Wyndham Championship Preview, Picks & Analysis
IT IS fair to say that Jim Herman’s victory at the Wyndham Championship in 2020 was a surprise. It was his third win and it earned him a spot in the FedEx Cup Playoffs after a final round of 63 gave him a one-shot success over Billy Horschel.
Herman overcame a four-stroke deficit in the final round at Sedgefield Country Club. He overtook Horschel with a birdie on the 71st hole.The 42-year-old Herman finished at 21-under 259.
Horschel closed with a 65. He had a final chance to tie on the 72nd hole, but his 8-foot birdie putt slid left of the cup.
Herman got into the Playoffs, jumping from 192nd to 54th in the race for the 125 spots. He hoisted a trophy for the second straight season and third time since 2017.
Si Woo Kim, the third-round leader, had a 70 to tie for third at 18 under with Kevin Kisner (64), Webb Simpson (65) and Doc Redman (68).
Herman had two birdies and an eagle - from 59 feet - on his first five holes to catch up to Kim. Then, trailing Horschel by a stroke, Herman stuck his approach to No. 17 to just over 3 feet for a birdie. to reach 21 under. He gained the lead when Horschel missed a 12-footer for par on 16.
It was quite a week for Herman, who had three birdies over his final four holes Friday simply to make the cut. He followed that up with a career-low 61 on Saturday to get into striking distance before taking the victory. Horschel looked as if he was the one to rally as he moved from three behind Kim to the lead with a birdie-eagle-birdie run on the front nine while Kim struggled with a double bogey and a bogey over his first eight holes.
Kim had 21 birdies and a hole in one the first three rounds. But he stumbled out of the gate and a pair of bad drives cost him his first win since The Players Championship in 2017. He drove right into a hazard of thick grass and, despite six people searching, could not find his shot. Kim made double bogey to fall from the top. Two holes later, Kim would up near a cart path bridge for a bogey to fall four shots off the lead.
All three men will be back this week but the big question surrounds Louis Oosthuizen’s ongoing battle to win his first tournament of 2021.
Oosthuizen is sixth in the FedExCup point standings, eighth in the world rankings and third in the Race to Dubai - and all without winning. He finished second at the U.S. Open, tied for third at The Open and tied for second at the 3M Open. In addition, he finished tied for second at the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island and second at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Unbelievably, the 2010 Open remains his only PGA Tour victory, but he has 13 international wins. He played for the Presidents Cup International Team in 2013, ’15, ’17 and ’19 and will be making his first Wyndham Championship appearance.
Gary Woodland won the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach beating Brooks Koepka by three strokes. Like Oosthuizen, he hasn’t won this season but finished fifth at the Wells Fargo Championship, tied for sixth at the Texas Open and tied for 11th at the 3M Open. Woodland supports junior golf through his namesake American Junior Golf Association event, the Gary Woodland Championship in Kansas. He represented the United States in the 2019 Presidents Cup and would dearly love to make a late charge to force his way into Steve Stricker’s US Ryder Cup team.
Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson is also in the field. He won his first major in 2012 when he defeated Oosthuizen with a remarkable par on the second playoff hole, the par-four 10th, where he hit a miraculous shot from the pine straw right of the 10th fairway and two putted for par to win The Masters. Two years later, he held a share of the 54-hole lead with Jordan Spieth, shot a final-round 69 and claimed his second green jacket by three strokes. A 12-time PGA Tour winner, Watson will make his fourth Wyndham Championship appearance with his best finish coming in 2006 when he tied for 31st. He tied for fourth at the Zozo Championship at Sherwood, tied for sixth at the Rocket Mortgage Classic and tied for seventh at The CJ Cup at Shadow Creek.
Justin Rose and Francesco Molinari, two men looking for a return to form, are also playing.
Rose has 10 PGA Tour wins including the 2013 U.S. Open and 12 international victories to his credit. He played on the European Ryder Cup team five times and birdied the final hole at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games to win the gold medal by two strokes over Henrik Stenson. Rose was gutted not to be able to defend his Olympic title. He has endured a torrid couple of years but there are signs that the 2018 FedExCup champion is rediscovering his form once again.
The Englishman has always been a big-time player. He finished seventh at The Masters, tied for eighth at the PGA Championship and tied for 11th at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
Molinari, who won the Open Championship in 2018, is a five-time European Tour winner with three PGA Tour victories to his credit. The Italian golfer represented the European team in the Ryder Cup in 2010,’12 and ‘18. He will make his second Wyndham Championship start. Like Rose, the Italian has endured a pretty miserable time of it recently. It all started with a wrist injury but he is finally fit again. However, he needs to get a wiggle on. Molinari is 136th in FedExCup points and has tumbled to 151st in the world rankings.
It was won in 2015 by Davis Love III,in 2016 by Si Woo Kim, in 2017 by Henrik Stenson, in 2018 by Brandt Snedeker, in 2019 by JT Poston and last year by Jim Herman.
The Wyndham Championship, which was first played in 1938, is the sixth oldest tournament on the PGA Tour excluding the majors. It is played at the Donald Ross-designed Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, South Carolina - usually in sweltering heat. A par 70, it measures 7,137 yards. Brandt Snedeker holds the course record, a 59 shot in this tournament three years ago. The course boasts Ross’ signature small and undulating greens but has yielded five straight winning totals of 20-under or better.
I know that I am starting to sound like a stuck record but Louis Oosthuizen’s consistency this season has been truly remarkable. Four runner-up finishes and two third places is a remarkable record, and he must surely finally win soon. Tommy Fleetwood has had a poor season. Despite that, he has already surely done enough to secure his Ryder Cup berth and he showed some flashes of his very best form at the Olympic golf tournament. Gary Woodland has shown some decent recent form. He is a fabulous ball striker who has struggled on the greens this year but played well at the recent 3M Open.
Louis Oosthuizen. Must win soon. Surely
Gary Woodland. One of the best ball strikers in the game
Justin Rose. Is there a harder worker? Probably not
Five to Follow:
Louis Oosthuizen. Mr Consistency
Gary Woodland. Course should be made to measure for the former US Open champion
Justin Rose. Looking for the sort of form that will get Padraig Harrington’s attention
Tommy Fleetwood. He is just too good not to win on the PGA Tour
Will Zalatoris. Has struggled somewhat since The Masters but it won’t last
Outsiders to Watch:
Brandt Snedeker. Knows how to go very low here
Francesco Molinari. Form may be temporary but class is permanent - he will be back
Jim Herman. Will be fascinating to see how the defending champion plays
Rickie Fowler. Needs a big week to make the FedEx playoffs
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