(CBS Baltimore) — The roller coaster that is this PGA Tour season barrels into Sedgefield Country Club for the Wyndham Championship. With the revised schedule, the Wyndham follows Collin Morikawa’s masterful win at the PGA Championship, the year’s first major, and precedes the start of the FedExCup Playoffs at the Northern Trust. Separate from where it sits on the calendar, it also has the makings for another exciting week of golf.
The field at the Wyndham Championship, among the Tour’s oldest events, includes six of the top 20 players in the world. Among them will be Webb Simpson, who is ranked sixth in the world and has seven top-10 finishes in the event over the last decade (including a win in 2011). Brooks Koepka, right behind Simpson in the rankings, will also tee off. (Whether he shows up for the non-major remains to be seen.) Koepka will play alongside 17th-ranked Justin Rose and multi-major winner Jordan Spieth in perhaps the most interesting grouping.
>>STREAM: Wyndham Championship
Plenty of former champions beyond Simpson are also returning, including J.T. Poston (2019), Brandt Snedeker (2018), and Si Woo Kim (2016). Each of them won with scores better than 20-under par for the tournament. Snedeker shot a first-round 59 to set the course record the year he won, becoming (then) just the 10th player in Tour history score below 60.
Simpson is still the favorite going in, given his strong history at Sedgefield. He’s finished in the top three the past three years, with every round below par. His best single round was a Sunday 62 in 2018. And to remove any doubt about how much he likes this course, he named one of his kids Wyndham.
“He’s from North Carolina, went to school down the road at Wake Forest in Winston-Salem,” CBS Sports golf analyst and on-course reporter Mark Immelman points out. “The golf course, a Donald Ross, it rewards a guy who hits iron clubs well, because the greens have a lot of undulations, a lot of movement on them. And that’s kind of Webb’s game. He’s a positional player, he’s a strategic sort of a guy. He’s a great striker of an iron club. So if he puts himself in the fairway, he can make some hay around here.”
Simpson could have some company on the leaderboard. Koepka is looking to finish up the regular season strong in his sixth consecutive event and improve his standing in the FedExCup points race. He currently finds himself at 92nd, good enough to make the Northern Trust but not good enough to advance beyond that. He’ll need to shoot much better than the 74 he turned in last Sunday.
Koepka is certainly capable of a turnaround and has already showed signs. “That was part of the story in Memphis at the WGC event, and then last week in San Francisco, at the PGA (Championship),” says Immelman. “There were semblances of some good golf. He just went the wrong direction on the final day, which was easy to do, because it was chilly out with some challenging winds. From where we’re sitting right now, the game is good.”
Sedgefield, the only Donald Ross-designed course in the Tour’s regular rotation, plays at a par-70 measuring 7,130 yards. Distance will help a player, but only if it comes with accuracy. The course prioritizes placing the ball in the right spot, meaning keeping it on the fairway and finding the right angle to the green. The small, undulating greens allow for interesting pin placements. The greens tend to slope forward, with some falling off the edges.
The course is routinely one of the Tour’s easier venues. Low scores can be had at Sedgefield, as the last four champions have all proved. With the openness of the course and not much in the way of rough, look for that trend to continue.
“If you’re playing from the fairway, and you’re hitting the golf ball well, you’re going to get yourself at least five or six looks with wedges in hand,” Immelman explains. “Get those close and convert and all of the sudden you’re three, four, five under.”
“It’s a recipe for a bit of a birdie-fest,” says Immelman.
Here are the favorites this week at the Wyndham Championship:
Webb Simpson (10-1)
Simpson is the best player in this tournament and quite likely the best player on this course. His average score for the 28 rounds of his top-10 finishes is under 66. “There’s also the situation with these guys where you get to a golf course and it just lays out well for your eye,” says Immelman. “And this is one of those places for Webb.”
Simpson also has two top-10 finishes since the return, including a win at the RBC Heritage in June.
Brooks Koepka (11-1)
Koepka’s inconsistent season continued at the PGA Championship, where he stumbled to a tie for 29th place. He’s also managed two top-10 finishes in the last two months, including a tie for second at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational a couple weeks ago. “His game is sound,” says Immelman. He’s coming in here with decent form. I feel like he can turn it around.”
Koepka finished sixth at the Wyndham five years ago in the better of his two appearances at Sedgefield.
Patrick Reed (16-1)
Reed is ranked ninth in the world and sixth in the FedExCup points standings. He won at Wyndham in 2013 but hasn’t cracked the top 20 in any of his other four appearances. Reed has played every event except one since the hiatus, with only two top-10 finishes to show for it.