PGA Tour best bets: Wyndham Championship

August 2, 2022 09:53 PM
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Tony Finau became the first player since Brendon Todd in 2019 to win in back-to-back weeks on the PGA Tour with his victory at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. Finau, the 12-1 pre-tournament second choice, led the field for Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, Greens in Regulation (66-for-72, 91.7%) and Scrambling (11-for-13, 84.6%). He also ranked second for Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee (+ 1.54 per round), third for Driving Accuracy (50-for-56, 89.3%) and sixth for Strokes Gained: Approach (+ 1.33 per round) to post a score of 26-under-par. He won by five shots over Taylor Pendrith (tipped in this column at 65-1), Cameron Young (who now has seven top-3s in his rookie season) and Patrick Cantlay (who posted his third runner-up finish of the season). In Finau's victories at the 3M Open and Rocket Mortgage Classic, he shot a combined 44-under-par (49 birdies, five bogeys), hit 86.8% of Greens In Regulation and gained almost 25 strokes Ball Striking (Off-the-Tee plus Approach). Fortunately for the rest of the PGA Tour, Finau is taking this week off. 

The Wyndham Championship is the final event before the three-week FedEx Cup playoffs begin next week in Memphis. It’s also the final week for players to improve their positions and play their way in or out of the Top 125. 

Sungjae Im (14-1) has consecutive top-10 finishes here in 2019 and 2020. Shane Lowry (16-1) is making his fifth appearance in Greensboro and finished seventh in 2017. Will Zalatoris (16-1) would love to earn his first career PGA Tour victory, not too far from where he played college golf at Wake Forest. Former Demon Deacons star Webb Simpson (22-1) earned his first career PGA Tour victory at the Wyndham Championship in 2011. In fact, he and wife Dowd named their third child Wyndham. Taking out a finish of 72nd in 2016, Simpson's form at the Wyndham from 2021 back to 2014 reads 7-3-2-2-3-6-5. That’s why Simpson is such a short price on this week's board considering he missed eight weeks with a neck injury and has zero top-10 finishes on tour this year. 

Billy Horschel (20-1), who won the Memorial this year, probably should have won this event in 2020 but settled for runner-up. Another player looking for redemption at the Wyndham is Russell Henley (28-1), who nearly led this event wire-to-wire last year only to give it away on the back nine. He missed out on a six-man playoff which was won by Kevin Kisner (40-1 this week). Si Woo Kim (28-1) and Adam Scott (35-1) were also part of that playoff. Other players priced in the 25-1 to 40-1 range include Corey Conners (25-1), Tyrrell Hatton (33-1), Harold Varner III (40-1), Brian Harman (40-1), Denny McCarthy (40-1) and Pendrith (40-1). Tom Kim (33-1), whose birth name is Joohyung, is only 20 years old but clinched his PGA Tour card last week in Detroit with a final-round 63 to finish fourth. 

The Event

The Wyndham Championship was established in 1938 as the Greater Greensboro Open and has been the site for several PGA Tour records. In 1965, Sam Snead set records for being the oldest player to win a PGA Tour event (52) and for most wins at an event (eight). Fifty years later, in 2015, Davis Love III won here at 51 and became the oldest player to win on the PGA Tour in the Champions Tour era (dating to 1980).

The Top 125 on the points list after this event move on to the playoffs. Three players jumped inside the Top 125 last season when Chesson Hadley, Roger Sloan and Scott Piercy knocked out Ryan Armour, Bo Hoag and Patrick Rodgers. 

This year's bubble looks like this:

121. Chesson Hadley

122. Kramer Hickok

123. Rickie Fowler

124. Matt Wallace

125. Austin Smotherman

126. Max McGreevy

127. Danny Willett

128. Justin Lower

129. Nick Hardy

130. Cameron Champ

131. Kelly Kraft

132. Michael Gligic

133. Francesco Molinari 

134. Erik van Rooyen

135. Martin Trainer

136. Doc Redman

137. Brian Stuard

138. Harry Higgs

139. Hank Lebioda

140. Rory Sabbatini

The above rankings include the LIV Golf defectors who are currently inside the Top 125.

The PGA Tour will take 125 players into this year's FedEx Cup playoffs but will have to go outside the Top 125 since there are nine LIV Golf defectors who will not be eligible for the playoffs (No. 20 Talor Gooch, No. 43 Jason Kokrak, No. 62 Matt Jones, No. 63 Hudson Swafford, No. 72 Matthew Wolff, No. 84 Abraham Ancer, No. 104 Carlos Ortiz, No. 106 Brooks Koepka and No. 110 Charles Howell III).  

Other notables outside the current Top 125 include Zach Johnson (142), Charley Hoffman (148), Bill Haas (150), new European Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald (158) and Brandt Snedeker (167). 

The Course

Sedgefield Country Club has hosted the Wyndham Championship since 2008. The Wyndham is held at the Ross Course, named for its designer, Donald Ross, which opened in 1926. 

Sedgefield is a Par 70 of 7,131 yards. It is a typical Carolina course with tree-lined fairways, pine straw and Bermudagrass throughout. The course has only two Par 5s with four Par 3s. Nine of the 12 Par 4s are less than 450 yards. The two Par 5s are each less than 550 yards and are the easiest group of Par 5s on tour (combined birdie-or-better rate of 59%). 

The fairways are narrow (29.3 yards on average, ninth narrowest on tour) and the rough measures 2.5 inches. There are five water hazards in play on six holes and the course is not heavily bunkered (52). However, the fairway bunkers are the toughest on tour for hitting greens in regulation. The Champion Bermuda greens (6,000 square feet on average) are undulating and an average speed (12 stimpmeter). 

The winning score has been at least 20-under-par in five of the last six years. Over the past five years, the course has played to an average of 1.33 shots under par per round, making it the 10th-easiest track in the tour rotation, with only six holes that average over par. When winds are down and conditions are soft, low scores are in play, as evidenced by the course-record 59 that was set by Brandt Snedeker on his way to victory in 2018. 

If looking for course correlations, here are some other Donald Ross designs:

— Pinehurst No. 2 (2014 U.S. Open)

— Oak Hill, East Course (2013 PGA Championship)

— Detroit Golf Club (Rocket Mortgage Classic)

— Plainfield (2011 and 2015 Barclays)

— Aronimink (2010 and 2011 AT&T National, 2018 BMW Championship)

— East Lake (Tour Championship)

Other course correlations include Waialae, Colonial, TPC River Highlands and Sea Island Seaside.

Recent Winners

2021: Kevin Kisner (-15/265); 55-1*

2020: Jim Herman (-21/259); 600-1

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 Branden Grace, Si Woo Kim, Kevin Na, Adam Scott and Roger Sloan*

Playoff win over Jordan Spieth**

Statistical Analysis​

Quality approach shots point to success at Sedgefield. Here are SG: Approach rankings for the last six Wyndham winners during their winning weeks:

2021: Kevin Kisner, 12th

2020: Jim Herman: 4th

2019: J.T. Poston, 1st

2018: Brandt Snedeker, 3rd

2017: Henrik Stenson, 3rd

2016: Si Woo Kim, 5th

Strokes Gained: Approach (Last 24 Rounds)

1. Russell Henley 24.4

2. Shane Lowry 23

3. Harold Varner III 22.8

4. Scott Stallings 22

5. Mark Hubbard 20.9

6. Aaron Wise 20.2

7. Davis Riley 19.8

8. Lee Hodges 19.2

9. Stephan Jaeger 18.4

10. Adam Svensson 15.9

11. Will Zalatoris 15.7

12. Adam Scott 15.5

13. Corey Conners 15.1

14. Chez Reavie 14.8

15. Adam Long 14.7

16. Adam Schenk 14.2

17. Sam Ryder 14.1

Fairways Gained (Last 24 Rounds)

Distance is not all that crucial here. Hitting the fairway has proven to be of greater importance. In 2020, Jim Herman hit 82.1% of the fairways (fourth in the field). In 2019, J.T. Poston hit 80.4% (second). The GIR rate drops from 85% from the fairway to 54% from the rough. Proximity to the hole also increases from 27 feet to 46 feet. With numerous doglegs and the ninth-narrowest fairways on tour, players keep driver in the bag more often at Sedgefield. 

1. Chez Reavie 47

2. Ryan Armour 44.6

3. Satoshi Kodaira 41.6

4. Tom Kim 39.1

5. Ryan Moore 38.3

6. Brendon Todd 37.6

7. Martin Laird 36.3

8. Andrew Putnam 32

9. Lucas Glover 31.1

10. Brian Stuard 29.3

11. Vaughn Taylor 28.5

12. Billy Horschel 28.4

13. Aaron Rai 28.3

14. Sungjae Im 28.2

15. Tyler Duncan 27.8

16. Kevin Streelman 26.8

17. Corey Conners 26.6

18. Webb Simpson 26.2

19. Andrew Landry 25.9

20. Jim Herman 25.1

Proximity Gained: 150-175 Yards (Last 24 Rounds)

While Strokes Gained: Approach is typically an important metric to measure every week, Sedgefield is an easy course to gain strokes on approach. This week, we can narrow our focus to approach shots from 150-175 yards.

1. Joel Dahmen 14.9

2. Justin Rose 14.9

3. Lee Hodges 14.6

4. Mark Hubbard 14.3

5. Scott Stallings 12.9

6. Stephan Jaeger 12.3

7. Anirban Lahiri 11.4

8. Adam Scott 11.1

9. Ryan Moore 10.9

10. Jhonattan Vegas 10.5

11. John Huh 10.2

12. Vaughn Taylor 9.2

13. Harris English 9.1

14. Justin Lower 9

15. Will Zalatoris 8.8

16. Adam Long 8.8

17. Sam Ryder 8.7

18. Chris Stroud 8.6

19. Christiaan Bezuidenhout 8.5

20. Adam Svensson 8.5

21. J.J Spaun 8.3

Feet gained per shot

Strokes Gained: Par 4s 400-450 Yards (Last 24 Rounds)

Eight of the 12 Par 4s at Sedgefield measure between 400-450 yards. 

1. Brendon Todd 16.8

2. John Huh 16.7

3. Andrew Putnam 16.2

4. J.T. Poston 15.4

5. Adam Svensson 13.3

6. Mark Hubbard 12.4

7. KH Lee 12.3

8. Tyrrell Hatton 12.2

9. Tom Kim 10.7

10. Anirban Lahiri 10.5

11. Tyler Duncan 10.3

12. Lee Hodges 10

13. Scott Stallings 9.9

14. Sungjae Im 9.7

15. Corey Conners 9.3

16. Denny McCarthy 8.8

17. Ryan Armour 8.2

18. Hank Lebioda 8.2

Birdie Or Better Gained (Last 24 Rounds)

Although the winning score was just 15-under-par last year, 21-under or 22-under was the winning score in each of the previous five years.

1. Adam Svensson 27.1

2. Will Zalatoris 24.8

3. Aaron Wise 19.1

4. Scott Brown 18.9

5. J.T. Poston 17.7

6. Vincent Whaley 15.4

7. Keith Mitchell 15.1

8. Harold Varner III 14.9

9. Taylor Pendrith 14.6

10. Nick Hardy 14.2

11. Michael Gligic 14.1

12. Justin Rose 13.9

13. Stephan Jaeger 13.9

14. David Skinns 13.7

15. Adam Scott 13.1

Strokes Gained: Putting (Last 24 Rounds)

Putting is slightly more difficult here than tour standards. Many greens have sharp ridges which allow for some tricky pin placements. The green complexes tend to expose below-average putters and reward the more consistent ones.

1. Denny McCarthy 27.1

2. Brendon Todd 21

3. Austin Cook 20.2

4. Brian Gay 19.9

5. Vincent Whaley 19.1

6. Adam Svensson 18.4

7. Chesson Hadley 17.6

8. J.T. Poston 15.6

9. Christiaan Bezuidenhout 15.4

10. Justin Lower 14.7

11. Patrick Rodgers 14.2

12. Keith Mitchell 13.6

13. Michael Gligic 12.9

14. Callum Tarren 12.4

15. Mark Hubbard 12.2

16. KH Lee 12.1

Strokes Gained: Putting on Bermuda (Last 24 Rounds)

We can also specify how players fare on Bermuda putting surfaces.

1. Martin Trainer 25.5

2. Brian Gay 24.6

3. Tyrrell Hatton 23.3

4. Brendon Todd 20

5. Kevin Kisner 19.4

6. Chesson Hadley 17.1

7. Justin Rose 16.8

8. Sepp Straka 15.2

9. Aaron Baddeley 14

10. Billy Horschel 12.3

11. Vincent Whaley 11.9

12. Scott Stallings 11.5

13. Denny McCarthy 10.9

14. Kelly Kraft 10.5

15. Shane Lowry 10.3

16. Patton Kizzire 10.3

17. Brandon Wu 10

18. Scott Brown 10

Selections

​Sungjae Im (16-1 Caesars Sportsbook)

Despite raising his OWGR from No. 26 to 21 at the end of 2021, this year has been a bit disappointing for Im, even with five top-10 finishes including a runner-up in his last start at the 3M Open. It was that last start in the Twin Cities that may help him turn the corner. He gained 5.5 strokes off the tee and 5.2 strokes on approach for his best career ball-striking week. Im has two top-10 finishes in three appearances at the Wyndham. 

Russell Henley (26-1 Circa Sports)

This column was aboard Henley last year at this event. He had a four-shot lead at the turn on Sunday but missed a short putt on 18 to miss the six-man playoff in a tournament he dominated. Henley ranks No. 1 in this field over the last 24 rounds for Strokes Gained: Approach and is fifth for Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. He has also been much better putting on Bermuda greens throughout his career. He posted his first top-10 finish (10th) since Hawaii last week, which was played on another Ross design. 

Denny McCarthy (40-1 Westgate SuperBook)

McCarthy has four top-10s in 2022 including three in his last five starts (fifth, Memorial; seventh, U.S. Open; sixth, John Deere Classic). A missed cut last week came after three weeks off. This is a spot where he should fire, having finished 15th and ninth the last two years here. He is also one of the best putters on tour and ranks first over the last 24 rounds for Strokes Gained: Putting. 

Mark Hubbard (70-1 DraftKings)

Hubbard was 137th in the FedEx Cup standings in mid-May but proceeded to make seven straight cuts, including a third-place finish at the Barbasol and fourth at the Barracuda to secure his PGA Tour card for next season. While he missed the cut last week, he should go better here with two top-25 finishes in five appearances and in the best form of his career. He ranks fifth in this field for Strokes Gained: Approach over the last 24 rounds, fourth for Proximity Gained: 150-175 Yards and is in the top 15 for Strokes Gained: Putting. 

Adam Svensson (75-1 Circa Sports)

Svensson ranks No. 1 in this week's field for Birdie Or Better Gained over the last 24 rounds. He’s also fifth for Strokes Gained: Par 4s 400-450 Yards and 10th for Strokes Gained: Approach. He shot a 61 on this course in 2019. The Canadian has five top-25 finishes in his last six starts, including 24th in Detroit where he was fourth in the field for Strokes Gained: Approach. 

Adam Long (75-1 Circa Sports)

Long has six top-25s in his last 10 starts, including four in a row. He is an accurate hitter and is in the top 20 of his field for both Good Drives Gained and Strokes Gained: Approach. Long is also No. 1 in this field for GIR Gained over the last 24 rounds. He played his college golf at Duke, so he is well-suited for Carolina courses. 

Brendon Todd (100-1 DraftKings)

Last week, Tony Finau became the first man to win consecutive events on the PGA Tour since … Brendon Todd in 2019. Todd finished 10th here last year. He ranks first in the field over the last 24 rounds for Strokes Gained: Par 4s 400-450 Yards, second for Strokes Gained: Putting and sixth for Fairways Gained. 

Ryan Armour (250-1 BetMGM)

At 46 years old, this may be Armour's last stand to stay on the PGA Tour. He is currently No. 152 in the FedEx Cup standings (accounting for LIV defections). He has missed four consecutive cuts and eight of 14. Nonetheless, he is second in this week's field for Fairways Gained. Armour was fourth here in 2017 and eighth in 2018, so this is an ideal spot for him to have a good week. 

Cazoo Open​

American Sean Crocker earned his first DP World Tour victory last week, going wire-to-wire in the Hero Open. Crocker's score of 266 (22-under-par) bested Englishman Eddie Pepperell, who led the field for Strokes Gained: Approach and was tipped in this column at 50-1, by one stroke. 

Crocker (35-1) and Pepperell (28-1) are both in this week's field at the Cazoo Open in Wales. Thomas Detry (16-1) was runner-up on this course at Celtic Manor two years ago in the Celtic Classic one-off event. Detry shares the co-favorite role with Jordan Smith (16-1), who has a pair of runner-up finishes in 2022. Callum Shinkwin (20-1) was fourth in this event last year, had finishes of eighth and 11th on this course in 2020 and finished seventh last week in the Hero Open. Thorbjorn Olesen and Hurly Long follow in the market at 25-1. Jens Dantorp (35-1) and David Law (40-1) were both top-5 finishers last week. Mikko Korhonen (35-1) missed a playoff by one shot here last year to finish third. Nacho Elvira is the defending champion and is priced at 75-1. 

The Course

COVID-19 forced many changes to the European Tour schedule, including last August when events were held at Celtic Manor Resort in consecutive weeks (Celtic Classic and ISPS Handa Wales Open). Celtic Manor has stayed on the schedule as host for the Cazoo Open. 

The Twenty-Ten Course at Celtic Manor was designed in 2007 by Ross McMurray, who converted Wentwood Hills, designed by Robert Trent Jones, into this track. It was specifically re-designed for the 2010 Ryder Cup. It is a Par 71 of 7,503 yards that encourages bombs of the tee, but 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 with four Par 5s and five Par 3s. The Par 3s are the toughest holes on the course by and large. Length off the tee helps but is not a complete requirement. The Bentgrass/Poa Annua greens are well-bunkered. You need the proper combination of distance and accuracy (Total Driving) to go along with GIR and Scrambling. 

Changes to the 14th and 18th holes have added over 100 yards since last year, with the Par 4 14th now measuring 485 yards, up from 413, and the closing Par 5 now 613 yards, up from 575.

Recent Winners

Cazoo Open

2021: Nacho Elvira (-16/268); 250-1*

Celtic Classic

2020: Sam Horsfield (-18/266); 28-1

ISPS Handa Wales Open

2020: Romain Langasque (-8/276); 66-1

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

2013: Grégory Bourdy (-8/276); 40-1

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

Saab Wales Open

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

Celtic Manor Wales Open

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

Playoff win over Justin Harding*

Statistical Analysis​

Greens In Regulation (2022 DP World Tour)

Dating to 2010, every winner but one at Celtic Manor ranked 13th or better for Greens In Regulation during their winning weeks. 

1. Jordan Smith 74.49%

2. Ewen Ferguson 71.72%

3. Ross Fisher 70.94%

4. Richard Mansell 70.66%

5. Connor Syme 70.54%

6. Ashley Chesters 70.12%

7. Kristoffer Broberg 70.00%

8. Marcus Armitage 69.94%

9. Edoardo Molinari 69.89%

10. Marcus Helligkilde 69.88%

11. Mikko Korhonen 69.78%

12. Louis De Jager 69.64%

Selections

​Jordan Smith (16-1 BetMGM)

Smith has had an excellent year, missing just one cut in 15 starts with the MC coming by a single shot. Twelve of those starts have resulted in a top-25 finish, with five top-10s, which include runner-up finishes in the Ras Al Khaimah Championship and MyGolfLife Open. His ball-striking has been outstanding all season, ranking first for Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee, first in GIR, 19th for Strokes Gained: Approach and 20th in Driving Distance. Furthermore, he ranks eighth in Scrambling. In recent weeks, Richie Ramsay and Sean Crocker broke long winless droughts and Smith looks like the best candidate to do the same this week. 

Callum Shinkwin (22-1 DraftKings)

Shinkwin has the look of a course specialist at Celtic Manor, having finished fourth in this event last year and going eighth and 11th in the two events on this course in 2020. He finished seventh last week at the Hero Open and led the field for Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green (third for SG: Approach and sixth for SG: Off-the-Tee). Shinkwin ranks seventh on the DP World Tour for Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee

Hurly Long (30-1 Westgate SuperBook)

Long posted a seventh and fourth in the two PGA Tour alternate events then had a respectable 14th at the Hero Open last week. He ranks in the top 30 on the DP World Tour for Driving Distance, Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee, Scrambling and Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green. However, it’s his putting that has been the highlight this year. Long ranks ninth in Putts per GIR, 10th in One-Putts and 18th for Strokes Gained: Putting.

Matti Schmid (35-1 DraftKings)

We were on Schmid four weeks ago at the Barbasol where he was the 36-hole co-leader and 54-hole leader by two strokes. A Sunday 77 dropped him to eighth. The disappointing finish carried over to just a 38th at the Barracuda, but now he returns to Europe with two weeks of rest to play in a field that is a drop in class. Schmid ranks sixth on the DP World Tour for Driving Distance and ninth for Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee. 

Connor Syme (50-1 PointsBet)

Syme was 18th here last year and finished eighth and third at the two events held at Celtic Manor in 2020, so you can reasonably say he is a bit of a course specialist as well. While he comes in with consecutive finishes outside of the top-40, he has ranked sixth and ninth for Strokes Gained: Approach in those two starts. 

Paul Waring (50-1 Westgate SuperBook)

Waring was runner-up two weeks ago at the Cazoo Classic. He ranks 31st on the DP World Tour for Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and has the ball-striking game to go well here. 

Chase Hanna (80-1 BetMGM)

Hanna has been boom or bust in 2022. On one hand, he has missed 14 of 19 cuts. On the other hand, he was runner-up at the Qatar Masters, fourth at the Soudal Open in Belgium and sixth at the British Masters. He was also sixth at Celtic Manor last year. The American has gained strokes off the tee in his last six starts, which will matter on a longer course such as Celtic Manor. Perhaps he takes some inspiration from fellow American Sean Crocker, who finally won his first event on the DP World Tour. 

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