Editor's note: Ernie Els has been writing a blog for PGATOUR.COM in 2013 and this is his latest installment. For more information on the World Golf Hall of Famer, visit www.ernieels.com.
I feel like I’ve been fighting a few things in my golf swing just recently, but a final round 65 at the Wyndham Championship – my lowest score in a couple of months – is hopefully going to help me get my head around those issues. Tied-20th wasn’t quite the result we were looking for (it elevates me only a couple of spots up to 82nd in the FedExCup rankings) but that final round at least gives me something positive to take into this week’s Barclays.
Up until that final round, it was tough going, although my second round was livened-up by one of the strangest pars of my career. I’d just missed the 10th green and had to hit my first putt at almost a 90-degree angle to the hole, but I misjudged it by a fraction and left the ball in the fringe – the first time I’ve hit a putt that didn’t actually touch the putting surface! Then I holed the next putt down the slope from about 20 feet to save par. So that was a no-putt green, even though I hit two putts. Maybe take a look at the video. It’s a bit of a one-off.
Seriously, though, I was grinding hard all day and then made a crucial putt on the 18th green, holing-out from 5 feet for a closing birdie to shoot 68 and make the cut right on the mark. We knew the situation at that time, so it was a nice little battle to win. You’re at the wrong end of the leaderboard, but holing those putts under pressure still makes you feel good.
Then after a level par third round we finished the week nicely with a 65 on Sunday. When you’ve had a couple of bad weeks, and to be honest not a great couple of months, it’s all about taking small steps in the right direction. The name of the game now is take that 65 and build on it in the coming weeks.
Okay, so it’s FedExCup Playoffs time now. For the first installment we’re at Liberty National this week for The Barclays. On our last visit here four years ago I closed with a final round 66 to finish tied-second. That week Liberty National was a new look for all of us and it’s fair to say it was challenging in a way that was very different to the type of layouts we play most weeks.
They’ve made significant changes to the course since then, though. A total of 15 of the 18 holes have undergone major alterations and 12 greens have been either completely rebuilt or reshaped. The receptiveness of the course has also been improved, in particular softening the contours of the greens and some of the landing areas in the fairways, so the set-up and overall playability of the golf course will be markedly different to last time. They’ve obviously worked extremely hard to make this a fairer test of golf and you have to respect them for that. I certainly look forward to teeing it up there again.
It would obviously be great to go one better than last time here, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. My focus is on making a good, solid start, then let’s see if we can get into a strong position through the weekend.
Follow me on Twitter @thebig_easy
By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
There was so much going on in the final round: There was the battle to win the Wyndham Championship, the rush to finish in the top 125 in the FedExCup standings to qualify for the FedExCup Playoffs and the race to finish inside the top 200, which qualifies players ranked No. 126 to 200 for the Web.com Tour Playoffs.
Andres Gonzales fell into that later category. He started the week 238th in the FedExCup standings. Gonzales knew starting the final round, he wasn’t going to win and wasn’t headed to The Barclays but there was still the chance to qualify for the Web.com Tour Playoffs. He responded to that challenge with birdies on two of the last four holes for a 64 and a T8 finish. That moved him up 40 places in the FedExCup standings to finish 198th.
It may not sound like much, but it’s huge for Gonzalez. If a player is in the Web.com Tour Playoffs, he can play his way into a full-time card on the PGA TOUR next season.
There were dozens of individual battles taking place at Sedgefield and not all of them had happy endings, but Gonzalez is one of those smiling tonight.
Formula: Patrick Reed won the tournament because he gave himself more looks at birdie than any other player in the field. He hit 83 percent of his greens in regulation; a tournament best. When you get that many looks at birdie you are going to make some and Reed made a lot. He converted those chances into 21 birdies for the week.
Putting: Jordan Spieth led the field with 22 birdies and did not have his best week on the greens. He was a pedestrian 39th in strokes gained-putting. Putting has been an issue with Spieth the entire year. He ranks 103rd this season in strokes gained-putting. It’s unusual for a young player to be a more accomplished ball striker than he is a putter. Then again, it’s unusual for a 20-year-old to be a PGA TOUR winner and eighth in FedExCup standings.
Thumb’s up: The Reed vs. Spieth playoff had so many great moments it’s hard to single out the most memorable. Spieth made a 26-footer on the 18th to keep the playoff alive. Reed then struck such a bad drive on the next hole that he hit a provisional. His ball wound up a yard away from out of bounds but given the good break, Reed responded with an approach to within 7 feet. It was at that moment, Spieth turned around and gave Reed a “thumb’s up” gesture to the fellow Texan. I say both players get “thumb’s up” for their play and sportsmanship this week.
Youth served: The combined ages of the top four players at the Wyndham Championship adds up to 92. Spieth is 20; Reed and John Huh are both 23 while Brian Harmon is the old man of the group at 26. Ask yourself what you were doing at the age of 25 and how your resume compared with that quartet.
Conditions: The greens at Sedgefield Country Club came up big winners this week. Players could not say enough good things about the new putting surfaces. Champions bermuda was planted last year and even with a tough growing season, the greens kept their firmness and speed throughout the tournament. The putting surfaces kept their speed despite weekend rain. Sedgefield went from a good course to a great course with the new greens.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here
Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed decided the Wyndham Championship in a playoff.
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Patrick Reed made a 7-footer for birdie on the second playoff hole to beat Jordan Spieth and win the Wyndham Championship.
The victory was the first of Reed's career and came in just his 38th start on the PGA TOUR. With the victory, the 23-year-old moved from 78th to 22nd in the FedExCup standings on the eve of next week's Playoffs.
The 20-year-old Spieth, who won his first PGA TOUR event last month in a playoff at the John Deere Classic, was looking to become the youngest two-time winner in TOUR history. He moved from 16th to eighth in the FedExCup with the runner-up finish.
Here's how it happened:
The 17th playoff in the history of the Wyndham Championship began on the 18th hole at Sedgefield Country Club.
The 18th is a 473-yard, par-4 that has played as the second-hardest this week. The playoff then moved to No. 10, a 440-yard, par-4 that has been the fourth-most difficult.
The 18th hole has yeilded 46 birdies this week, while the 10th has given up just 41.
Reed has made a birdie, one bogey and two pars on No. 18 while Spieth birdied it in the first two rounds and parred it on the weekend. Reed has four pars at No. 10 while Spieth made one bogey there and three pars.
No. 18: Spieth hits first and his ball lands on the pinestraw in the trees to the left of the fairway. Reed finds the first cut on the left side of the fairway.
Spieth pitches back into the fairway and has 126 yards to the flagstick. Reed then hits his approach on the green, 8 feet above the hole for birdie.
Spieth's third shot finds the putting surface but he'll have 26 feet for par. He drains it, though, which puts more pressure on Reed's birdie attempt. Reed misses on the right side but makes the 3-footer coming back for par so the two head to the 10th tee.
No. 10: Spieth drives to the right side of the fairway while Reed is the one who strays into the trees this time. There are OB stakes over there so he's going to play a provisional, which finds the left side of the fairway.
Reed's original drive has settled against a cable and is about 3 feet safely in bounds. Spieth hits first and puts his approach 10 feet above and right of the hole
Reed has a shot at the green, and he stakes his approach to 7 feet short of the flagstick. When it lands on the green, Reed pumps his first and Spieth, walking up the fairway, turns back and gives him a thumbs up.
Spieth's putt breaks just over the hole and misses. He taps in and the pressure is on Reed. He makes the putt and jabs at the air with his fist in celebration, then lifts his wife, Justine, who caddies for him, into the air.
Patrick Reed birdied the second playoff hole to capture his first career PGA TOUR victory at the Wyndham Championship on Sunday.
Want to congratulate Reed? Leave a note in the comments section below and we'll deliver it to him.
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
GREENSBORO, N.C. – David Toms knew he had to make a move in the season’s final round if he wanted to crack the top 125 on the money list. A 62 on Sunday at Sedgefield Country Club, including two eagles, helped him do just that.
Toms, who started the day at 1-over 211, moved up 44 spots on the leaderboard to T-16 after matching the day's low round. It was enough to ensure he’d finish in the top 125 on the money list and retain his full playing privileges for next season. He started the week at No. 129.
“That’s the only thing I had to shoot for today,” said Toms, who finished seventh at last week’s PGA Championship. “I was definitely more aggressive. We had a good day for scoring today. I just went out there and tried to have fun in my last round of the (season).”
It was not enough to earn a spot in the FedExCup Playoffs, though. He was projected to finish 138th in the FedExCup; the top 125 at week's end earned their way to The Barclays. The top 125 on either the money list or FedExCup standings retain full playing privileges for the following season
Toms, a 13-time PGA TOUR winner, is No. 7 on the TOUR’s career money list, so he could have relied on one of two career money list exemptions next season if he didn't finish in the top 125. Sunday's strong finish allowed the 46-year-old Toms to save those exemptions for later, though. Players in the top 50 on the TOUR’s career money list earn a one-time exemption to play a season with full status; players earn another such exemption for being in the top 25 of the career money list
Toms, who started on Sedgefield’s 10th hole Sunday, made the turn in 2-under 33, including an eagle on the par-5 15th after he hit a 3-hybrid to 10 feet. His bogey-free 29 on his second nine included an eagle at the par-4 sixth hole, where he holed a 71-yard shot with a wedge shot. He also birdied his final two holes.
“It feels good to play well when I needed to,” Toms said.
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Jordan Spieth, bidding to become the youngest two-time winner on TOUR, rolled in a 13-footer for birdie at the 17th hole to move into a three-way tie for the lead at the Wyndham Championship.
The 20-year-old bogeyed his first hole Sunday morning but made six birdies in the next 16 holes to get to 14 under. A pair of 23-year-olds -- Patrick Reed and John Huh -- are also at that number with two holes remaining.
Reed had held the lead alone for 10 holes -- until he made a bogey at the 16th hole. He three-putted from the fringe there, missing a 9-footer to save par.
Should there be a playoff it would start on No. 18 and go to No. 10 and back to No. 18, if necessary.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Matt Jones, who certainly knows what it feels like to flirt with FedExCup elimination, will leave the Wyndham Championship with his highest-ever ranking in the season-long competition.
Jones entered the final event of the PGA TOUR season safely ranked 51st in the FedExCup. And after Sunday's closing 62 that left him tied for sixth at 11 under, Jones will head into the FedExCup Playoffs ranked 40th.
Jones did most of his damage Sunday on the back nine where he shot a 29 that included five straight birdies. He started the streak with an 8-footer at No. 12, then dropped putts of 44 and 7 feet, two-putted the par-5 15th from 13 feet and ended the scoring with a 32-footer at No. 16.
"Every golfer out here can go and shoot that," Jones said as he reflected on the 62. "It's a matter if you hit the ball in the right spot and makes the putts. You're on the PGA TOUR so you should be able to do it. Just nice to be able to do it today."
And nice to be able to get some positive vibes at the Wyndham Championship, too.
The Aussie had ranked 119th in the FedExCup when he came to Greensboro in 2009 and ended up dropping to No. 126 when he finished 69th. Jones also was 121st in the standings heading into the 2011 Wyndham Championship, missed the cut and dropped to No. 127
"It's very nice," Jones said when asked how it felt to exact revenge at Sedgefield. "That's the reason I played here this week, knowing where I was in the FedExCup, trying to get as high up as I can towards the 30 so this should help. That's my goal, was to get to 30."