The four majors have now been played so the focus on the two main tours is qualifying for the post-season and the huge prize funds and bonuses available for the leading players. The Wyndham Championship on the US PGA Tour is a conventional strokeplay tournament but the Paul Lawrie Match Play is head to head knockout, one of three events on the European Tour that is decided on holes won and not shots.
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The Wyndham Championship is the last qualifying event for the FedEx Cup Playoffs. The top 125 players in the standings progress to the four lucrative events that make up the series which culminates in the Tour Championship at the end of next month. Just about all the players around 125th place are playing this week, including those that could lose their place and most of the players just outside the bubble.
With the usual prize fund for this week’s tournament you would expect players below number 125 to get in at the last minute. However, over the last four seasons only seven players in total moved into the top 125. It’s generally as you were ahead of the last counting event in the final reckoning. There could be some drama which could go to the wire with late entries into the qualifying places and agonisingly some players missing out. Most of the best players are resting after the PGA Championship.
Rory McIlroy could be absent until next year. He has battled with injury niggles all season and never delivered in the majors. In tennis Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer took extended breaks and came back to win Grand Slam tournaments this year. McIlroy’s main objective is to win the Masters Tournament to complete the career Grand Slam so he may forgo the rest of 2017 to get in best shape for that challenge.
McIlroy won two playoff events lat season and the FedEx Cup and $10 million bonus. Money is not an issue and he would probably swap 100 Wyndham Championships for one Masters which would make him just the sixth player to win each of the four majors at least once. Jordan Spieth was never in contention to win last week’s PGA Championship, the one major missing from his CV. Whatever transpires over the rest of the season winning the Open makes it a good year for Spieth.
Henrik Stenson is favourite in the States this week on a course suited to his game. The tournament was formerly called the Greater Greensboro Open and the host course is Sedgefield Country Club in the North Carolina town of Greensboro. The course requires long driving, sound approach play and good putting for good scoring. Stenson fits this profile and doesn’t have the worry of FedEx Cup qualification so should be a relaxed golfer and a leading contender. He is 75th in the standings and assured of a place in the Playoffs.
Kevin Kisner is the second favourite and the highest FedEx ranked player competing this week. He was in contention the PGA Championship until faltering over the last few holes so mental letdown could be a problem. Trying to win a major is a draining experience so Kisner could be vulnerable this week. Bill Haas has a decent profile in the context of the course and could contend while Ryan Moore is suited to the course. Moore is a former winner and averages 67.20 in 20 rounds at Sedgefield.
The Paul Lawrie Match Play brings together 64 players in a knockout competition. One round is played over the first two days and there are two rounds on Saturday and Saturday. Anthony Wall won the event last season but there is nothing in his recent form to suggest he can defend. The host course in Germany measures 7,188 yards which is short by modern standards. There is a premium on accuracy over distance on this tree lined layout and water comes into play on several holes.
Nicolas Colsaerts has played for Europe in the Ryder Cup so has experienced matchplay golf at its most intense. His form has dipped in recent years and he is now at number 115 in the world rankings. The field for Paul Lawrie’s event is ordinary and Colsaerts at his best would be a good thing at this level. The rareness of match play golf could inspire the Belgian to recapture his best from which would be good enough to come out as the winner of this head-to-head tournament while Moore is a leading contender in the States.
Back next Thursday.