By Dave Shedloski
Closing time. One last call for the FedExCup Playoffs.
The $5.8 million Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, North Carolina, for decades has been a popular stop on the PGA TOUR. But it’s now also a more important stop, because it represents the final event of the FedExCup regular season. At Sunday’s conclusion, the top 125 players in the FedExCup points standings advance to the Playoffs and lock up exempt status for the 2017-18 PGA TOUR season.
Last year two players, Kyle Stanley and Shawn Stefani, moved from outside the playoffs into the top 125. That’s about the average. According to the PGA TOUR, in the 10 years since the FedExCup debuted, an average of fewer than three players advance out of Greensboro to the postseason.
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In the 10-year history of the FedExCup, no player has made the TOUR Championship starting the Wyndham Championship outside the Playoffs cut line. The furthest any player has gone starting the Wyndham Championship outside the cut line since 2009 was Ernie Els in 2011. In 2011, Els started the Wyndham Championship ranked 126th in the standings and went on to finish 67th.
Els is back this year, but his climb is much steeper, coming in at 213th. On the bubble are Daniel Summerhays (124th), Geoff Ogilvy (125th) and Cameron Tringale (126th). Farther back, former major champions Graeme McDowell (131st), Retief Goosen (161st) and Padraig Harrington (199th) are entered. These big names should take note: only three men have come to Greensboro at 140th or lower and made the playoffs. Henrik Stenson, No. 8 in the world, and PGA Championship contender Kevin Kisner are other players of note.
Sedgefield, designed by Donald Ross, is a tree-lined par-70 course measuring 7,127 yards, and it has been good to veterans and youngsters alike. Two years ago, Davis Love III triumphed at age 51. Last year it was 20-year-old Si Woo Kim.
CBS Sports golf analyst Frank Nobilo discusses the storylines for the final regular-season event on the PGA TOUR.
What might the pressure be like for players around 125 in the points standings?
I don’t know if pressure is the right way to describe it. Geoff Ogilvy won a U.S. Open. That was probably more pressure than being in the cutoff spot that he’s in right now. This probably sneaks up on you more. Geoff, he’s now in that spot that’s the cutoff point. When you’re non-exempt, you have to rely on sponsor exemptions. You can’t really make up a schedule. You don’t want to waste time in this sport, even though it’s a career that’s longer than in most other sports.
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Is the pressure more on young guys instead of major winners like Retief Goosen or Graeme McDowell?
It’s so different. A Graeme McDowell has money in the bank, but he doesn’t have time on his side. A young guy, if he’s got ability, you’d like to think he’s going to make it through. He’s not worried about tomorrow. It’s like looking at something through a different pair of glasses. Believe me, I’m one who knows that it’s a great job. And when it stops, you do miss it a lot more than you think you would when you were moaning and complaining about all the difficult things that go along with it.
What’s tougher, playing for your job or playing to win a major?
If you’re playing to win a major, your game is in good shape. If you play well, everything takes care of itself. You don’t have financial pressure. You’re playing for a trophy. You’re playing for immortality. To be able to play for $6 or $7 million every week or go to the Web.com and have to wait for at least a year to get back to the PGA TOUR, that’s a radically different feeling.
Davis Love III won here two years ago at age 51. Is this a course that requires a lot of local knowledge?
I wouldn’t say that, because of the winners that we’ve had. From Arjun Atwal, who won after Monday qualifying, to last year, Si Woo Kim winning the first time with a record score and shooting 60. Look at Davis, he was one of the longest hitters, but when he won two years ago, he was no longer considered a long hitter. But he was long enough for that golf course. The point is driving distance isn’t going to win you anything. There are enough changes in elevation to make you think. Greens are quick enough. You have to use a lot between the ears to play well.
We’ve had 10 years of the FedExCup competition. Justin Thomas mentioned his goal to win it just after taking the PGA Championship. Players really embrace it now, don’t they?
It was always going to take a while, take a generation for that acceptance. For the young guys, they’ve watched the FedExCup for five years or so before they turned pro. It’s now a major goal. You and I have lived through the debates of it, the highs and lows, the tweaking of the system for a few years. We’ve seen the mistakes to get it to where it is. They view it with a purer attitude, and it’s quite good when you sit down and talk to them about that. They look forward to what the playoffs are. If you’re looking at it from the standpoint of a job … and you’re a professional sportsman, it’s one of the best things that happened to the game. The PGA TOUR has done a great job.
Give us your favorites and dark horses, as well as one guy far down the list who could make a big move.
If there is a fairytale story, then Kevin Kisner would win. He’s a good player, and had it not been for the weather, he’d have had a sizable lead after 36 holes last week at the PGA Championship. And then who knows where that story goes. He’d be the best story. People would realize what a good player he is. Geoff Ogilvy is on the rise of late. It would be great to see him keep going. Smylie Kaufmann is too good to be on the wrong side of things. He’s a talented guy. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him on the leaderboard on Sunday with a chance to win.
Journalist and author David Shedloski of Columbus, Ohio, has been covering golf since 1986, first as a daily newspaper reporter and later as a freelance writer for various magazines and Internet outlets. A winner of 23 national writing awards, including 20 for golf coverage, Shedloski is currently a contributing writer for Golf World and GolfDigest.com and serves as editorial director for The Memorial, the official magazine of the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio. He is the author of three books and has contributed to three others, including the second edition of “Golf For Dummies,” with Gary McCord. He’s a fan of all Cleveland professional sports teams, the poor fellow.