PC: Andrew Salmon
The Wyndham Championship returned to Greensboro’s Sedgefield Country Club this past week for the PGA Tour’s last regular season event, and it was a barnburner coming down the stretch.
With a $6 million purse at stake and over $1 million going to this year’s winner, the Wyndham Championship featured a tournament within a tournament. The Wyndham served as the final chance for many players to climb into the Top 125 in the FedEx Cup standings, ensuring them another year of eligibility on the tour.
Not making it inside the Top 125 results in another trip through the qualifying school, which is a grueling task which no player is interested in doing again.
It didn’t take long for history to be made once the tournament began, and that’s not counting what had to be a record-setting number of men wearing white pants. Brandt Snedeker, a fan favorite in Greensboro, shot 59 in the opening round on Thursday to jump out to a four-stroke lead. His historic round marked just the tenth time in the history of the tour that a player carded a sub-60 round. Snedeker’s 59 was 11 strokes under the par-70 Sedgefield layout, playing at just over 7,100 yards. Even more incredible, Snedeker bogeyed the first hole.
Sedgefield was in beautiful condition. The rain Greensboro has received over the past two weeks has really benefited the course and provided players with slightly softer greens, leading to more birdie chances. While the course appears wide open on many holes, some fairways had landing areas no wider than a two-lane road. The greens were immaculate and worthy of the praise that players have heaped on them since they first arrived.
While the recent rainy weather provided a pristine green golf course, everyone could have done without the rain returning. After conditions held up through a Friday where Snedeker held off the field with a solid 3 under-par 67, the leaders had only finished seven holes when play was suspended due to thunderstorms Saturday. This made for a very long Sunday, especially for the leaders, who would have to complete 29 total holes. A total of 30 players were forced to play extra holes on Sunday.
“I’ll kind of do what I have to do to finish the third round, reassess what’s going on, where I am in relation to everybody else and what may be happening, and then kind of go to my fourth round with a new strategy,” Snedeker said.
Snedeker has quite the track record here in Greensboro. He won the tournament in 2007, which was the last year it was played at Forest Oaks Country Club before moving to Sedgefield. This weekend, he found himself chasing Henrik Stenson’s 22 under-par total set last year.
However, on Sunday, Snedeker got some company. By the time Snedeker teed off at 1:15 pm Sunday afternoon, he found himself only ahead by one after all players had completed their third rounds earlier that morning. Brian Gay and David Hearn both stood at 15-under par, only one shot back.
Sunday saw a host of contenders jump into the mix. Webb Simpson and Jim Furyk turned in final rounds of 62 and 63 respectively to put some pressure on Snedeker. But the biggest charge of the day came from 26 year-old C.T. Pan, who couldn’t even find a caddy in the days leading up to the tournament, which forced his wife to tote the bag all week.
After beginning the day two strokes back of the leader, Pan shot 31 on the front nine. He stayed hot on the back, and by the time Pan reached the 16th hole, he held the lead by one shot over Snedeker. Pan kept his foot on the pedal right up until the moment it counted most. A very untimely double-bogey on the 18th ended what would have been a career making day for Pan, and ultimately allowed Snedeker to win the Wyndham.
When Snedeker poured in another birdie on the 18th he was overcome with emotion.
“To be in the lead all week, to deal with that pressure every night, to be able step up to the plate and shoot 65 today when I had to…it means the world to me,” said Snedeker.
Now, Mr. 59 will try to ride his hot streak into the FedEx Cup Playoffs, and he’ll have plenty of fans in Greensboro cheering him on.
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