'I knew exactly what I needed to do'
A hole-in-one and improbable putts helped players crack the top 125 in the FedExCup standings
August 20, 2017
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
Martin Flores' ace assists playoff hopes at Wyndham
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Improbable shots abounded on one of the most stressful days of the PGA TOUR season.
Sunday’s final round of the Wyndham Championship is the last day for players to qualify for the FedExCup Playoffs. The top 125 after the final putt drops – in this case, Henrik Stenson’s 3-footer for a one-shot victory – earn their berths into golf’s postseason, and many players need to be among that elite group to retain their full playing privileges for the following season. Both title hopes and jobs are on the line, a drama-inducing combination.
A hole-in-one, a 60-footer from the fringe and unlikely birdies at the last hole all helped players qualify for next week’s THE NORTHERN TRUST, the postseason opener. And all these shots happened Sunday on Sedgefield’s final three holes.
J.J. Henry narrowly grabbed the 125th spot in the FedExCup standings, and he did it by the slimmest of margins. He finished just 1.13 FedExCup points ahead of No. 126 Zac Blair. Henry birdied two of his final three holes to sneak into the top 125, including a 5-foot birdie putt on Sedgefield Country Club’s demanding finishing hole.
“I’m very proud of the way I finished today,” Henry said. “I’ve won three times and played on a Ryder Cup team, and it was probably some of the most pressure I’ve felt, playing today.”
Henry was one of four players to crack the top 125 at the Wyndham Championship. Martin Flores, Rory Sabbatini and Harold Varner III joined him. Both Henry and Sabbatini, who holed a 58-foot birdie putt from the fringe on No. 16, made the top 125 without a shot to spare. Sabbatini shot 64 on Sunday to finish T4.
Four players were bounced out of the FedExCup Playoffs to make room for the successful foursome. Blair, David Hearn, Seamus Power and Daniel Summerhays were the unfortunate foursome.
Flores shot Sunday’s low score, a 7-under 63. He made a hole-in-one on the 175-yard 16th and a birdie on No. 18, where he hit his 140-yard approach shot to 8 feet.
“I just kept telling myself, ‘You have to make it. I don’t care what you have to do. Just find a way to make it,’” he said of his final putt.
He pumped his fist after sinking his 8-foot birdie putt at the last hole, then got emotional during his post-round interview on CBS.
“I knew exactly what I needed to do,” he said. “I did everything I could today and I'm really proud of how I played.”
There were other players who saw their postseason hopes slip away on the final day. Shane Lowry, winner of the 2015 World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, shot 67 on Sunday but finished one shot outside the top 125.
Johnson Wagner started Sunday in fifth place thanks to an albatross and two eagles in his first three rounds. His final-round 74 dashed his hopes of leaping into the Playoffs from 141st in the FedExCup standings.
Wagner’s bogey at the reachable par-5 15th, where he hit his 215-yard second shot in the water, gave Henry his slim advantage over Blair because it dropped Wagner behind Henry, who’d already finished his round, on the leaderboard. Blair, who began the week ranked 120th in the FedExCup, had to follow the final round from his hotel room after missing Saturday’s cut; he lipped out birdie putts on Nos. 16 and 17 to finish two shots outside the 54-hole cut.
What Blair saw on television was one of the most dramatic finales to the Wyndham Championship in recent memory.
More than a half-dozen players were hoping to make Hail Mary runs into the postseason, including 53-year-old Davis Love III, who started the final round in sixth place. Sam Saunders’ first FedExCup Playoffs berth was within reach as well. He shot 1 over par on the weekend (72-69) after starting the tournament with rounds of 63 and 68, finishing two shots short of the cut line.
“It was the least enjoyable round of golf I’ve ever played in my life,” Saunders said. “You don’t know if you’re going to throw up or have a heart attack. It’s worse than trying to win a tournament, tenfold. … I’ve never had to birdie one hole to change my life for the entire year. And that just kills me.”
Geoff Ogilvy was the man who started Wyndham week at No. 125 in the FedExCup standings. Ogilvy, winner of the 2006 U.S. Open and three World Golf Championships, said the stress of defending his Playoffs spot inspired some of the best golf of his life. He had to birdie five of his final seven holes Friday just to make the cut. He shot 6-under 29 on Sunday’s front nine, including a hole-out from 93 yards for eagle on No. 8.
“If I wasn’t on (No. 125), I probably would have turned that front nine into a low-60s round. I felt like I was playing that well,” he said. “There’s a level of tension and stress in your body that’s on a different level when you’re in that position.
“This is a different sort of pressure and a more uncomfortable type of pressure than trying to win a tournament. My body felt (bad) all week. You just don’t feel right.”
Now his focus turns to winning the FedExCup. He has high hopes that moving inside the top 100 after THE NORTHERN TRUST could ignite a run to the TOUR Championship. He has two runners-up at TPC Boston, site of the second Playoffs event, the Dell Technologies Championship.
“You can be right on the razor's edge, one round away from going home, and then have a chance to go to Atlanta,” Ogilvy said. “That’s the cool thing about the FedExCup."
CRACKING THE FEDEXCUP'S TOP 125 FEDEXCUP RANKING WYNDHAM FINISH PREVIOUS RANKING 118. Martin Flores T7 139 122. Rory Sabbatini T4 148 123. Harold Varner III T10 138 125. J.J. Henry T16 134 FALLING OUT OF THE FEDEXCUP'S TOP 125 FEDEXCUP RANKING WYNDHAM FINISH PREVIOUS RANKING 126. Zac Blair MDF 120 128. David Hearn T64 121 130. Seamus Power MDF 123 131. Daniel Summerhays MC 124