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Wyndham Championship Tips: Get behind Henley at Sedgefield

Russell Henley features amongst this week's Wyndham Championship tips and predictions.
Russell Henley features amongst this week's Wyndham Championship tips and predictions.

What a remarkable final round of the WGC – St Jude. Harris English very much in control and looking good thru 10. Two doubles in four holes followed and combined with a bogey at 16, meant he didn’t even make it into the playoff. Abraham Ancer prevailed in said play-off, picking up his biggest victory to date in the process, which meant agony for 80/1 selection, Sam Burns, who missed a great birdie chance of his own to extend and stay in with a chance of taking home the title.

This week we head off to North Carolina for the Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club. An important event on the PGA Tour calendar, as it represents the last chance for the players to get into that top 125 in the FedExCup rankings and earn a spot in the season ending play-offs. Starting next week with THE NORTHERN TRUST at Liberty National in New Jersey.

Sedgefield is a traditional tree-lined course designed by the legendary Donald Ross. A par 70 measuring 7130 yards, it is short and tight off the tee, placing more of a premium on accuracy over power. Though it is quality approach play into these small, undulating Bermuda greens, typical of a Donald Ross design, that has been the main key to success around here. With seven of the last eight champions all ranking 4th or better in approach when they lifted the trophy.

Golf odds

Winning scores in each of the previous five installments have all exceeded -20, meaning you’ve got to be able to make birdies and there hasn’t been a winner here recently, who didn’t at least have a solid week with the putter. Even though the winning scores here are low, the course isn’t easy and it’s more a course that rewards quality play than just gifts birdies.

Currently, the forecast is predicting rain before and during the event, which will soften up the course and with the likeliness of only a mild breeze, a scorable course becomes even more so. Though as with all weeks these forecasts have to be taken with a pinch of salt, so many days in advance of the event starting.

The field is weak, with Louis Oosthuizen the highest ranked player in 7th and the only player from inside the world’s top 10 to tee it up. Patrick Reed and Hideki Matsuyama the next highest ranked, sitting 16th and 17th respectively. There are stories aplenty, with big names like Rickie Fowler, Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose all sitting outside the top 125 in the FedExCup and in need of a good week here to propel themselves into the first of those play-off events.

Wyndham Championship Tips

Golf tips
Russell Henley each-way (8 places)
Odds correct as of 2021-08-10 10:00 Odds subject to change.

Course specialist, Webb Simpson and Hideki Matsuyama head the betting at 14/1, both more than capable of winning here but in an event in which we’ve seen plenty of big priced winners over the years they’re easily left alone. Instead I’ll pass over the top eight or so in the betting and start with Russell Henley, who fits the bill perfectly here.

After going through a tricky period in 2018 & 2019, where that usually excellent putter deserted him, Henley has bounced back well in the last 18 months or so, rising just shy of 150 places in the world rankings since the start of 2020, to sit on the verge of the world’s top 50. With 8 top 10s in his last 36 starts, the only thing that has eluded him has been a victory. 

This return to form has predominantly been down to the fact he’s turned himself into one of the very best iron players on the PGA Tour. Ranking 3rd in approach last year, he’s maintained that this year, sitting in exactly the same position. He’s accurate off the tee, ranking 37th in driving accuracy and though he isn’t quite back to the standard of putting he was at pre 2018, he’s currently putting better than he has the last two years and sits 88th for the year, putting solidly in his last four starts.

He has a good record here, making three of four cuts, with a best of 9th last year. He’s been in good form of late, with finishes of 13-19-11 in his last four events, before missing the cut at the Open Championship last time out. His combination of accuracy off the tee and superb iron play already makes him an ideal type for Sedgefield Country Club and with better performances with the putter he looks to have a great chance to pick up his first title since 2017.

Rickie Fowler each-way (8 places)
Odds correct as of 2021-08-10 10:00 Odds subject to change.

Sitting at 130th in the FedExCup rankings, Rickie Fowler is faced with the very real possibility of missing out on the play-offs for the first time in his 11 years on the PGA Tour. Though there’s been plenty of positive signs of late that he is getting back into form.

After struggling for much of last year and the early part of this year, Fowler looks to have found something since the PGA Championship six starts ago, where he finished 8th. He followed that with an 11th at the Memorial Tournament next time out and though he hasn’t quite achieved such lofty finishes in his last four starts, he’s continued to play solidly. In which time he’s played well in most aspects but not put it all together at the same time.

At his best he’s a player who really has very little in the way of weaknesses with his game - excellent ball-striker, a superb putter and great around the greens. With better play in recent weeks, particularly with the putter and irons, and the extra motivation of making the play-offs, I expect Fowler to produce when it matters this week and think he’ll improve on his solo start here, when he finished 22nd in 2016.

Ryan Armour each-way (6 places)
Odds correct as of 2021-08-10 10:00 Odds subject to change.

With many triple priced winners over the years, as recent as last year when Jim Herman won at 500/1+, it’s an event that tempts you into rolling the dice on a couple of longshots, which is exactly what I’ve done this week. Starting with Ryan Armour.

In contrast to Fowler, Armour is in the precarious position of sitting just inside the 125 at 122nd. Luckily for him, he comes to a course this week where he has an excellent record, with finishes of 4-8-22-25 in his last four visits.

Incredibly accurate off the tee, ranking 3rd in driving accuracy and a strong putter, where he ranks 36th, Armour is exactly the type of player that often plays well here. Iron play is a little in and out but he generally plays better in that respect on shorter courses, which makes perfect sense when you consider he ranks 197th on the PGA Tour in driving distance.

He has one PGA Tour title, coming courtesy of an impressive five shot victory in the Sanderson Farms Championship in 2017. A course that has the hallmarks of a Donald Ross course; tree-lined fairways with small, tricky greens. Furthering his liking for this type of test.

He’s been in good form of late, landing 5th and 6th place finishes in two of his last three starts. If he finds the iron play that he can do on more suitable courses, he should do more than enough to keep himself on the right side of the top 125 and make his presence felt near the top of the leaderboard.

Kevin Tway each-way (8 places)
Odds correct as of 2021-08-10 10:20 Odds subject to change.

After picking up his first title at the Safeway Open in 2018, it’s been a tough couple of years for Tway. The last two years in particular, missing 16 of 21 cuts in 2020 and started this year in similar fashion, missing 7 of his first 9. He’s turned that form around recently though, with a string of good performances and may well produce his best of the lot this week, on a week where he really needs it, currently lying 179th in the FedExCup standings.

A sequence of 14-23-26-MC-30 shows a marked improvement in Tway’s recent results. It’s easy to see where the main bulk of the improvement comes from as he’s currently putting about as well as he ever has, ranking 73rd this year, after being well outside the top 100 the last two years but he’s also starting to produce more consistent performances off the tee. His irons do still leave a little to be desired and I’d expect he’ll need to improve on that this week but is capable of solid weeks in that regard, as he showed at the Barbasol Championship three starts ago.

A big hitter, who’s not particularly accurate off the tee isn’t really the go to type of player for the Wyndham Championship but curiously, some of his best career performances have come on short tree-lined courses. Most notably his solo win on the PGA Tour in 2018 in the Safeway Open, as well as top 5s at both the Travelers Championship and at Colonial. Even finishing 11th here at Sedgefield in 2018 amongst a raft of missed cuts in the event. 

He’ll need something even better than that to work his way into the top 125 but with recent encouraging form and quality performances on similar setups, he may well just produce it.

Give him a check for the top 20 market too when the odds are released as you know he’ll be really trying if he makes the cut, so may well hit the top 20 at a decent price if he doesn’t place or win.

Justin Rose each-way (8 places)
Odds correct as of 2021-08-10 10:20 Odds subject to change.

I’ll finish this week with two players looking at this from polar opposite views. One is a talented youngster who’s already secured his place in the play-offs for the first time. The other a major winner, who’s looking at the prospect of missing the play-offs for the first time since 2008, Justin Rose, who’s up first.

It seems unthinkable that a player the calibre of Justin Rose may not be amongst the top 125 players on the PGA Tour this year but sitting at 138th in the standings, that is exactly what Rose will be looking to avoid this week.

It must be said that he’s a little shy on golf this year, a few injury niggles and maybe just a sign of a guy getting older, Rose has played just four regular PGA Tour events outside the majors and WGCs, which certainly hasn’t helped his standings.

It’s a sign of the class of the player that despite not playing much and clearly being far away from his best, where he’s statistically played poorly across his game, besides with the putter, that he’s managed to put together the level of results he has. He’s only missed 2 cuts in 11 and has recorded three top 10s, two of them coming in majors, at The Masters and the PGA Championship. Showing a capability of getting the absolute most out of his game when he needs to.

He was poor last week when finishing 54th in the St Jude and there’s no doubt this is a bet based more on what he’s capable of, rather than how he’s currently playing. He’ll need to replicate his best ever finish here, when he was 5th in 2009 and is worth taking at a good price to up his game once again when he needs to.

Doug Ghim each-way (8 places)
Odds correct as of 2021-08-10 10:20 Odds subject to change.

As mentioned, the final selection this week is at the opposite end of the scale to Rose. A player who’s comfortably inside the top 125 and will head off to the play-offs for the first time in his young career, Doug Ghim.

It’s been a solid season for the talented Ghim. The former #1 amateur in the world has picked up 8 top 25s and found himself in a genuine place of contention in The Players Championship back in March, sat in 3rd, 3 off the lead going into the final round. Though the occasion clearly got the better of him as he plummeted out of the mix and shot a final round +6 to finish 29th. It was to be expected, for a young player to struggle to deal with the potential of winning such a prestigious title and can all be put down as a learning experience. 

His form has been a little in and out since, with a pretty even mix of solid performances and missed cuts, though he has continued to pick up some good finishes, with a 14th at Colonial in the Charles Schwab Challenge the best.

He has a game which is ideally suited to this test, 18th in approach play is high quality and he’s also very accurate off the tee, ranking 27th. The putter can often be his downfall, where he ranks 168th but it’s a testament to his long game that whilst putting poorly he still makes a bunch of birdies/eagles and ranks 47th on tour in that respect.

He’s played here twice before, finishing 20th on his first try and then missing the cut by one last year. He has form on shorter course birdie fests, with a 5th in the American Express earlier this year his best career performance to date. With that combination of precision iron play and accurate driving he’s the ideal type around here and will only need to putt solidly to get himself into the mix if the rest of his long game continues to be in such good nick. 

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