dominating performance over the weekend at the PGA Championship that I certainly never saw coming. In fact, this weekend’s Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C., is a lot like Week 17 in the NFL season.
That’s because all the power players really have nothing to play for this week with a spot in the upcoming FedEx Cup playoffs already clinched – so it’s like those NFL teams that play their backups when they have a playoff seeding already locked in heading into Week 17. But for those players outside the Top 125 on the FedEx Cup points list or near the cut-off line, this week the playoffs essentially begin.
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Indeed, this is the final tournament in which players can qualify for the playoffs that start next week at The Barclays. And according to the PGA Tour, starting with Brendan Steele, who is No. 126 in points, 44 of the next 55 players in points are playing at Sedgefield. Two guys who aren’t and will have to sit out the FedEx Cup playoffs are Retief Goosen (127th) and Stewart Cink (135th).
Three players who made it all the way to the Tour Championship a year ago, Gary Woodland, Y.E. Yang and Chez Reavie, all are outside the Top 125 entering this week and are competing. Other big names outside the Top 125 and in the field: John Daly (No. 137), Camilo Villegas (No. 146) and Justin Leonard (No. 157). Daly has never made the playoffs, Villegas has had at least one Top-10 finish in a playoff event every year of its existence and Leonard missed out on the postseason last year for the first time.
Those outside the Top 125 should feel optimistic, as in the five years of the playoffs history, 17 players who entered the Wyndham Championship outside the Top 125 have played their way into the playoffs. Last year, Ernie Els and Padraig Harrington both did it.
Only two players ranked from No. 76 to 125 in points aren’t playing this week as they look to solidify position: Fredrik Jacobson at 87 and Jason Day at 107. Currently the guy right on the cut-off line is Rod Pampling. The highest-ranked player in points competing this week is Jason Dufner. He would assume the points lead from Tiger Woods with a finish of second or better.
Expect good scores this week. In the last four years, Sedgefield has ranked as the easiest or second-easiest par 70 on the PGA Tour schedule.
PGA TourGolf Odds: Wyndham Championship Favorites
Dufner and defending Wyndham Championship winner and current U.S. Open Champion Webb Simpson are the 12/1 co-favorites at Bovada. Dufner is the only two-time winner in 2012 in the field. He’s also negative money to make the cut (although he barely did last week), having done so a Tour-high 17 straight times. However, Dufner has just one Top-10 finish in six trips to this tournament and missed the cut two of the past three years.
Last year, Simpson won his first PGA Tour title by shooting a 3-under 67 to finish at 18-under 262 and win by three strokes. Simpson grew up in North Carolina, caddying for Neal Lancaster in this tournament at age 16 during a pro-am, and he went to Wake Forest, which is only about 30 miles from Greensboro. Simpson clearly was rusty last week at the PGA Championship after not playing for a month due to the birth of his child. He missed the cut at Kiawah. He has missed the cut just once in three trips to this tournament.
Carl Pettersson is next at 18/1. The Swede won this tournament in 2008, thanks largely to a course-record 61, when it returned to Sedgefield after a 32-year absence. He was T4 a year ago. Pettersson also is playing well, having led after the first round last week on the way to a T3. He has four Top-3 finishes in 2012, including a win at the RBC Heritage.
Brandt Snedeker and Charl Schwartzel round out the favorites at 25/1. Snedeker needs to play well to make an impression on U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love, as Snedeker wasn’t one of the automatic Top-8 finishers for that team (Love will make his captain’s picks on Sept. 4). Snedeker won this tournament in 2007 when it was at a different course but does have two Top-10 finishes at Sedgefield in the past four years. He missed the cut a year ago.
Schwartzel, meanwhile, hasn’t played well since March on the PGA Tour. He doesn’t have a single Top-15 finish since then and hasn’t been better than T24 in his past five events. This is his first trip to this tournament.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: Wyndham Championship Predictions
Some Top-10 recommendations: “Yes” on Dufner (+120), Simpson (+120) and Pettersson (-270). “No” on Schwartzel (-350) and Snedeker (-350).
The European Ryder Cup’s Top-10 automatic qualifiers will be decided after next week’s event on that tour. One player who is fighting for a spot there is Sergio Garcia, and he’s playing in Greensboro this week at 30/1 to win. He’s a bit off now, having missed two cuts in his past three PGA Tour events. He last played here in 2009 and finished fourth. I think he contends but doesn’t win (no Top-10 prop on him).
David Toms is also interesting at 30/1. He was T42 last week but prior to that had back-to-back Top-10 finishes at the U.S. Open and WGC-Bridgestone. Toms also has finished in the Top 25 of this event the past three years, with a high of second in 2010.
But I like Pettersson, who had the great showing last week despite a two-stroke penalty for brushing a leaf in his backswing on the first hole of the final round. Plus, it’s hard to ignore his track record at the Wyndham.