(CBS Baltimore/CBS Local) — The Wyndham Championship, at Sedgefield Country Club this week, wraps up the PGA Tour’s regular season. The players have one last chance to better their standing going into the FedExCup Playoffs, which open with the Northern Trust next week. It’s also their last chance to pick up points for the Wyndham Rewards, the PGA Tour’s regular-season points competition.
Brooks Koepka, who is taking the week off, locked down both of those top spots with his win at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. But much remains up in the air, as a field dotted with familiar names jockeys for position and a share of the $6.2 million purse. Some further down the standings are just looking to keep their exempt status.READ MORE: With Cockburn Out, No. 17 Illinois Falls 81-65 To Maryland
As CBS Sports reporter Amanda Balionis tells it, “so many people are fighting to either secure their card or have more solid footing for the playoffs. It really is a battle from start to finish. From the top of the leaderboard all the way to the bottom, there are just so many great stories for the whole week.”
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Who will be in Greensboro, North Carolina this week? No one from the world golf ranking’s top 10, as Webb Simpson, at 16th, is the highest-ranked player in the field. British Open champion Shane Lowry’s withdrawal leaves Paul Casey as the only other top-20 player in the field. Even with the notable absences, besting this field won’t be a cakewalk.
Simpson won the event in 2011. Other past champions vying for a return to glory include defending champion Brandt Snedeker, who blitzed the course with an opening-round 59, a course record. He first took home the title in 2007, his rookie season. Si Woo Kim (2016) and Patrick Reed (2013) also return.
Aside from past champions, PGA Tour notables like Jordan Spieth and Hideki Matsuyama will look to solidify their position ahead of the FedExCup Playoffs. Spieth, a former number one who is now ranked 37th, has struggled this season. He’ll qualify for the Northern Trust, but the second-round BMW Championship is far from a lock. Matsuyama, who sits six spots above him in the rankings and far ahead in points, can catapult into the Wyndham Rewards top 10 (earning a share of the $10 million bonus pool) with a win.
Young up-and-comers Viktor Hovland, Collin Morikawa and Matthew Wolff lead the PGA Tour’s next generation into Sedgefield. Morikawa and Wolff will qualify for the FedExCup Playoffs, thanks to recent performances. However, Hovland, possibly the best of the trio, needs to win this week to play next week.
Sedgefield Country Club varies enough to give many different kinds of players a chance to excel. In other words, the Donald Ross-designed course isn’t among the Tour’s more difficult. Winning scores of 21, 22 and 21-under the last three years show that birdies are there for the taking.READ MORE: Maryland Weather: A Cold End To The Workweek, With A Winter Weather Advisory In Place For The Lower Eastern Shore
Driving distance won’t win the tournament on this par-70 7127-yard track, but missing second shots and putts will certainly lose it. Elevation changes require some thought to navigate. The greens can be quick and challenging. Low scores aside, It’s another good test of shot-making.
“Accuracy is really key on the golf course,” according to Balionis. “It’s a second-shot golf course… the guy that has the best ball-striking week is going to probably be the guy, at the end of the day, that steps into the winner’s circle.”
And who might that be? Here are the favorites:
Webb Simpson (11-1)
Simpson turned in an impressive second-place showing at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. He tends to play well at Sedgefield as well, with four top-10 finishes in his last five appearances, including T2 last year, and a win in 2011. And as Balionis sees it, “He’s been playing really well, starting in Canada, so I think his game… [is] what it needs to be to get him his second win of this tournament and the first win of the season…”
Hideki Matsuyama (12-1)
Matsuyama, ranked 31st in the world, hasn’t won an event in 2019. But he has found the top 10 on occasion, including T7 at the 3M Open, sixth at the Memorial and T8 at the Players. He’s only missed one cut this year and carded a T3 at the Wyndham in 2016.
Collin Morikawa (12-1)MORE NEWS: Members Of Safe Streets Plan To Honor DaShawn McGrier On Saturday
Morikawa is coming off a win at the Barracuda Championship, where he birdied four of his last five holes. And that comes after two other top-five finishes in July, at the John Deere Classic and 3M Open, where he shot seven of eight rounds in the 60s. Morikawa has been a professional for less than two months but is poised to break out.