Damien Kayat previews the 2021 Wyndham Championship taking place at Sedgefield Country Club.
Poor Harris English. His implosion over the back nine at TPC Southwind was so multi-faceted. Already playing in tough conditions, English had to negotiate a shot-clock threat that was obviously exacerbated by playing partner Bryson DeChambeau. Amidst all the hoopla, English would dunk it in the water twice over the back-nine. Abraham Ancer would go on to hold on to victory at the 121st time of asking. A further note: I think it’s time that DeChambeau and Koepka squash their petty beef. The relentless chirping by rowdy supporters on the back nine really disrupted DeChambeau. This has clearly emanated from their ongoing feud. Koepka recently gave fans free beer after they were ejected from an event for booing DeChambeau. It’s really starting to expose the ugly, frat-boy underbelly of the sport in the US.
Wedged in between the WGC FedEx St Jude Invitational and next week’s Northern Trust, the Wyndham Championship does suffer in terms of star appeal. This used to be a more prestigious event when contested in the old April/May slot. Sam Snead won the inaugural staging of this event in 1938 and he would go on to claim a further seven titles. Remarkably, Snead would capture his 8th title in 1965 at the age of 52. In 2003 the event moved into an autumn timeslot. The subsequent seasons have seen it gradually diminish amidst the huge array of late-season tournaments. This will be a huge week for all the ‘bubble’ boys. Only the top 125 in the FedEx Cup rankings will qualify for next week’s Northern Trust Open. Although this may not have the most dynamic field, there will be no shortage in intensity out there.
Founded in 1926, the Donald Ross-designed Sedgefield Country Club hosted this event until 1977 (Forrest Oaks Country Club took over hosting duties until 2007). Kris Spence helped to oversee an overhaul of Sedgefield in anticipation of the event’s return to its original course in 2008. However, the last few editions of this event have shown that Spence’s touch-ups have done little to make this a sterner test. The last five winners have all shot 20-under or lower. A typical Ross design, Sedgefield rewards accuracy and course management (what you do off the tee is largely irrelevant here). The smaller than average Bermuda greens will require some accurate iron play. Webb Simpson is really your prototypical Sedgefield contender. The previous winner and two-time runner-up is deadly accurate and surgical with his irons.
Webb Simpson will start as the outright favourite this week, despite going through a relatively dull period of late. But his course form is ridiculous and he even named his daughter Wyndham after this event (any future son of his will hope that he doesn’t become a Barracuda Championship afficionado in his later years). Masters Champ Hideki Matsuyama looked in great touch last week and is rightly billed as the 2nd favourite for this title. He will still be stewing after missing out on the Olympic Bronze Medal in a playoff. Any masochistic South African golf fans out there? You will be pleased to know that Louis Oosthuizen will be back in contention this week. I jest. King Louis has enjoyed a remarkable season and has been one of the premium golfers on the planet these last four months. But there always comes a moment, doesn’t there? He just needs to pick up that first American victory and more titles will come.
2020: Jim Herman (-21)
2019: J.T Poston (-22)
2018: Brandt Snedeker (-21)
2017: Henrik Stenson (-22)
2016: Si Woo Kim (-21)
To Win Outright:
Webb Simpson 12/1 | Hideki Matsuyama 14/1 | Louis Oosthuizen 18/1 | Patrick Reed 22/1 | Will Zalatoris 28/1
Kevin Na: To Win 45/1 | To Place 19/2
Na seems to have found a decent patch of form recently, finishing runner-up at the John Deere Classic before posting a respectable 23rd place finish last week. This course is just made for the accuracy-based game that Na possesses. He has some history here, finishing 4th in 2017 and 10th in 2016. I think that he may find some magic out there this week. In his last few events he ranks 1st for SG: Around the Green. When you couple that with his strong iron play you should have a recipe for success.
Harold Varner III: To Win 70/1 | To Place 15/1
I’m opting for Harold Varner III in the longshot category. With a heavily truncated field, this event has become a hotbed for outsider winners: Jim Herman’s victory last season is a perfect example of this. Varner has some course form with a couple of top 10’s around Sedgefield. He was also 15th at the Barracuda Championship last time out, finishing 8th in GIR for the week. If he can line up that sort of iron play with some positive course juju, then who knows?
The Man to Beat: Hideki Matsuyama- To Win 14/1 | To Place 3/1
I’m going down the conventional route for my favourite this week (though not Simpson levels of conventional). Matsuyama just makes sense for this layout. He finished in a tie for 3rd here in 2016 and a tie for 11th in 2018. So, you have some course form. But I’m more impressed by his recent outings. The Masters Champ has looked revitalized since his Covid-enforced withdrawal from the Open Championship. He finished 4th at the Olympics and was T2 at last week’s WGC event. Crucially, he was 2nd in Strokes Gained Approach-The-Green last week (that’s always a vital stat around Sedgefield). Beyond that, he was 4th in Strokes Gained Putting in the final round. Ordinarily his bugaboo, those putting stats seem to suggest that he is in rare form at present.