The Tour moves on to Sedgefield CC this week, host of the Wyndham Championship and the last tournament before the Fed Ex Cup playoffs begin. Congrats are in order for Ryan Moore, who finally put four fantastic rounds of golf together and managed to take down the John Deere despite a host of players nipping at his heels. Readers of this column should know by now that I am a huge fan of Moore. He plays a throwback style of golf (similar to his clothing style), where hitting fairways and greens in aggregate yields enough birdies to keep you in contention. His short game was on point at the JDC, and he really showcased every facet of his game and showed no weaknesses. Moore can be a force if he just keeps his head in the game, something that he has had mixed results across his career. He is a former winner at Sedgefield CC, and should be among the top names to contend there this coming week.
With the Olympics this past week, and the Fed Ex Cup following the Wyndham Championship, the field is somewhat weak comparatively speaking to other main stops on Tour. With that said, there are plenty of big names in the field, especially those with large fan bases.
First among those players is Rickie Fowler. Watching him play in Rio this past week was one of the most bizarre golf experiences I've had watching the sport. I am referring to his Saturday round where Fowler basically chopped the course up from tee to green, but could not get a putt to drop, something that amazed me considering the fact that he is a very aggressive putter and the greens were rolling a perfect 11 on the stimpmeter. He should have shot 61 or 62 on Saturday, but he didn't, and the opportunity at a medal was lost along with it. He comes into this week boasting the most name power, but he won't be among my favorites this week.
If I'm gonna mention Rickie, then I have to mention his antithesis on the golf course (and in life) Patrick Reed. My colleague Ryan Chase and I joked that while Rickie was out in Rio partying it up in the Olympic Village (and probably finding a smoking hot Olympian to pass the time with), Reed was in his hotel room, putting on the carpet, watching re-runs with his swing coach. Reed is all about golf, but he has learned to temper his competitiveness just enough in press interviews, so he sort of comes off as a mix between a confident Tiger Woods and a talkative Phil Mickelson. Reed possesses the skills to dominate in a field of this caliber, and it really is his best chance to vault himself onto the Ryder Cup Team. The Ryder Cup was built for guys like Reed, so American golf fans should be rooting hard for him in the coming weeks.
In the next tier you have a guy on the brink of super stardom in Hideki Matsuyama. Matsuyama has played well on the biggest stages, won some big tournaments, but he has yet to have the type of win where your talent exceeds your fellow players, and you take advantage of that talent. On pure talent alone, Matsuyama should be right up on the top of the leaderboard with guys like Fowler and Reed, in fact he's the only one of the three with a win. With an all-world ball-striking skill set, Matsuyama sets up great at Sedgefield, and should lead the tournament in GIR.
Then you have a mixture of veterans and young guns in Jim Furyk, Ryan Moore, Jon Rahm and perennial contenders at Sedgefield in Webb Simpson and Bill Haas. Throw in Brandt Snedeker, newly minted major winner, Jimmy Walker, web.com automatic graduate Wes Bryan and two solid Europeans, Tyrell Hatton and Rafa Cabrera-Bello. Though the tournament might be lacking superstar quality at the top, the middle tiers are full of enough talent to make the Wyndham and enjoyable tournament to watch. For DFS purposes, it will be even more fun due to the mass amount of birdies and eagles that will be soaring all over Sedgefield.
For many of the players in the field this week, the Wyndham Championship plays like a mini major and Q-School all wrapped into one. This is the last chance for guys outside the top 125—in both points and earnings—to rightly claim their spot in the Fed Ex Cup playoffs, and more importantly, a full schedule and exemption status on tour for 2016. If you know anything about the old days of PGA Tour Q-School, you have a pretty good idea of just how important this one, four round tournament can be for so many players who dream of making a living on the PGA Tour.
On top of all that, you have guys in the top tier competing for coveted spots on the Ryder Cup team. The Ryder Cup is the pinnacle of golf for players on the Euro and PGA Tour, and just having the opportunity to make the team will bring out the best in many of the players on the cusp of being a part of golf history.
With this in mind, I wanted to touch on why I feel this week is the last truly exploitable tournament of the season. If you were to peruse through PGATour.com's fantasy section, you will find a host of comments each week dedicated to the players who “suck" and “have no business being on the PGA Tour", which of course are the players who many of the commenters chose on their fantasy or DFS teams. The reason I bring this up is that, outside of golf being a sport with massive swings and enough variance to make Phil Ivey have a panic attack, it is very difficult to gauge the motivations of players on a week to week to basis. The general consensus seems to be that all golfers show up to the course on Thursday (actually Monday or Tuesday) with their war-paint on and ready to do battle, but in reality that is just not the case. That's not to say that players are throwing tournaments or missing cuts on purpose, but when you start to look at the schedule that many of these grinders keep, it becomes abundantly clear how easy it is for them to let their guard down a bit, hit some loose shoots, shoot a 75 and miss the cut on the number. As the saying goes, “There are no pictures on the scorecard", meaning players can arrive at similar scores in vastly different ways. Now take into account that one shot is the difference between making the cut, and making travel arrangements, and you begin to understand why motivation or lack thereof, is so important. My longwinded point is this; there are players in the field this week whose JOB is on the line. In golf terms, even MORE importantly, there are Ryder Cup spots on the line, specifically for Patrick Reed and Rickie Fowler. If you are going to pick a sleeper who offers salary relief, would you rather have the guy who's trying to get from 85th to 40th in the Fed Ex Cup standings, or the guy who needs to make a top ten to secure the future of his family? I am going to go with the latter.