Gerry Broome/Associated Press
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Time is running out for some players at the Wyndham Championship.
For U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III, there are precious few weeks left to complete his roster. For others, the need is much more pressing: Play well or forget about making the FedEx Cup playoff field.
“It is on your mind the whole time,” said Jhonattan Vegas, who is No. 124 on the points list. The top 125 qualify for The Barclays, the first playoff event.
Bubble players are part of the drama at the Wyndham Championship, which for the sixth consecutive year marks the PGA Tour’s final event before the postseason.
There’s no shortage of players who came to Sedgefield Country Club looking for a boost. Among those who occupy Nos. 120-130 on the points list, No. 127 Retief Goosen is the only one not playing this week.
“The playoffs really start this week for me,” said No. 126 Brendan Steele.
Love has a little more breathing room before he must settle on his Ryder Cup team – he will announce his four captain’s picks Sept. 4. The only players at the Wyndham who are under serious consideration are Brandt Snedeker and Bill Haas.
Before his team-picking duties become even more serious, Love indulged in some fun Wednesday by playing the pro-am with Los Angeles Clippers guard – and local favorite – Chris Paul.
The Winston-Salem native and ex-Wake Forest star helped lead the U.S. Olympic basketball team to the gold medal in London. Love – who played collegiately at North Carolina – hopes some of Paul’s international success rubbed off.
“We talked about shooting free throws some and playing under pressure. Things like that always help,” Love said. Then he quipped: “I’ve got to learn how to coach.”
There’s always a strong Atlantic Coast Conference presence at Sedgefield – where the conference was created in 1953 and where school ties run deep.
Seven different former ACC players have won this tournament, including two in the previous four years.
Former Wake Forest player Webb Simpson’s big calendar year started here last August when he claimed his first win on the tour, then went on to finish second in the FedEx Cup standings. He won the U.S. Open two months ago and for the first time in his career enters a tournament trying to defend a title.
“The pressure of trying to defend, I think it’s always going to be there,” Simpson said. “I can’t hide from it, but at the same time, I know that the three tournaments I’ve won on tour, I didn’t show up saying, ‘OK, I’m going to win this week or I need to win or I feel pressure to win.’ Wins out here seem to come every so often.”
Haas, who also played for the Demon Deacons, won the playoffs last year but only has made the cut in Greensboro twice in seven tries.
North Carolina State’s Carl Pettersson won here in 2008 with a record score of 21-under 259. He’s back on his home course after winning the RBC Heritage in April and finishing tied for third last week at the PGA Championship.
“I feel like my game overall has improved on every level, and it’s been a fun year,” Pettersson said. “It’s been a great year. I don’t really want it to end.”
The last six men to win this tournament are in the field, including Pettersson, Simpson and Love. They will comprise a threesome today and Friday.
But since Love’s win in 2006, a lot has changed – the name, the course, the spot on the calendar and even the greens.
The Donald Ross-designed Sedgefield course had its greens converted from bent grass to Bermuda grass this year in an attempt to keep them firm and true to Ross’ intent.
“If they don’t get any rain, it’s going to be tough,” Love said. “They were faster (Wednesday) than they were (Tuesday). They’re going to get firmer as the week goes on. So it’s going to play a lot different than it did.
“The rough’s going to be higher, so I think scores are definitely going to be higher.”