Now is the time for a quick breather. We can reflect on the summer and the final opportunity for a major championship just passed. Players can take a few weeks to compete or practice, and perhaps both. What matters is that the volume will be turned down for many of the competitors in this week's Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, NC. The game will not be any easier, but with hundreds of trees guarding each side of the fairways, Sedgefield Country Club will not be exposed to high ocean breezes and Pete Dye shark bites.
The 1926 Donald Ross layout, redone in 2007 with a $3 million renovation, is another par-70 gem. The PGA TOUR course statistics show that Sedgefield is unique to the Tour in that driving the ball accurately is a huge factor, perhaps more so than other weeks. The track has the fourth tightest fairways on Tour at 28’1". A famous saying claims that “there is a reason trophies are handed out on the putting green.” However, a premium on driving the ball will be made this week because of its tree-lined nature. Sixteen-under par won last year (Webb Simpson), proving that the greens can be had. A unique group of winners have kick-started their careers in Greensboro, too: Arjun Atwal (2010), Brandt Snedeker (2007), Ryan Moore (2009), and Simpson.
With the Fed Ex Cup Playoffs around the corner and a Ryder Cup on the horizon, this might seem like a grass-roots movement. Coming down from the high of the PGA Championship, we should see plenty of young talent eager to build on their life’s journey. To see Rory McIlroy, a young man halfway to the grand slam before age 24, is Tiger-like and progressive for the game. The golf world should be inspired and evolving.
Players to Watch
- Carl Pettersson. Tied for fourth last year and had a brilliant week at the PGA. His total at Kiawah says he finished at 284, -4 for the tournament, but he actually struck the ball about 281 times. At least three penalty strokes in his final two rounds were caused by a grounded club and a few unfortunate drops. Those penalties cost him, but he has the experience and attitude to rebound gracefully. He is looking for wins and everything else is just icing. More importantly this week, he’s a hometown favorite. He went to high school here in Greensboro, played at North Carolina State, and is the winningest Swede in PGA TOUR history (tied with Jesper Parnevik with five wins). He won this event in 2008. Plays a very controlled, low draw off the tee.
- Jason Dufner. Two wins, a runner-up, and contender in many other events this season, the cult-like following for his demeanor and play is no accident. By making the Ryder Cup team in last week's PGA, confidence should be at an all-time high. He can relax more (if possible) and just play.
- Jimmy Walker. He’s played his best golf (arguably) on Ross layouts such as Greenbrier (top-5's there in 2010 and 2011). But after a T21 last week (where he made three bogeys coming down the stretch Sunday) and some steady play of late, he’s going to be tough to beat in this field of hungry players. He's been putting himself in position lately (final group at AT&T National in third round) and is quietly 55th in the Fed Ex Cup standings with over $1 million made this year in 22 events. He's also 29th in strokes gained-putting this year.
- Gary Woodland. The Butch Harmon student keeps proving that when his game is in form he can beat a course with his ballstriking. With a win last year at a similar layout (Transitions Championship) and after making the cut in the last two major championships (finishing T34 at the British Open and T42 at the PGA), the clock is ticking for him in 2012. His play suggests improvement, and I believe this course suits him well. At his best, a steady player with lots of power.
- Blake Adams. Played his best in 2012 when conditions were most demanding, but still looking for hardware to his name. Validation is not needed for his golf swing, however. The fade of the tee has served him very well; 26 events this season and 76th in the Fed Ex standings. Very steady. Certainly has the caliber to push his game to the next level, lots of positive new experiences this year. Should have a chip on his shoulder for not making the British Open. Consider this: in his first two majors this year, his worst finish was T21 in the US Open. He was under par in four of the last five events where he finished in the money, playing a challenging schedule of courses.
Others to Watch
Blasts from the past: John Daly and Justin Leonard are past major champions who have taken big steps forward lately. Leonard had his first top-10 of the season at the Reno-Tahoe Open and Daly was T5 in Reno and T18 in last week's PGA.
Young guns with suggested comfort: Daniel Summerhays will eat this course alive if his putting is on point. Always a threat where driving the ball is important, Donald Ross-style layouts seem to suit his eye. Graham Delaet was T12 at the Greenbrier, two other top-10's this season and has only missed one cut since March. The Canadian knows that a few good weeks could separate him from trying to keep his card to putting himself on the map. Talent suggests the latter.
Ball strikers with potential: Trevor Immelman is coming off a T27 in the PGA and his game is coming around. Charl Schwartzel has been inconsistent in 2012 but this course should suit him as well. Ranked 22nd in the world. His ballstriking has been the issue in 2012, but has a good swing that can be “fixed."
Looking to end a drought: Chad Campbell, Robert Allenby, Charley Hoffman.
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Photo: US Presswire