Greensboro looks like good fit for Simpson

By Wes Reynolds  (Point Spread Weekly) 

August 12, 2020 12:01 AM
Webb Simpson
© Imagn

Wyndham Championship


Collin Morikawa shot a bogey-free final round of 64 (31 on the back) to win the 102nd PGA Championship. He shot 11-under 129 on the weekend for the lowest final 36-hole score to win a major championship and was also 9 under for his final 22 holes. 


The 23-year-old won his first major in his 27th professional start and did so by leading the field in Driving Accuracy (39 of 56 fairways hit), Proximity to Hole (34'0") and Strokes Gained: Putting ( 8.08 strokes for the championship). Morikawa ranked 164th in Strokes Gained: Putting coming into the PGA Championship, proving that majors aren't always won by great putters but often by putters who putt great that particular week. 


Morikawa, like many top players, will return next week for the opening event of the FedEx Cup Playoffs at The Northern Trust. However, there are several OWGR Top 30 players in Greensboro this week for Wyndham Championship. 


Webb Simpson won his first PGA Tour event here in 2011 and has back-to-back runner-up finishes and a third dating back the last three years. Simpson, the 10/1 favorite, also played his college golf at nearby Wake Forest, and his third child is named after the sponsor of this Greensboro tour stop, Wyndham. Paul Tesori, Simpson's longtime caddie, missed the PGA last week with back and hip injuries but is going to give it a go this week.


Brooks Koepka (14/1) makes his first appearance here since 2015 on the heels of eating a big slice of humble pie. He was two off the lead going into the final round at the PGA and was fairly dismissive of the competitors either ahead of or around him on the leaderboard. He shot a 4-over 74 and tied for the second-worst round in the field to finish a disappointing T-29th.


Patrick Reed (16/1) is another former Wyndham champion and won his first PGA Tour event here in 2013 with his wife Justine on the bag. Reed was never in contention at the PGA but did card a bogey-free 66 to finish T-13th. Tommy Fleetwood and Paul Casey (both 20/1) were right in the mix over the weekend at Harding Park, but Fleetwood faded on Sunday while Casey garnered his best major finish with a tie for second. Fleetwood is making his debut in Greensboro, while Casey has been here a few times and finished third in 2015. Justin Rose (25/1) finished a respectable ninth at the PGA and is making his first appearance here since 2009 (fifth place finish). J.T. Poston (60/1) won the event last year at a price of 100/1. 


The Event


The Wyndham Championship was established in 1938 as the Greater Greensboro Open (Wyndham Hotels & Resorts took over as sponsor in 2007). The event has a lengthy history and has been the site for several PGA Tour records. In 1965, Sam Snead set PGA Tour records for being the oldest player to a win a PGA Tour event (age 52) and for most wins at a sole event (eighth win). Fifty years later, in 2015, Davis Love III won here at age 51 and became the oldest player to win on the PGA Tour in the Senior/Champions Tour era (1980). The Wyndham is also the final event before the FedEx Cup Playoffs. The top 125 players on the points list after this event move on to the playoffs. 

Here are some of the "bubble boys" around the current FedEx Cup 125 going into this week:

120. Tom Lewis 275

121. Si Woo Kim 275

122. Fabián Gómez 274

123. Bo Hoag 270

124. Russell Knox 267

125. Charl Schwartzel 266

126. Bronson Burgoon 255

127. Chase Seiffert 254

128. Nick Watney 253

129. Zach Johnson 250

130. Kyle Stanley 246

Other notables outside the 125 include Shane Lowry (131), Matt Wallace (132), Rafa Cabrera-Bello (133), Sergio Garcia (134), Danny Willett (143), Branden Grace (162), Jason Dufner (172) and Jim Furyk (179).

Ordinarily players would be playing to get inside the top 125 for the purposes of keeping their fully exempt PGA Tour playing privileges for the following season. However, with the changes in the schedule, no players with exempt status will lose their cards for finishing outside the 125. Furthermore, there are no Korn Ferry Tour Finals this season, so players on that tour will not be able to be promoted for the 2020-2021 season. There is also another race to get into the top 10 of the FedEx Cup standings as Wyndham is providing a $10 million staggered prize pool for those players to split. 

The Course

Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C., took over the reins of hosting the Wyndham Championship in 2008. The Wyndham is held at the Ross Course, named for its designer Donald Ross, which opened in 1926. After renovations conducted in 2007 by Kris Spence, a golf course architect based locally in Greensboro who worked as the course superintendent at nearby Forest Oaks Country Club. Forest Oaks hosted the Wyndham from 1977-2007. Sedgefield is a par 70 of 7,127 yards. It is a fairly typical Carolina course with tree-lined fairways, pine straw and Bermudagrass throughout. There are five water hazards in play on six holes and the layout is not all that heavily bunkered (52 on course). The Champion Bermuda greens are on the faster side (12 stimpmeter). Sedgefield, where the winning score has been 21-under-par or better in each of the last four years, is not a track that poses major issues for the touring pros. The course record is 59 and was set by Brandt Snedeker on his way to victory at the 2018 Wyndham. Snedeker also won the 2007 Wyndham, which was the last tournament held at Forest Oaks, so he is pretty much an annual participant in this event. Key stats to examine for the Wyndham are not all that atypical and they include Driving Accuracy, GIR, SG: Approach, SG: T2G, Par 4 Efficiency of 400-450 yards (8 of the 12 Par 4s on this course fall into that yardage range) and SG: Putting.

Several Donald Ross designs are featured on the PGA Tour schedule, including the Detroit GC which hosted the Rocket Mortgage Classic over July 4th weekend. If looking for a course correlation, here are some other Ross designs:

Pinehurst Number 2 – 2014 U.S. Open

East Course at Oak Hill – 2013 PGA Championship

Detroit GC - Rocket Mortgage Classic

Plainfield – 2011 & 2015 Barclays

Aronimink GC – 2010 & 2011 AT&T National 2018 BMW Championship

East Lake GC – Tour Championship

Wyndham Championship Recent History

2019: J.T. Poston (-22/258); 100/1

2018: Brandt Snedeker (-21/259); 25/1

2017: Henrik Stenson (-22/258); 12/1

2016: Si Woo Kim (-21/259); 150/1

2015: Davis Love III (-17/263); 500/1

2014: Camilo Villegas (-17/263); 125/1

2013: Patrick Reed (-14/266); 80/1*

2012: Sergio Garcia (-18/262); 40/1

2011: Webb Simpson (-18/262); 20/1

2010: Arjun Atwal (-20/260); 200/1

* Playoff win over Jordan Spieth

Wyndham Championship Stats, Trends & Angles

Strokes Gained Approach is more often than not an important statistic week in and week out on the PGA Tour. It is a bit more important this week as indicated by recent numbers. Since 2010, the average SG: Approach ranking of the event winners was 7.4 and six of the last seven winners have rated fourth or better for those event weeks. Here are the top players for the category in this week's field:

Paul Casey (3) 0.887

Russell Henley (4) 0.882

Joaquin Niemann (8) 0.722

Webb Simpson (11) 0.658

Corey Conners (14) 0.585

Doc Redman (15) 0.583

Jim Furyk (17) 0.572

Branden Grace (20) 0.529

Cameron Percy (21) 0.522

Christiaan Bezuidenhout (22) 0.518

Matthew Nesmith (23) 0.511

Nick Watney (27) 0.482

Tom Hoge (28) 0.466

Lucas Glover (29) 0.462

Harold Varner III (30) 0.460

Three of the last four winners at the Wyndham have also rated first or second respectively in the field for Strokes Gained Tee-To-Green during their winning weeks:

Sergio Garcia (4) 1.494

Paul Casey (12) 1.097

Harold Varner III (T14) 1.074

Russell Henley (16) 1.012

Webb Simpson (17) 1.010

Harris English (19) 0.965

Corey Conners (21) 0.893

Joaquin Niemann (22) 0.888

Luke List (24) 0.810

Patrick Reed (27) 0.767

Shane Lowry (28) 0.746

Brooks Koepka (32) 0.700

Tommy Fleetwood (36) 0.661

Sebastián Muñoz (37) 0.656

Jason Dufner (38) 0.648

Here are some other pertinent statistics involving ball striking, accurate driving and performance on Par 4s:

Par 4 Efficiency 400-450 Yards

Paul Casey (7) 3.904

Adam Long (T8) 3.905

Branden Grace (11) 3.912

Brice Garnett (12) 3.916

Kevin Kisner (13) 3.920

Pat Perez (14) 3.921

Webb Simpson (T18) 3.926

Corey Conners (T20) 3.929

Brian Stuard (25) 3.940

Tom Hoge (26) 3.941

Kyle Stanley (27) 3.944

Tommy Fleetwood (T28) 3.946

Russell Henley (T28) 3.946

Sungjae Im (T28) 3.946

Henrik Norlander (T31) 3.947

Doc Redman (T31) 3.947

Driving Accuracy

Jim Furyk (1) 75.44%

Ryan Armour (2) 73.59%

Brendon Todd (3) 71.84%

Kyle Stanley (4) 71.15%

Brian Stuard (5) 71.12%

Tyler Duncan (6) 69.61%

Chez Reavie (7) 69.59%

Tim Wilkinson (8) 69.11%

Ryan Moore (9) 69.01%

Henrik Norlander (10) 68.98%

David Hearn (11) 68.91%

Jim Herman (12) 68.71%

Chris Baker (13) 68.68%

Doc Redman (18) 67.73%

Josh Teater (19) 67.70%

Greens In Regulation

Jim Furyk (1) 73.87%

Kyle Stanley (2) 72.55%

Aaron Wise (3) 71.96%

Corey Conners (5) 71.59%

Russell Henley (7) 71.57%

Josh Teater (8) 71.32%

Will Gordon (9) 71.23%

Paul Casey (10) 70.96%

Harris English (11) 70.56%

Doc Redman (12) 70.54%

Nick Watney (14) 70.50%

Brice Garnett (15) 70.47%

Matthew Nesmith (T17) 70.34%

Pat Perez (T17) 70.34%

Henrik Norlander (19) 70.26%

Recent years have also indicated a strong performance correlation between The Wyndham Championship and the RBC Heritage:

J.T. Poston: 2019 Wyndham champion and T-6th in the 2019 RBC Heritage, T-8th at the 2020 RBC.

Webb Simpson: 2011 Wyndham champion, 2018 & 2019 Wyndham runner-up and 2020 RBC Heritage champion, 2013 RBC runner-up.

Brandt Snedeker: 2007 & 2018 Wyndham champion and 2011 RBC Heritage champion.

C.T. Pan: 2018 Wyndham runner-up and 2019 RBC Heritage champion.

Si Woo Kim: 2016 Wyndham champion and 2018 RBC Heritage runner-up.

Luke Donald: 2016 Wyndham runner-up and RBC Heritage runner-up in 2009, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016.


Harris English 31/1

At the PGA Championship, English finished T-19th and in the process garnered his seventh Top 20 or better finish in his last eight events dating back to Phoenix in February. English had four finishes of sixth or better in the PGA Tour Fall Series, then the season ended and he was a bit slow out of the gate before starting his run of Top 20s in Phoenix and ending with a Top 10 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Unfortunately for him, his momentum was halted due to the stoppage in play. He missed the cut in his first start at Colonial, but a Top 20 in a stronger than usual field at the RBC Heritage has rebooted some consistent play. English calls the RBC Heritage his favorite stop on tour, and there is a strong correlation between the RBC and the Wyndham. Plus, while this week's Wyndham field has quality at the top, it is not near as top-heavy as the Heritage field was in Hilton Head. This could be his opportunity to break through this season. 

English rates in the Top 10 for this week's field in Strokes Gained: Putting, Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green and GIR. He also shot a nice 4-under 66 in the final round of the PGA, which tied for fourth-best in the field. 

Russell Henley 51/1

Only Paul Casey (T-2nd), Jason Day, Tony Finau and Matthew Wolff (all T-4th) were better for Strokes Gained: Approach than Henley at the PGA Championship. Henley rates fourth overall on the PGA Tour in the category. Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa and Casey are the only players who rate better on approach shots, and they are three of the best pure ball strikers on the planet. He also ratesseventh overall for Greens In Regulation for good measure.

The weakness last weekend was clearly the putter, which cost him a little more than four strokes overall for the week at Harding Park. Nevertheless, those woes could end in short order with a return to the Bermudagrass. Henley has long been one of the better putters on the PGA Tour when he's on the Bermuda. 

Joaquin Niemann 50/1

Niemann missed the cut at the PGA, but that's not always a bad thing. Five of the last 10 winners at the Wyndham either MC or WD the week or event before. Niemann finished T-5th at the RBC Heritage earlier this summer and shot 128 (14 under) on the weekend which tied Daniel Berger, who had just won the week prior at Colonial, for the best in the field. The 21-year-old from Chile also fits the Donald Ross course correlation angle with a T-5th at the 2019 Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit. 

He rates eighth overall on tour and third in this week's field for Strokes Gained: Approach and is also eighth in this week's field for Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green. 

Maverick McNealy 80/1

Outside of the fact that he's one of the best putters on tour (11th SGP), there aren't really any statistical angles or course form that points to McNealy. However, he fits a couple fun narratives. He ended up seventh at the Barracuda Championship but needed to win in order to play the PGA Championship in San Francisco. Unfortunately, he had to watch an old college rival (McNealy played at Stanford, Morikawa at Cal) who is around the same age win a major championship less than 40 minutes from McNealy's hometown (Portola Valley, CA). Not to mention that both McNealy and Morikawa reside in Las Vegas. 

Furthermore, he has also watched his girlfriend, Danielle Kang, win on the LPGA Tour in back-to-back weeks and now emerge as the No. 2-ranked women's golfer in the world. His motivation has always been a bit unknown since he's the son of a billionaire, but you would have to think the events of last weekend perhaps lit a fire under him to do well this week. He also finished T-8th last month in Detroit on a Donald Ross layout. 

Henrik Norlander 92/1

First-time PGA Tour wins have been a relatively regular occurrence at the Wyndham. In fact, first-time winners have been victorious in seven of the last 13 years here (J.T. Poston, Si Woo Kim, Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson, Arjun Atwal, Ryan Moore and Brandt Snedeker). 

Norlander got back out on the PGA Tour working through the Korn Ferry last year and has taken advantage with three Top 10s as he is now well within the Top 125 to play the FedEx Cup Playoffs. He rates 10th in Driving Accuracy and 19th for Greens In Regulation on the PGA Tour. 

Luke List 100/1

List ranked ninth in the field last weekend at the PGA Championship in both Strokes Gained: Approach and Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green, but finished only T-51st due to losing almost 7.5 strokes on the greens. However, he gets off the Bentgrass/Poa Annua and on the Bermuda this week, which can only be a good thing. 

If the ball striking stays true to last weekend's form, then he could be a surprising contender. It would be a mild surprise considering he's 0-for-3 in making the cut here, but I'm thinking the ball striking will stay true. List also has a win under his belt this summer as he won the Korn Ferry Challenge at TPC Sawgrass in the first week back from the extended break. TPC Sawgrass also has a correlation with Sedgefield and Harbour Town as players like Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Matt Kuchar, Si Woo Kim and Webb Simpson are all former winners of THE PLAYERS Championship who have also won either or both of these courses. 

Kristoffer Ventura 125/1

Ventura is No. 159 in the FedEx Cup points list, so a high finish could vault him into the Top 125 to make the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Ventura ranks in the Top 10 for Strokes Gained: Putting, but he has been erratic in his rookie season on the PGA Tour. Fortunately for him, he will not lose his card if he finishes outside the 125, so that removes a lot of pressure from a young player. 

He also may have some motivation from seeing his Oklahoma State teammate Matthew Wolff be right in the mix to win the PGA Championship last weekend. 

Celtic Classic

Andy Sullivan was tipped in this column two weeks ago for the Hero Open, but he disappointed. Last week he was 20/1 at the English Championship and ended up shooting 27 under to win by seven strokes for his first win in nearly five years. Sullivan now comes to Wales in the first of back-to-back weeks for the European Tour as the 12/1 favorite for the Celtic Classic. Joost Luiten (14/1), who won on this week's course at the 2014 Wales Open, returns to Europe after finishing T-51st at the PGA Championship. Thomas Detry (16/1) is still searching for his first European Tour win and his Belgian mate Thomas Pieters returns to competitive golf for the first time since the shutdown having just become a new father at the end of July. Ryan Fox has three straight Top 20 or better finishes in three consecutive weeks and he shares a 25/1 price tag with Renato Paratore, who won three weeks ago at the British Masters, and Sam Horsfield, who won two weeks ago at the Hero Open. Kurt Kitayama (30/1), off a T-51st last weekend at the PGA, returns to the European Tour for the first time since playing in Dubai in January. 

The Event

The Celtic Classic is a likely one-off event for the current "UK Swing" on the European Tour. It is being held on the Twenty-Ten Course at The Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales. Celtic Manor hosted the 2010 Ryder Cup, won by the Europeans 14.5-13.5, and the 2014 NATO Summit. The Twenty-Ten Course also hosted the Wales Open from 2008-2014. This event is also the cutoff for players to accumulate points for the UK Swing as the top 10 point-getters will be afforded spots in next month's U.S. Open at Winged Foot due to U.S. Open qualifying being canceled this year.

The Course

The Twenty-Ten Course at Celtic Manor was designed in 2007 by Ross McMurray along with a conversion of Wentwood Hills, designed by Robert Trent Jones, into this track. It was specifically redesigned in mind for the 2010 Ryder Cup. It is a 7,493-yard, Par 71 that encourages bombs off the tee, but you ought not go t0o wayward as water is in play on nine holes and there are a lot of risk-reward holes and forced carries. The course has a different makeup than most Par 71s in that there are four Par 5s and five Par 3s. The Par 3s are actually the toughest holes on the course. Make no mistake, this will be a much sterner test of golf than the players saw last weekend for the English Championship. Length off the tee certainly helps, but it's not a complete requirement. You need the proper combination of distance and accuracy (Total Driving) to go along with GIR and Scrambling. 

Celtic Classic Recent History

There really isn't any recent history since this is a debut and likely one-off event. However, the Wales Open was played here from 2008-2014. The 2008 event is an outlier since the course was very much toughened afterwardsin preparation for that 2010 Ryder Cup. 

2014: Joost Luiten (-14/270); 14/1

2013: Grégory Bourdy (-8/276); 40/1

2012: Thongchai Jaidee (-6/278); 125/1

2011: Alex Noren (-9/275); 66/1

2010: Graeme McDowell (-15/269); 22/1

2009: Jeppe Huldahl (-9/275)

2008: Scott Strange (-22/262)

Celtic Classic Stats, Trends & Angles

For the seven Wales Opens that were conducted at Celtic Manor, the winner averaged a field ranking of ninth for Greens In Regulation:

Wil Besseling (1) 76.98%

Thomas Pieters (2) 74.75%

Jordan Smith (4) 74.63%

Connor Syme (5) 74.51%

Alexander Levy (6) 74.17%

Ashley Chesters (7) 74.08%

Ross Fisher (8) 73.89%

Cormac Sharvin (10) 73.33%

Lorenzo Gagli (11) 73.33%

Maverick Antcliff (12) 73.22%

Brandon Stone (13) 72.99%

In five of the seven Wales Opens, the eventual winner ranked sixth or better in Scrambling:

Rikard Karlberg (1) 67.42%

Chris Paisley (2) 65.99%

Andy Sullivan (3) 65.91%

Richie Ramsay (4) 65.90%

Sihwan Kim (6) 64.17%

Jamie Donaldson (7) 63.72%

Aaron Cockerill (9) 63.29%

Gavin Green (10) 62.20%

Renato Paratore (11) 62.19%

Dave Coupland (12) 62.03%

Louis De Jager (13) 61.84%


Nicolas Colsaerts 50/1

​While we don't have much recent form to go upon since there hasn't been an event on this course since 2014, there does seem to be a bit of a parallel between Le Golf National (Open de France) and Celtic Manor. Graeme McDowell, Alex Noren and Thongchai Jaidee have been previous winners on both courses, and Colsaerts is looking to add to that list having won in Paris last fall.

​Colsaerts was fourth in the last event at Celtic Manor and posted a Top 10 last week at Hanbury Manor. He is also a recent father, and a seminal event in a player's life often tends to give a settling perspective. 

Sean Crocker 50/1

Crocker posted his first Top 10 of the season last weekend with a T-9th at Hanbury Manor and his form has gotten progressively better since the restart in play. 

He is also a contemporary of newly minted PGA Champion Collin Morikawa, having competed against him regularly when the champion was at Cal and Crocker was playing at USC. 

Jamie Donaldson 60/1

​The former Ryder Cupper didn't make the squad when the Ryder Cup was in Wales in 2010 but was part of the winning European team four years later at Gleneagles.

The Welshman has back-to-back Top 15 finishes over the last two weeks and his ball striking is still very solid, even at the age of 44, ranking 14th on tour for Driving Accuracy and 25th for GIR. He also finished fourth the last time an event was held on this course.

Antoine Rozner 80/1

The Frenchman was a disappointing T-26th last week at Hanbury Manor but led the field in Driving Accuracy, Total Driving and Ball Striking. Furthermore, he was third for GIR and seventh in Scrambling. 

Connor Syme 80/1

​Syme is almost four times the price as he was in Austria several weeks ago when he finished fourth. ​He rates fourth on tour for SG: Off-The-Tee, third in Driving Accuracy and fifth for Greens In Regulation. 

Wil Besseling 150/1

​Besseling was third in Austria five weeks ago but the form hasn't continued for the UK Swing. Nevertheless, Besseling is a big price for a player that leads the European Tour in SG: Off-The-Tee and Greens In Regulation. 

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