Spain’s Sergio Garcia waited on Friday and waited on Sunday but on Monday he finally put away the field to win by two shots at the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C. Garcia had to wait out weather delays on Friday and Sunday which led to the TOUR’s first Monday finish since 2011 (WMPO). Garcia didn’t let this round of the golf gods interference bother him as he fired a final round four-under-par 66 to post 18-under 262 for the win. South African, and N.C. State grad, Tim Clark was two shots back in solo second with Bud Cauley one more place back in solo third. Chad Cambpell, Jimmy Walker and Carl Pettersson all shared fourth place. Garcia wins for the first time on the PGA TOUR since 2008 (THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP) but he did have two wins in Spain last fall. Garcia’s victory is the eighth of his career on TOUR.
It was just two years ago when Sergio Garcia decided that golf was no longer fun and he decided to take a sabbatical. Instead of playing on the victorious Ryder Cup team in 2010, he was an assistant captain. Golf was no longer fun and Garcia was struggling. The strength of Garcia’s game has always been his ball-striking and his play around the greens but he had struggled for the last few years to hole putts. After returning from his hiatus in 2011 he flourished in Europe and on TOUR as his time away from the game helped to clear his mind and his new putting stroke helped to clear up his scorecards. His worst finish in a major last year was T35 at Augusta as he was T7 at Congressional, T9 at Royal St. George’s and T12 at the Atlanta Athletic Club. After the majors, his turnaround was completed as he won in back-to-back weeks in his home country of Spain at the Castello Masters and the Andalucia Masters.
Garcia was a hot commodity heading into the 2012 season based on those wins and his newfound love for the game. The major drawbacks to owning Garcia was he rarely plays a heavy schedule over here and he just hasn’t won much on this side of the pond in recent years. Week-to-week gamers can have a better feel of when to jump on and off but for season-long keeper leagues and events, Garcia still made some sense because his salary wasn’t that high after finishing 59th last year. Garcia had two top 10’s in 13 events in 2012, week one and week 37. His win this week came on the heels of T38, T29, MC, T29 and MC last week at the PGA Championship. Instead of being an assistant captain at this year’s Ryder Cup, his win this week vaults him into sixth place on Captain Olazabal’s list. He’s peeking at the right time as the FedExCup Playoffs head to a ball-strikers paradise this week at the Barclays at Bethpage Black.
Garcia was his usual steady self off the tee, as he was T12 in driving accuracy, and from the fairway (26th GIR). That’s the part of his game that he can always count on. The difference this week, as it usually is on TOUR, was Garcia only needed 107 putts for 72 holes and that was T2 for the week. Here’s how far Garcia has come with the flat stick. In 2011 he was 125th in total putting. This year he’s 20th. No wins last year. One win this year. His patience has paid off and at only 32 years of age, he’s hardly on the “downside” of his career.
And with this Monday finish, the top 125 players in the FedExCup point standings advance to the Playoffs which begin next week at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y. If you are not in today, you are no longer eligible for the FedExCup Championship and 10 million bucks. There will be no replacements due to WD’s or DNS in the playoff events.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
Twenty-four of 37 players who held the 54-hole lead have NOT gone on to win in 2012 yet Sergio Garcia is not one of them as he closed the field today. The one trend we have seen is the premium players were the ones to put the fields to bed after 54 holes in 2012.
Tiger Woods (3), Jason Dufner (2), Hunter Mahan (2) and Zach Johnson (2) end the regular season as the only multiple winners on TOUR this year. The American players have dominated on TOUR this year with their 28 victories in 37 events. The only foreign-born players to win in 2012 are Rory McIlroy (Honda and now the PGA), Justin Rose (WGC-CC), Luke Donald (Transitions), Carl Pettersson (RBC Heritage), Marc Leishman (the Travelers), South African Ernie Els (The Open) and now Spain’s Sergio Garcia.
This was the ninth-consecutive event on TOUR in 2012 to be delayed by weather conditions.
Garcia keeps up the recent run at Sedgefield of winners that had done nothing the week before this tournament. In 2008, Pettersson finished T47 the previous week at the PGA. In 2009 Ryan Moore MC at the Buick Open. In 2010 Arjun Atwal was a Monday-qualifier and last season saw Webb Simpson win after MC at the PGA, just like Sergio Garcia did this season. Weird trend that.
There have only been five first-time winners on TOUR in 2012: Kyle Stanley, John Huh, Rickie Fowler, Marc Leishman and Ted Potter, Jr.
With this victory, McIlroy collects $936,000, 500 FedExCup points and the Sam Snead Trophy.
“Young” Guns versus “Middle” Guns versus “Old” Guns
In 37 events on TOUR in 2012 the “Young” guns seized the season series thanks to victories in the final weeks by Rory McIlroy and now Sergio Garcia (32). Garcia just made the “Young” guns at 32 years and seven months. Plus, I don’t want to feel old yet so I kept him in the youth group until next season. The season series finished at 18-16-3.
For the “Young”, age during their victory in ( ), Johnson Wagner (31), Brandt Snedeker (31), Kyle Stanley (24), Bill Haas (29), John Huh (21), Hunter Mahan TWICE (29) Rory McIlroy TWICE (22), Justin Rose (31), Rickie Fowler (23), Dustin Johnson (27), Webb Simpson (26), Marc Leishman (29), Ted Potter, Jr. (28), Scott Stallings (27), Keegan Bradley (26) and now Sergio Garcia (32) are your winners.
The “Middle” guys are Mark Wilson (37), George McNeill (36), Luke Donald (34), Tiger Woods THRICE (36), Bubba Watson (33), Carl Pettersson (34), Ben Curtis (34), Matt Kuchar (33), Jason Dufner TWICE (35), Zach Johnson TWICE (36), Scott Piercy (33) and J.J. Henry (37) have been victorious.
Steve Stricker (44), Phil Mickelson (41) and Ernie Els (42) are the only “Old” guys to hit the board in 2012. At least 33% of their wins are majors! “Old” guy and Ryder Cup Captain DL III was the old folks best shot this week as he finished T10.
Tim Clark: Ten tournaments into the season, Clark, who was coming off an elbow injury, had about $200,000 or so in earnings after MC at the U.S. Open. What a summer it has been for the guy from South Africa. In his last seven tournaments, he banked over 1 million dollars and is now 54th in the FedExCup standings. He got hot and stayed hot thanks to his steady driving and constant hammering of GIR. His run up the ladder started with T4 at the Travelers and included T36 (John Deere), MC (The Open), T15 (RBC Canadian) and T11 last week at the PGA before his solo second today. The 2010 PLAYERS CHAMPION looks to be back to fitness and his steady play translates on courses both long and short. As hot as Clark has been I will strongly consider him and his accurate ball-striking this week at Bethpage Black. Clark only made four bogeys on the week.
Bud Cauley: The youngster has been doing an excellent Jekyll and Hyde impersonation in his first year on TOUR in 2012. Starting with the Zurich Classic in late April, Cauley MC in four of five starts with his only finish being T52 at the Memorial. After T34 at the AT&T National and solo 72 at John Deere, Bud Cauley should have been rightfully off your radar after three really tough months on TOUR. It took familiar conditions at the True South (T4 in 2011) to get Cauley’s season back on track as he finished solo fourth this season. He continued his hot play in Canada at the RBC Canadian with another top five (T4) and was tipped up by a few to be a sleeper at the PGA. Cauley’s 80-75 at the PGA easily MC but he was back to his best again this week. He sprayed his tee ball (T60 driving accuracy) most of the week but his stellar iron play (T11 GIR) and sweet putter (sixth in strokes gained-putting) saw him match his best finish on TOUR in his short career and his fifth top 10 on the year. Cauley is currently 35th in the FedExCup points race and with another big finish at Bethpage Black can put himself in an excellent position for the rest of the Playoffs.
Chad Campbell: He was in no danger (#110) as the week began to make the first round of the Playoffs but he was no guarantee to make the second round at the Deutsche Bank as only the top 100 make it. His T4 was his second-best finish (T3 FESJC) of the 2012 season and it bumped him to #91 on the points list. The Texan used 21 birdies and T1 GIR as his formula to punish Sedgefield Country Club to the tune of 64-65-66 on the final three days. His opening round 71 kept him from contending but the renowned ball-striker finally lived up to his billing on a ball-strikers course in 2012. Campbell has been quiet this season as he’s now made just 13 cuts in 22 events played with four top 25 finishes. His only appearance here was T47 last year. Well spotted if you were riding him this week.
Jimmy Walker: “Dyno-Mite” makes his first return to this column since late February when he last hit the top 10 at the NTO. Walker has also had an uneven season as he hit the top 10 three times in his first six starts but did not finish better than T18 in his next 16 starts, including one on his home course at VTO where he shot 78-81. His last four outings on TOUR have seen his game improve as he finished T30, T28 and T21 last week on Kiawah Island before his T4 today. He started out the week bogey-free as he fired 66-62 to take the 36-hole lead. Saturday found him scrambling for 71 but he rebounded nicely today for four birdies and one bogey (67). Usually a very solid putter, Walker’s iron play was the difference this week as he was T11 GIR. Walker’s currently 43rd on the points list and will play in the first three Playoff events.
Carl Pettersson: Another super-solid week from a guy who will be in the conversation each week of the next four based on his recent play. He’s played well on beasts (The Ocean Course, THE PLAYERS) and beauties (RBC Heritage, Sedgefield, Waialae) and his game translates on both styles of courses. That’s an excellent sign for the upcoming Playoffs as Bethpage Black will be tough; TPC Boston will be birdies; Crooked Stick will be new to everyone and is a Pete Dye course; East Lake is tough but fair. The fatigue of playing in the final group on Sunday was not evident this Thursday as he opened with 62. The fatigue of “coming home” and talking and meeting with old friends, neighbors and constituents (Pettersson sits on the board at Sedgefield) had no effect on the big man’s game either. That’s physically and mentally strong right there. His golf has been excellent the last two weeks.
Nicolas Colsaerts: The big-hitting Belgian found a way into the top 10 this week by bombing and gouging Sedgefield. He led the tournament in driving distance and was also T15 GIR. For a guy who kills it, his putting is pretty solid as well as he finished 23rd in strokes gained-putting. His top seven finish will put pressure on Ryder Cup Captain Olazabal to take a look at him instead of slumping Martin Kaymer. Colsaerts is not a member of the TOUR and is not eligible for the Playoffs but you might just see him again at the Ryder Cup.
Bill Haas: Another steady week from the 2011 FedExCup Champion as his game is ramping up at exactly the right time of year, AGAIN. He was high on my list entering the week and did not let me down, unlike David Toms! His last five starts have been T33, T19, T19, T32 and T7 this week. Haas does everything well and should be a contender as the Playoffs progress. He’s currently 21st in the standings and has won this season at Riviera. Shhhhhhhhh.
Jason Dufner: If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it 100 times this year: Automatic choice if he’s in the field. Six of his last nine finishes have been two wins, a second, a fourth, a seventh and a T7 this week. I thought he would win again this week but a double-bogey 5 on the par-3 seventh hole killed his chances. He’s long and accurate off the tee and as a GIR machine. Like Sergio, when he gets the putter going, he’s really hard to beat. Dufner is NOT playing next week because he wants to be fresh down the stretch. Um, you’re pretty fresh right NOW man! I won’t argue with him after the season he’s had and the Ryder Cup upcoming.
John Merrick: Merrick rings up only his second top 10 of 2012 with his T10 finish this week to pair with his solo second at FESJC. Merrick has now put back-to-back T14’s in his last two outings with T14 last time at Reno-Tahoe and T10 this week. He’s been nasty with his irons as he hit 94% GIR in round four and 81% for the week (T1). He’ll need everyone of those GIR next week at Bethpage Black if he wants to move up into the top 70 (currently 81st). Remember, the top 70 qualify for the third event, the BMW at Crooked Stick outside Indianapolis.
Troy Matteson: His 10th place finish saw him jump into 60th position as the Playoffs begin. Matteson has been on a every-other-event streak in his last seven outings. He began T29, T56, P2, T39, T10, MC and T10 this week. So by my math, don’t take him next week, but at Boston, jump back on! He’s had three top 10’s in 26 events. The good news is they have all came in his last five times around. He might be worth a look in deep drafts over the next few weeks.
Davis Love III: The 2012 Ryder Cup Captain also returns to The Takeaway for the first time since FESJC where he finished T3. That’s now two players who finished in the top 10 at FESJC and at Sedgefield. Coincidence? I don’t think so. DL III pounded in 21 birdies but sadly also had two doubles. He’ currently 105 in the standings so he’ll have to build on his T24 finish at the 2002 U.S. Open if he is going to hit the top 100 for the Deutsche Bank. He’s done a nice job balancing his play with all of the media requests and appearances but I’m not sure if I have to dig that deep in the next couple of weeks. He’s made nine cuts in 15 events this season.
Harris English: There’s no question this kid has bags of talent. We saw it earlier in the year at the Honda Classic and we saw more evidence of it this week. English had only made three bogeys heading into the final round but hurt his chances by making three more in his first eight holes. He held it together for even-par 70 to finish T10. In 17 Sunday rounds in 2012, English has broken 70 three times. In his last 15 events on TOUR before this week, English had two top 10’s and seven finishes of T54 or worse when he made the cut. Needless to say the finish this week was a bit out of left field as the rookie had been struggling. He’s currently 87th in the standings.
“Hey, what ever happened to…”
Ken Duke: He was the highest-ranked player to miss the cut (39th now 42nd)
Webb Simpson: The defending champion came out on fire but ran out of gas on the weekend to fire 71-71. He’ll defend in two weeks at the Deutsche Bank at TPC Boston.
Charl Schwartzel: His best finish in the States (T14) since early March. Nice recovery after his T59 at the PGA Championship. He’ll need another one or two like this to make the top 70 as he currently sits 90th.
Those whose bubbles burst and those who survived the drama
Five on the RIGHT side when the week started:
Jerry Kelly 120 122
Boo Weekley 121 123
Trevor Immelman 122 114
Jason Bohn 123 125
Jhonattan Vegas 124 126 OUT
Rod Pampling 125 116
Five on the WRONG side:
Brendan Steele 126 130
Retief Goosen 127 131
Heath Slocum 128 124 IN
Y.E. Yang 129 127
Gary Woodland 130 134
“And another thing…”
The analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat with TheGolfNewsNet.com's Ryan Ballengee on Wednesday at NOON, ET. They will be breaking down the field at the The Barclays and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.