By TOM LaMARRE
The PGA Tour wraps up the 2022-23 regular season with the Wyndham Championship beginning on Thursday, with players again battling for position in the FedEx Cup standings with the playoffs starting next week.
The top 70 players in the point standings will qualify for the FedEx St. Jude Championship, the playoff opener at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tenn., with the top 50 after that moving on to the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields Country Club in Olympia Fields, Ill., and only the top 30 reaching the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.
What stands out is that Justin Thomas, the 2017 FedEx Cup champion, is on the outside looking in at No. 79 in the standings, and needs a high finish to climb into the top 70 to make the playoff opener.
“I’m very confident, I am,” said Thomas, who has missed the cut in six of his last eight starts. “It’s different than trying to win a tournament or making a putt for a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup, whatever it may be, but it’s still that same feeling. I was and am so excited to be playing this week. Like I said, it’s just, it’s a cool opportunity, it’s a great opportunity for me. I just, I mean, I’ve been in the right frame of mind I feel like for the last kind of month or so.
“I’ve been in a lot better head space of just a feeling like really good things are coming, but not as much expecting or saying, you know, when’s this going to be over. It’s just making it not as big of a deal as it is and just having an understanding that just having good scoring and doing what I have in the past, and know that any week just one shot, one round, one tournament could flip it and in a month nobody’s talking about it anymore.”
Thomas, who captured the PGA Championship in 2017 and last year, was ranked No. 1 in the world in 2018, twice was PGA Tour Player of the Year and has claimed 15 victories on the PGA Tour and 17 in his pro career.
Another title this week would put him in the playoffs, while he needs to finish solo 18th or better to simply have a chance.
“I just know I’m really, really close to playing some really, really good golf,” said Thomas, who has four top-10 finishes this season, the best a solo fourth in the WM Phoenix Open. “The reality is, you know, I need to play well this week to give that an opportunity to come out. That’s the unfortunate but also realistic part of where I’m at right now. I’m excited. I think it’s an unbelievable opportunity.
“I’m enjoying it. I mean, I think it’s great for the Wyndham. There are plenty of guys here, some big names who are going to get this tournament kind of some of the credit it deserves on a great golf course. I’m just going to go out and play the best that I can and try to see if we can get in contention to try to win a golf tournament, and see if we can get on a little run to end the season.”
One player Thomas won’t have to beat this week is defending champion Tom Kim of South Korea, who withdrew because of an ankle injury that he hopes will be better for the playoff opener.
1. J.T. Poston, United States—Last Sunday, Poston was trying to catch winner Lee Hodges and took a risky shot on the last hole that led to a triple-bogey 8 and he finished tied for second. That was his third top-10 finish in four starts and he has 10 top-25s this season. He closed with a 62 to claim the first of his two PGA Tour victories in the 2019 Wyndham and tied for 21st last year.
2. Sungjae Im, South Korea—After he finished in a tie for 20th recently in the 151st Open Championship, Im has recorded 14 results in the top 25 this season, so his third victory on the PGA Tour and seventh as a pro might not be far off. He is making his fifth start in the Wyndham and tied for second behind Tom Kim last year, tied for sixth in 2019 and tied for ninth in 2020.
3. Russell Henley, United States—Claimed his fourth victory on the PGA Tour and seventh as a pro earlier this season in the World Wide Technology Championship and has eight finishes in the top 25, including a tie for fourth in the Masters and a tie for 14th in the U.S. Open. Henley tied for fifth in the Wyndham last season after tying for seventh in 2021 and tying for ninth in 2020.
4. Si Woo Kim, South Korea—Shot 60 in round two while winning the 2016 Wyndham for the first of his four PGA Tour victories and five as a pro, and also tied for second in 2021, tied for third in 2020 and finished solo fifth in 2019. Kim captured the Sony Open in Hawaii by one stroke when he closed with 64-64 early this year and has eight finishes in the top 25 this season.
5. Denny McCarthy, United States—Winner of the 2020 Korn Ferry Tour Championship lost in a playoff to Viktor Hovland in The Memorial Tournament in June before he tied for 20th in the U.S. Open, tied for seventh in the Travelers and tied for sixth in the John Deere to give him 12 top-25s this season. McCarthy tied for ninth in the 2020 Wyndham and tied for 15th in 2021.
6. Hideki Matsuyama, Japan—The 2021 Masters champion, who has 17 victories as a pro including eight on the PGA Tour, tied for 13th in the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool and tied for 16th in the Masters, two of his 10 finishes in the top 25 this season. Matsuyama tied for third in the 2016 Wyndham Championship, tied for 11th in 2018 and finished 15th in 2013.
7. Shane Lowry, Ireland—The winner of 2019 Open Championship at Royal Portrush by six strokes posted a tie for 16th in the Masters, a tie for 12th in the PGA Championship and a tie for 20th in the U.S. Open for three of his 10 finishes in the top 25 this season. Lowry tied for seventh in the 2017 Wyndham Championship and wound up in a tie for 23rd three years ago.
8. Sam Burns, United States—A five-time winner on the PGA Tour and six as a professional, including the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play earlier this year, Burns has recorded 11 results in the top 25 this season. He routed Cameron Young, 6 and 5, in the Match Play final. Burns has played in the Wyndham Championship only once, and he tied for 13th three years ago.
9. Adam Scott, Australia—The 2013 Masters champion has 31 victories as a pro, including 14 on the PGA Tour, but none since the 2020 Genesis Invitational. Scott has seven finishes in the top 25 this season, including solo second is the ISPS Handa Australian Open. He wound up in a tie for second in the 2021 Wyndham Championship, losing in a playoff to Kevin Kisner.
10. Kevin Streelman, United States—Has won three times as a pro, but not since the 2014 Travelers Championship, although he’s starting to play like that again. Streelman tied for second in the 3M Open last Sunday and tied for ninth in the Charles Schwab Challenge. He is playing in the Wyndham for the ninth time and tied for sixth in 2008, then tied for seventh in 2021.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Justin Thomas, United States; Cam Davis, Australia; Byeong Hun An, South Korea; Keith Mitchell, United States; Webb Simpson, United States; Adam Hadwin, Canada; Beau Hossler, United States; Nicolai Hojgaard, Denmark; Gary Woodland, United States; Akshay Bhatia, United States.
1. Stephan Jaeger, Germany—The six-time winner as a pro has seven top-25 finishes on the PGA Tour this season. Jaeger tied for 13th in the Wyndham last season, closing with a 62.
2. Justin Suh, United States—Winner of the 2022 Korn Ferry Tour Championship tied for fifth in the Honda and tied for sixth in the Players this season. Suh is making his Wyndham debut.
3. Christiaan Bezuidenhout, South Africa—Has won 10 times as a pro, including the 2020 Alfred Dunhill Championship. T-3 in the Joburg Open and T-13 in the Players this season.
4. Aaron Rai, England—Another six-time pro winner, Rai finished T-3 in the RBC Canadian Open and T-7 in the Houston Open among nine finishes in the top 20 on PGA Tour this season.
5. Peter Kuest, United States—Winner of the 2020 Utah Open, Kuest finished T-4 in the Rocket Mortgage Classic and T-14 in AT&T Byron Nelson this season. Making his Wyndham debut.
For first-round tee times and FedEx Cup standings, visit: https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard