By Tom LaMarre
The Wyndham Championship this week at Sedgefield Country Club https://www.sedgefieldcc.com in Greensboro, N.C., is the PGA Tour’s version of the Last Chance Saloon.
Some of the best players in the world will be trying to improve their positions in the point standings for the FedEx Cup playoffs that start next week with the Northern Trust at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, N.J.
Only the top 125 in the standings will qualify for the Northern Trust, with 70 moving on to the BMW Championship at Medinah Country Club outside Chicago the following week, and only 30 qualifying for the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta beginning Aug. 22.
There are some top names who surprisingly are in a bit of trouble.
Jason Dufner (136th), Martin Kaymer (146th), Zach Johnson (152nd) and Jimmy Walker (155th) are former major champions who enter the Wyndham on the outside looking in.
As is Bill Haas (140th), who captured the 2011 Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup. Shane Lowry of Northern Ireland, playing for the first time since winning the 104th Open Championship at Royal Portrush, is 20th in the standings and hopes to climb into the top 10, while and 2014 FedEx champion Billy Horschel is 47th in the standings, and Jordan Spieth, the 2015 FedEx Cup champ after winning the Tour Championship, is 67th and has plenty of work to do in order to make it all the way to East Lake.
All but 10 players from Nos. 85-185 will tee it up at Sedgefield, but there are some big guns as well.
“This is a big week for me because it’s a home game and I hope to move up in the point standings,” said Webb Simpson (pictured), who is 13th in the point standings. “I’ve won here before, I love the golf course and I look forward to it every year.
“I took some time off after the U.S. Open, so I needed a high finish last week (in the WGC-FedEx St. Jude) and I got it. So this week is important to get some more points a week before the playoffs.”
Simpson, the 2013 U.S. Open champion, won the Wyndham in 2011 by three strokes over George McNeil and tied for second last year.
No. 8 Paul Casey is the only player among the top 10 on FedEx Cup points list in the field at Wyndham, and Simpson is the highest-ranked player in the world at No. 17, followed by Lowry at No. 18.
Defending champion Brandt Snedeker, who also won the tournament in 2007, is 32nd in the standings and hoping to improve his chances to qualify for the Tour Championship.
Robert Streb (124th), Alex Noren (125th), Austin Cook (126th) and Richy Werenski (127) are the players on the bubble.
Since the playoffs began 12 years ago, only four players have come to Greensboro at 140th or lower in the FedEx Cup standings and made it into the playoffs. Rory Sabbatini was the last to do it, rising from 148th to 122nd two years ago with a tie for fourth.
In fact, an average of only 2.7 players per year have climbed from the outside into the playoffs in the last tournament of the regular season, including two last year and a high of five in 2013.
Still, they’re all lined up for that last chance.
- Webb Simpson, United States – In addition to being the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 17, the North Carolina native is the home-course favorite. Simpson makes his 15th start in the tournament and a victory in 2011 is one of his six finishes in the top 10. He has four top-five finishes this season and sits at 13th in the FedEx Cup standings.
- Shane Lowry, Ireland – Back from a week off after winning his first major in the 148th Open Championship, Lowry is 20th in the FedEx Cup standings and hopes to climb into the top 10. He has finished in the top 10 in three of his last four PGA Tour events, including a tie for eighth in the PGA, and tied for seventh in the 2017 Wyndham.
- Brandt Snedeker, United States – The defending champion in Greensboro, Snedeker also won the tournament in 2007 for two of his nine PGA Tour victories, and has four other results in the top 10. He has placed in the top 10 four times this season, including a tie for fifth in the Players Championship and is 32nd in the FedEx Cup point standings.
- Paul Casey, England – The highest-placed golfer in the field at No. 8 in the FedEx Cup standings, Casey has six finishes in the top 10 this season, including his third PGA Tour victory in the Valspar Championship, which he won for the second straight year. He makes his sixth appearance in the Wyndham, with his best result a tie for third in 2015.
- Jordan Spieth, United States – Still trying to put four good rounds together, the 2015 FedEx Cup champion is 67th in the standings and needs some high finishes to make it to East Lake. He has only three results in the top 10 this season, but has seven finishes in the top 25. In his only Wyndham appearance, Spieth lost a playoff to Patrick Reed in 2013.
- Billy Horschel, United States – The 2014 FedEx Cup champion has been solid all season, with 12 results in the top 25, but his best finish was only solo eighth in the Farmers Insurance Open. He tied for ninth in the WGC-FedEx St, Jude Invitational last week and is 47th in the point standings. Tied for fifth in 2016 Wyndham Championship.
- Hideki Matsuyama, Japan – Although he hasn’t won since claiming three titles in 2017, Matsuyama is getting closer with 13 finishes in the top 25 this season, including five top 10s. He is 29th in the FedEx standings and could improve that in the Wyndham, where he tied for third in 2016 and tied for 11th last season with eight rounds in the 60s.
- Patrick Reed, United States – Even though he remains winless since the 2018 Masters, Reed finally seems to have things going in the right direction with four straight top 25 finishes, including 10th in the Open and a tie for 12th last week in the WGC-FedEx St. Jude. The 2013 Wyndham champion is 50th in the FedEx Cup standings.
- Collin Morikawa, United States – The rookie claimed his first PGA Tour victory last week in the Barracuda Championship in only his sixth start on the PGA Tour. He earlier tied for second in the 3M Open and tied for fourth in the John Deere Classic. The win made Morikawa eligible for the FedEx Cup playoffs and he is 46th in the point standings.
- Lucas Glover, United States – The 2009 U.S. Open champion, 30th in the point standings, is playing some of the best golf of his career with 15 results in the top 25 this season, including a tie for 16th in the PGA and a tie for 20th in the Open. In 14 starts in the Wyndham, his best results were a tie for sixth in 2006 and solo seventh in 2010.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH – Jimmy Walker, United States; Russell Knox, Scotland; Martin Kaymer, Germany; Zach Johnson, United States; Rory Sabbatini, Slovakia.
- Sungjae Im, South Korea – The 21-year-old still is flying a bit under the radar, even though he has six top-10 finishes this season and is 15th in the FedEx Cup standings.
- Austin Cook, United States – Winner of the 2018 RSM Classic, Cook’s T-4 in the Barbasol two weeks ago left him four spots inside the top 130 that will make the playoffs.
- Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Thailand – A 10-time winner as a pro still looking for first PGA Tour title, Aphibarnrat has three top-10s this season and is 74th in FedEx standings.
- Viktor Hovland, Sweden – The 2018 U.S. Amateur champ has four top-25 results in his last five starts, including a tie for 12th in the U.S. Open, when he was low amateur.
- Daniel Berger, United States – Two-time PGA Tour winner is one spot outside the playoffs at 131st in the standings and needs a good finish to qualify for fifth straight year.
For first-round tee times visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html