Golf: New course, same slim field at Wyndham

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 14, 2008

Associated Press
GREENSBORO ó When Davis Love III last played at central North Carolina’s late-season PGA tournament, he was putting his inside knowledge to good use and winning at the course he helped revamp.
Love won’t have that luxury this time. Not after the Wyndham Championship moved across town to a vintage course created by noted designer Donald Ross.
“So many times in my career, we’ve left a classic, traditional golf course and gone to a new, modern-style course,” Love said Wednesday. “So it’s nice to be doing the opposite for once.”
Plenty has changed here in the two years since Love’s victory: The tournament received a new name, a new spot on the schedule and, this year, a new home at the par-70, 7,118-yard course at Sedgefield Country Club.
But for all of those tweaks, a familiar problem has reappeared. Several recognizable names withdrew in the days leading up to the tournament, the last one before the start of the FedEx Cup playoffs ó despite its status as the tour’s only annual event to be played on an original Ross course.
“Any time you get to play a Donald Ross course, it’s a treat,” Love said. “So, hopefully, word will spread to the players that this is a great golf course, a fun place to play, and it will help the tournament out. That’s No. 1, helping the tournament out.”
Not long ago, this event faced an uncertain future because officials weren’t sure if there was room on the PGA Tour’s reorganized calendar for it.
Those concerns were soothed when last year’s event was moved up two months to the week before the start of the playoffs, and organizers hoped the tournament’s position would attract players scrambling to make the top 144 and advance to the Barclays the following week.
That did happen, but for the second straight year, several notable names backed out in the days leading up to the tournament.
This year’s newsworthy withdrawals included U.S. Open runner-up Rocco Mediate, who skipped the Wyndham to spend time with his family. Angel Cabrera, last year’s U.S. Open champion, and J.B. Holmes, who took a one-shot lead into his final 36 holes at last week’s PGA Championship, did not give reasons for their withdrawals.
Only three of the top 30 players on the playoff points list are playing here this week.
“I’m in a position where I need to play well,” said David Toms, who entered at No. 120 on the points list and added that he assured tournament director Mark Brazil that “I would be here because I thought it was a good year to support the event when they were changing venues, and they needed that support.”
The biggest name in the field is Vijay Singh. The fifth-ranked player in the world would jump from No. 7 to No. 3 on the FedEx Cup list with the 4,500 points that accompany a victory on Ross’ famous turtleback greens at Sedgefield.
“It’s a fun golf course to play,” Singh said. “It’s not very long so you don’t really need to hit drivers every hole. … It’s a tight enough golf course where you can enjoy it as well. It requires attention, and there’s a lot of tricky holes out there. It’s got a lot of variety.”
The tournament ó formerly known as the Chrysler Classic of Greensboro and, before that, the Greater Greensboro Open ó moved 15 miles west to one of its original courses from Forest Oaks Country Club, its home for the three decades from 1977-2007. Love helped reconfigure that course in 2003 and three years later claimed his 19th career victory there.
Kidney stones prevented Love from defending his title last year, and eventual rookie of the year Brandt Snedeker shot a 63 during his final round to claim his first PGA Tour victory.
“It was very instrumental in my development as a player,” Snedeker said. “It helped me get over that hump of playing with the top tier players on tour and really feeling like I belong out here. It’s hard for a rookie to find unless you do it.”