By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Columnist
All five winners of the Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club (since 2008) share success in areas not usually associated with shootouts. That either proves that the host course offers a unique set of challenges or the sample size isn't large enough to support more popular theories.
First, we must acknowledge that Sedgefield has ranked as the easiest or second-easiest par 70 every year since it returned to the PGA TOUR. Of the 300 rounds posted by the 75 golfers that completed 72 holes last year, only 60 were over par. Of that lot, 21 were submitted before the cut, which fell at even-par 140.
The arcing theme of shootouts in Stats Suggest this season is that they tend to boil down to putting contests, not races to collect the most birdie opportunities. You need one before the other, but a healthy blend is optimal. However, at Sedgefield, the only two primary categories in which each of the champions has ranked inside the top 20 are fairways hit and par-3 scoring, and all placed inside the top 15 in both. Loyal readers of this space just did a double-take.
Conventional wisdom (which is supported by statistics) strongly suggests that tracks like Waialae Country Club and any course that hosts the U.S. Open populate the top of the short list for layouts that require hitting approaches from the shortest grass to succeed. Sedgefield can stretch to 7,127 yards and its greens are slightly above average in size, so one wouldn't think that it really matters where a tee ball comes to rest given how the scoring has flushed out.
Still, to help support that putting is, indeed, an important element for success this week, find solace in the fact that defending champion Sergio Garcia went 65-for-66 from 8 feet and in last year. Ryan Moore was perfect in 60 attempts from 6 feet and closer in 2009; Arjun Atwal ranked seventh inside 10 feet (65-for-70) in 2010; and Webb Simpson led his field in 2011 inside 10 feet, whiffing on only two of 68 tries.
Carl Pettersson is the exception among the group when he finished fourth-from-last (of 78) inside 10 feet en route to victory in 2008. He missed 14 of 76 rolls, but still holds the tournament record of 21-under 259.