Wyndham Championship preview: More blood, sweat and tears for Tulsa veterans
The Wyndham Championship drew one of the shortest straws in the PGA Tour’s big reorganisation this season. Turfed out of its comfortable September-October slot into the darkness between the PGA Championship and the start of the FedEx Cup playoffs, it’s small wonder there’s precious few bankable names about. Then, adding injury to insult, out goes defending champion Davis Love III to have some kidney stones removed.
Tournament cheerleaders insist there’ll be riveting competition among those in the last chance saloon to get into the FedEx playoff series. Hunger for FedEx points might even throw up a winner, they suggest somewhat unhelpfully. They obviously haven’t seen the form of the scores of players hovering around the FedEx cut-off point. Anyone got a pin?
This is not a particularly easy tournament to read in any case since it has swapped its autumnal flavour for the searing temperatures of a summer heatwave. Veterans of last week’s PGA Championship should feel right at home if they’ve recovered from the heat exhaustion.
This is a course for big hitters, but the heat should give the shorter strikers a helping hand too. And while the rough has been fairly forgiving in the past, it’s now much tougher, calling perhaps for greater accuracy. On the other side, the greens will be more receptive, leaving the way open for some aggressive shot-making. My guess is still a slight edge to the bombers, but those with an all-round game should prosper.
You’d think this sort of lineup would be wide open to a winner from nowhere. But the tendency in recent years has been for quality to out itself - five of the last six winners were ranked top 20 based on the official world rankings, and in 2000, when it was held in April, top-ranked Rocco Mediate won.
The top-ranked player this time around is Anders Hansen, who isn’t finding much favour with punters. He has no course form but is a heat-hardened PGA Championship vet with a solid 12th place, which followed 22nd in the tough Bridgestone the week before. He was also a winner in Austria on the European tour last month. The stats paint a much gloomier picture and highlight distance off the tee as his biggest weakness. But obviously he’s getting something right and his price of just over 50 might look a steal by the end of the week.
John Senden: ranked second but having a murky season. His course form is modest but he beat the heat in Tulsa to come 4th in the PGAC. Putting seems to be his biggest weakness.
Carl Pettersson: ranked third, has been having a poor season by his standards, with just two top tens. He took last week off for family reasons so is fresh. But although he tops the field for putting, the rest of his game looks far less impressive than it should be.
Lucas Glover: the tournament favourite although he only ranks fifth. Glover has been another frustrating player, flummoxed by the wind in the Canadian Open and faring even more poorly in Tulsa last week, finishing 50th. He was sixth here last year though and has one of the best all-round stats profiles in this lineup.
Jonathan Byrd: Pettersson was one of the players Byrd saw off in taking the John Deere Classic with a solid all-round performance. He then put in a creditable 23rd at Carnoustie, but wilted in last week’s heat and missed the cut. He has been third here in the past though.
Brandt Snedeker: a lot of people fancy this man on the back of five top 10s this season and a solid 18th at Southern Hills last week. He’s a course virgin, but clearly loves it, saying its the type of course he grew up on. His stats are pretty decent too, especially his iron work.
Joe Durant: 14th at the Bridgestone, 18th in last week’s heat and sixth here last year, reasonable enough justification for making him fifth favourite. But there’s nothing in his stats that cries out winner.
Charles Warren: has received the nod of some tipsters, although his form is a trifle thin. He was third here two years ago and has one 2nd place this season, in the second division Reno-Tahoe Open. His stats, though, do sing out - 2nd for distance off the tee, 3rd for greens in regulation, he’s even top 30 for finding fairways. Only his putting looks slightly wonky.
Others worth a quick mention on their stats are:
Cameron Beckman: has little to show for some solid effort and could certainly do with some FedEx points.
Steve Allan: three top 20s in his last three outings and a long hitter who’s also fairly accurate.
Kevin Sutherland: who sweated his way to 9th last week.
Shigeki Maruyama: I hesitate to mention this up and down player, a previous winner here but having one of his worst years. If anyone needs FedEx points to make the playoffs and avoid a season of near total disaster, he’s your man.
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