Wyndham Championship ~ 2021
A dramatic back nine was served up at TPC Southwind, where the final pairing of Harris English and Bryson DeChambeau hit the eject button in no uncertain manner. Having seemed in total control of his ball for the Championship until then, English could scarcely believe where he was hitting it when he came under the cosh. When the commentators mentioned at the time that Matsuyama par putt on the 18th to get in at -16 may be important, I scoffed. How right they were.
Daniel Berger was never really in the hunt from Friday onwards, yet remarkably only finished two shots out of the resulting playoff. Bogeys on 14 and 15, and only parring the easy 16 could be seen as critical, but when playing them he had no chance of winning. The full place he delivered in the end was a bonus.
It will be interesting to see how Bryson DeChambeau is priced up next week. He’s clearly close to his best, but also it seems obvious that he is struggling with his fall from public favour and his ongoing spat with Brooks Koepka. Maybe his ego isn’t as bullet proof as he may have liked, but to me he is just the type to bounce straight back with a victory.
Before then, it is the Wyndham Championship and Sedgefield Country Club which sees the final stop of the regular Tour season, before the Playoff events begin next week. A less demanding layout than TPC Southwind, this pretty featureless 7100 yard Par 70 will likely require between 19 and 22 under par as a winning total. The list of winners here certainly suggests that plotting and placement are more important than gripping and ripping, but it has to be said that the world’s best (mainly big hitters) have rarely teed it up here. It is however a venue where course form seems more important than the majority of venues, with past leaderboards consistently littered with the same names, Davis Love being a 3 time champion. It is a week where more long term importance comes from who makes the final 125 to head to the Playoffs and secure a full card for next year, as to who actually wins the event. As such viewers can expect to see more shots from those down the field, who lie on the bubble, than would typically be the case.
Players of Interest:
As ever, at Sedgefield, one must discuss the chances of Webb Simpson. They are as clear as day, and at 12/1 I couldn’t put anyone off. I would suggest the 2020 and particularly the 2019 field were slightly more stacked than those years editions, and he started at a shorter price for both of those. I suggested 12 months ago that 10/1 was two points too short to see me get involved on Webb, and we do now get that 12/1 here. Having been somewhat below his typically consistent best through the height of the summer, he has bagged back to back top 20s at The Open and last week’s WGC. His display from the fairways at Southwind was very much Jekyll and Hyde. For 3 days his approach play was pretty woeful, and that is the key attribute here at Sedgefield, and if he performed to that standard here he has no chance. But Sunday saw a big shift in that regard, A scintillating 6 under 64, came courtesy of some razor sharp approaches, with 9 of his 18 holes seeing him have birdie putts of 12ft or less. On a day when scoring was at its most difficult, it was quite the round. It may very well prove the trigger for another success here, but I have just about come down on the side of not including him.
At two points bigger, Hideki Matsuyama has to be afforded due respect also. I really liked his demeanour in the latter stages of the WGC, he seems to have become more killer than victim in the heat of Sunday battle now. I felt last week may have come too soon after an emotional week back home for the Olympics, and that certainly proved wide of the mark, but another week in contention leaves a similar worry ahead of this week. With his price as it is, I didn’t really consider getting involved.
Did Louis Oosthuizen run out of gas himself on Sunday? It would be perfectly understandable if he did. Given that worry, and his inability to convert on the PGA Tour, 18/1 doesn’t do much for me here.
We have seen our fair share of surprise winners here over recent years, with Jim Herman the latest 1000/1 shot to go in 12 months ago, but two of the last four winners have come from the ‘obvious’ category and RUSSELL HENLEY very much fits that mould.
A player who for the early years of his PGA Tour career had his stock built on a hot putter alone, has in recent seasons become one of the best iron players of his generation. TV pundits won’t credit him with this, and will still tell you (akin to Jordan Spieth) that he is a superb putter and that the flat stick is his money maker. Truth is Henley now has few peers from the fairways. 3rd in strokes gained approach last term, and lying 4th this, he is now world class in this department. His putter on the other hand had gone cold. 2019 and 2020 saw him languish near the foot of that stats table for putting, and that meant he wasn’t getting the rewards his approach play deserved. Recently we have seen signs that that once lethal putting stroke is working its way back to its best. If he has a positive display in the greens this week, he will be more than a handful for anyone in this field. He missed his most recent cut at The Open, but that’s always easily forgivable, and prior to that he had been in fine form. 13th at the US Open, 19th at River Highlands and 11th at the John Deere, those excellent results all saw improved performances on the greens and all looks in place for a title assault here.
Webb Simpson has shown the key to performing well here is hot iron play, and given Henley’s prowess in that department of late, he wil fancy his chances of improving on last year’s 9th place finish here. That he has found something on the greens in his most recent outings is a big confidence booster for him, and he will now expect to convert the chances he has consistently been giving himself over the past two seasons. Three times a winner on Tour, Henley isn’t afraid of the winning post, and two of those wins have come on this Bermuda grass surface. 35/1 will do nicely for me.
Another who’s all round game I feel is somewhat undervalued by the media, is JASON KOKRAK. Now up to 24th in the OWGR, and lying 11th in the race for the FedEx Cup, Kokrak is the real deal. Yes he’s only won twice in his career, but both those wins have come this term, and have come courtesy of him finally finding his touch on the greens to reward his long game prowess. He has missed only one cut this calendar year, that coming at the US Open, and he is a very consistent operator. Winner of the Chalres Schwab in May, he has had a relatively light schedule since. That can be a benefit over these next few weeks, when many will be feeling the burnout of globetrotting. 12th in the Rocket Mortgage, a personal best of 26th at The Open and a nice pipe opener for this last week at the WGC, Jason hasn’t let his standards slip since that win. Indeed that outing at Southwind was very reminiscent of his display at the PGA the week prior to winning at Colonial (another venue which rewards fine approach play).
16th here in 2017, 6th two years later, and 15th last term, Kokrak has clearly got to grips with the challenge Sedgefield presents. With his new found touch on the greens, which sees him lie 5th for strokes gained in that department, and the confidence gained from those two wins, he will be aiming even higher this time around. He seems sure to contend, and at 28/1 to extended places, he is a must for the team sheet for me.
The horror show that was BUBBA WATSON’s final 6 holes at The Travelers still haunts me. That really was one that got away in my opinion, but as fresh as that loss still is, so too is the impressive play that put him in the position he held through 66 holes. His display that week was clearly no surprise, and he bounced back impressively the following week with a 6th place finish at the Rocket Mortgage. Bubba is clearly operating very close to the peak of his powers tee to green, and is only a decent week on the greens away from notching his 13th PGA career win.
Watson hasn’t teed it up here since missing the cut in the 2009 edition, and maybe that suggests he wasn’t particularly fond of the layout. He is a more mature player now (can you call Bubba mature??), and for one of his length he hits plenty of fairways. I feel this test will suit him down to the ground. He clearly relishes the test at River Highlands, and much of the reason for that is he is hitting wedges on nearly every approach. He will find himself in a very similar set of circumstances here this week, and if he can roll the odd putt in, crucially those inside the scoring range, I expect him to have yet another good week. What was holding me off putting him up, was the fact his exchange price is quite a bit higher than what is available in the shops. I had hoped one of the firms going 8 places may push him out to 60/1. That hasn’t happened, but I am perfectly happy to recommend him at the 55/1 available with Betfred to those 8 places. Little liquidity in Betfair EW 10 place market, or Top 10 finish market, but I fancy both those may in time offer the best route to backing Bubba.
JHONATTAN VEGAS is another longer hitter, who on the face of it may not seem an identikit type for Sedgefield. Truth is though that he is playing well pretty much everywhere right now, and given that current vein of form, I viewed the 60/1 on offer as simply too big. Five top 20 finishes in his last seven outings, have been highlighted by runner up spots at both Congaree and the 3M Open. He will have been delighted and honoured at his 16th place finish at the Olympics and all is just very rosy in the garden of Jhonny Vegas at the minute. He has missed his last 3 cuts at this event, but has arrived each year out of form, as was also the case when he was 8th here in 2014. That shows he can master Sedgefield, and given the tee to green show he put on at the John Deere, he will be confident of doing so again now. There are many at similar price and shorter that I feel have far less chance of success here than the selection, and am very happy to have him on board.
I did consider past champion Si Woo Kim here, and it would be typical of him rather than surprising, where he to bounce back from a poor showing last week and prove successful here. That win in 2016 has been backed up by two further top 5s on his last two visits, and having backed him here last year at 35/1 last year, I have to admit I was very close to pulling the trigger at 5 points bigger this time around. He just missed out due to my slight preference for a few others.
Seamus Power will be an interesting watch here. He landed a much deserved debut win on Tour 3 weeks ago, and his play of the previous few months had been suggesting a breakthrough was imminent. Can he continue on that vein now off that celebratory break? It would be great to see him continue through the playoffs to East Lake, but the big job has been done, and his card secured. A watching brief for me here.
It’s a five strong outright attack for me this week, and the last man in is ZACH JOHNSON. Such is the nature of the PGA course rota nowadays that it is rare for the likes of Johnson to have a week where they can feel on a level playing to the game’s big hitters. That however is very much the case here at Sedgefield, and Zach has shown plenty of spark on the few occasions this term when he has been faced with a similar challenge. 6th at the RSM and 8th at the Honda read very well in the context of this week, and catalyst to his mini revival this year has been a return to his best on the greens. Johnson knows how to pick a venue like Sedgefield apart. Placing it in the fairway, attacking the pins and relying on the putter to bring home the bucks, that has been what he has built his career on. 7th here last year when he was really struggling with his game, a display which included a sizzling Saturday 61, he is on record saying just how much he likes and appreciated this venue. Given he has refound his touch with the flat stick, that recent performances have seen his approach play back towards its best, he will be relishing the week ahead. He won’t have too many more chances to add to his haul of 12 wins on Tour, but this is certainly one.
There will be much interest surrounding Robert McIntyre here this week, the Scot needs a win to secure his card for next year, and though there are other ways of doing so with other fish to fry a win here would certainly be a big help. As was the case though the week after he landed us the Top Lefty bet at The Open, I just don’t feel that this week’s test sets up well for him. He is one I wanted to be against.
Seamus Power is too. Waterford love their sport, and there is little doubt Power will have been treated like royalty on his return home after his win at the Barbasol. He deserved a break after a very busy and productive spell, and will have rightly celebrated that massive success. He will have held far more pints than clubs in those couple of weeks, and at 5/1 for this section, he is helping make the market in my opinion.
Tommy Fleetwood needs a big week to force himself into the Playoffs, but akin to MacIntyre I am not sure this represents the ideal test for him.
I have long been an advocate of backing RORY SABBATINI on courses where he has produced the goods in the past. This is very much one of those for the Slovakian. That move of nationality was a long term plan for Rory, to enable him to make the plane to Tokyo for the Olympics. That he very nearly pulled off the coup of all time there, that he ultimately walked off with the Silver Medal, will have him absolutely brimming with confidence. And he arrives now at one of his favourite haunts. Throughout Sabba’s career he has continuously found his best, even when not playing well in general, at venues where has gone well in the past. Typically these are courses where length off the tee isn’t the massive advantage that it is at most of the Tour stops, and Sedgefield certainly sets up well in that regard. 8th here in 2013, he didn’t return until posting a 4th place finish in 2018, and bagged his 3rd top 10 in his last 4 appearances when finishing 6th 12 months ago. He clearly has this place down to a tee. The week off after Tokyo is a positive, and I fancy he can pick up where he left off there. With question marks over those at the head of this market, and nothing too much to worry about with those further down, I really like the look of the 11/1 on offer about Sabbatini here.
Firms are paying to 4 places, so I have played him each way.
Justin Rose is the one I worry most about here, and I did strongly consider backing him, or at least having a saver. As yet I haven’t, as I have gone a different route.
Top Continental Euro:
Rather than back Rose in the previous section, I have decided to also bet RORY SABBATINI in this market, which obviously doesn’t feature the Englishman. In fact, it doesn’t feature anyone I am particularly worried about.
Fran Molinari arrives off the back of 3 missed cuts, and is really struggling to re-find his form. I backed Henrik Norlander here last year, but he was disappointing then and doesn’t arrive anywhere near the same form this time around. Sepp Straka is very hit and miss of late, and a bit short at 7/2. Jonas Blixt, Kris Ventura and Seb Cappelen will need to find something from nowhere to contend here.
All told, this is a very weak section. Given Sabbatini’s love for this layout, that he arrives off such a confidence boosting result off what had been a long term plan very well executed, I do feel he is much the most likely to contend this week. 10/3 is worth availing of. I have had a slightly lower than normal stake here, having backed him to full stake in the European market.
Top 20 Finish:
RYAN ARMOUR makes plenty of appeal at 4/1 here. As alluded to earlier, Sedgefield is a course where previous form typically provides a strong pointer to one’s chances. Armour ticks the boxes in this regard. 4th in 2017, 8th in 2018, he has just outside the top 20 on his latest two appearances. He missed the cut at last week’s Barracuda, but in his last two standard stroke play events he finished 6th at the 3M Open and 5th at the Barbasol. Current form is of no worry.
Armour doesn’t rank highly in total driving stats, but that is solely down to his lack of length, and obscures his errant accuracy from the tee. He also putts very well, and is 36th in that department this term. Unlike most weeks, when he is lying way back in the fairways and struggling with long clubs in, this week he can go to work with scoring clubs on this shorter layout. This is when he typically produces his best results, and I expect this week to be no different.
Sitting 122nd in the FedEx Cup points, he won’t be taking any shot for granted this week, and we can be guaranteed 100% effort from pillar to post. His only win on Tour to date came on this week’s green surface of Bermuda Grass, and came courtesy of a 19 under par winning total, the like of what will be required by this week’s winner. All looks in place for another good week for the Ohio man here.
1pt ew Russell Henley 35/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, WH) *33/1 with Coral/Lads/888
1.1pts ew Jason Kokrak 28/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, WH/PP/BFSB) **Recommended Monday *Still available with WH, and also now 888
.5pt ew Jhonattan Vegas 60/1 (⅕ 8 places, WH/Betfred) **Recommended Monday *Current general 50/1 to 8 places is fine
.6pt ew Bubba Watson 55/1 (⅕ 8 places, Betfred) *For those without a Betfred account, use Betfair ew 10 place market tomorrow, or back him Win and Top 10 on the exchange when liquidity builds in the later market.
.6pt ew Zach Johnson 60/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, Coral/Ladbrokes) *55/1+ acceptable
1.6pts ew Rory Sabbatini 11/1 (⅕ odds 4 places, Coral/Lads) *Still quite a few firms to price this market up, so some may indeed top the 11/1. Anything from 9/1 upwards is fine.
Top Continental Euro:
3pts Rory Sabbatini 10/3 (Coral/Lads/VBet) *As above. 11/4 upwards is fine here.
Top 20 Finish:
4pts Ryan Armour 4/1 (MansionBet/SportNation) **I don’t usually quote these firms’ stand alone top price, but I have had good reports on Mansion from quite a few ppl in recent weeks. I have now opened an account myself, so will monitor closely how prices go there, and how quickly they clamp down on accounts. Again, there are very few firms up on this market, everything being very slow this week. Coral/Lads are 7/2, which is perfectly fine. I would imagine 4/1 will be available on the exchange tomorrow also.
Running Totals 2021:
Best of luck all, I will be back at the same time next week with the Northern Trust.