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Saturday, 19 January, 2019

Sensational Webb Simpson set to savage Sedgefield

Schniederjans could make up for last year's near miss

Webb Simpson won the Players Championship by four shots
1 of 1

Sky Sports Golf from 5pm Thursday

Henrik Stenson has snubbed the Nordea Masters in his homeland, opting to defend his Wyndham Championship title instead, and the Swede needs a big performance to keep him at the forefront of Thomas Bjorn's Ryder Cup plans.

Stenson, suffering with an elbow problem this summer, needs a wildcard pick from Bjorn as things stand. Sergio Garcia, Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Matthew Fitzpatrick – all members of the last European team – are also in North Carolina looking to impress the captain.

Shane Lowry finished 12th in the US PGA on Sunday and is eager to make a last-gasp claim for a Ryder Cup berth, while Hideki Matsuyama, world number two a year ago, tees up at Sedgefield Country Club desperate to arrest his slide down the rankings.

Palmer's top tip
Webb Simpson 12-1
With Stenson and Matsuyama struggling badly for fitness and form this season, and Sergio Garcia on a streak of five consecutive missed cuts on the US Tour, Webb Simpson fully deserves his place at the head of the Wyndham Championship market.

Simpson has been consistently producing the goods for 16 months, a wonderful spell of form which started with 11th place in South Carolina in the 2017 Heritage, and can continue in North Carolina this week in his favourite event.

The Wyndham is where Simpson made his US Tour breakthrough in 2011 – a comfortable three-shot triumph – and he became a Major champion at the US Open ten months later. Simpson loves the Wyndham so much, he even gave that name to his second daughter in 2014.

The affection is hardly surprising, given that his last eight Wyndham starts have yielded form figures of 8-1-22-11-5-6-72-3. Simpson was born in North Carolina, went to university there and still lives there. Having played countless rounds at Sedgefield Country Club and similar layouts, the home-state hero should take plenty of stopping this week.

The 33-year-old, a five-time US Tour champion, is a devoted family man who loves performing close to home. He lost a playoff for the 2013 Heritage in South Carolina, while he was second in the 2015 Wells Fargo Championship, the other North Carolina gathering on the US Tour.

Solid efforts in elite company in his last three outings – 12th at the Open, 24th at Firestone and 19th in the PGA – confirmed a return to the American Ryder Cup team on Sunday. His tail is up and the highlight of his season – a runaway victory in the Players Championship in May – also bodes well for his Wyndham hopes.

Five of the last seven Wyndham winners had won, or went on to win, the Players at Sawgrass. That peculiar course correlation is just the icing on the cake. More importantly, Simpson is peppering pins, putting superbly and looks by far the most likely winner of a weak event.

Next best
Ollie Schniederjans 40-1
The 21-under-par 72-hole total which Ollie Schniederjans achieved last year would have been enough to win or make a playoff in any of the previous nine Wyndhams at Sedgefield, and the maiden was hugely unlucky not to make his breakthrough. It was a magnificent effort, completed with a dazzling 64, and a performance sandwiched in between two missed cuts.

This time, Schniederjans has arrived with some confidence, fresh from fifth place at the Barracuda Championship and a respectable share of 59th place on his US PGA debut, and his game appears to be coming nicely to the boil. The former world number one amateur looks a threat to all and could make up for last year's near miss in the ultimate fashion.

Other selection
Russell Henley 35-1
Several South Carolina-based pros have made the short journey north to Sedgefield and Russell Henley is probably the most dangerous of them. A three-time US Tour champion who has a top-20 finish to his name in all four Majors, Henley has played some great golf this summer, including sixth place at the Travelers Championship in June.

That Travelers performance was on an easy par-70 like Sedgefield and Henley can be fancied to improve on the 46th place he achieved on his only previous Wyndham visit. He is hitting his ball straighter than ever and is one of the best putters in the world.

Others to note
Bill Haas
The former FedEx Cup champion was in a car crash in February in which his friend died, and he has missed eight of his last 13 cuts. If the Carolinian is going to bounce back to form, this is the most likely tournament. Tied for second in 2014.

Chesson Hadley
The North Carolina man, a four-time champion on the Tour, has been threatening a second US Tour title for most of this season, but his form has dipped this summer and his Sedgefield record is poor.

JT Poston
The 25-year-old North Carolinian was a college star in the state and is desperately trying to establish himself on the US Tour. He finished fifth in the Barbasol Championship last month.

Daniel Berger
The Presidents Cup star has performed well on similar tracks to Sedgefield and looks likely to be in the Sunday shape-up this time given some bright summer form in high-class company.

Peter Uihlein
Brooks Koepka's best buddy may feed off the positive vibes coming from the hottest player on the planet. Uihlein won on the Tour last year and was fifth in the Wells Fargo in his last visit to North Carolina.

William McGirt
The 39-year-old, born in North Carolina and based in South Carolina, has crept back into form in recent weeks, despite carrying a hip injury which will require surgery at the end of the season.

Staking plan
W Simpson
4pts each-way 12-1 Betfred, Coral
O Schniederjans
1pt each-way 40-1 Betfred, Coral
R Henley
1pt each-way 35-1 Betfair

The lowdown

Course Sedgefield Country Club, Greensboro, North Carolina

Prize money $6m ($1.044m to the winner)

Length 7,127 yards Par 70 Field 156

Course records – 72 holes 258 Henrik Stenson (2017), 18 holes 60 Si Woo Kim (2016)

Course winners taking part Carl Pettersson, Ryan Moore, Arjun Atwal, Webb Simpson, Sergio Garcia, Davis Love, Si Woo Kim, Henrik Stenson

When to bet By 12pm Thursday

Where to watch Live on Sky Sports from 5pm Thursday

Time difference North Carolina is five hours behind the UK and Ireland

Last week – John Deere Classic 1 R Moore (25-1), 2 B Martin (250-1), T3 W Kim (300-1), M Hoffmann (200-1), T5 R Barnes (100-1), K Kraft (400-1), J Wagner (125-1)

Course overview Donald Ross created this layout in 1926 and it was redesigned by Kris Spence in 2007. Sedgefield Country Club has hosted this tournament from 2008 onwards, returning to the US Tour schedule after a 32-year absence.

Modern professionals have found birdies easy to come by in the Wyndham, with winning scores of 21, 16, 20, 18, 18, 14, 17, 17, 21 and 22 under the last ten years.

The greens were switched to Champion Bermuda grass for the 2012 event in an effort to make them harder and faster. They are small, very undulating and typically slope from back to front, with plenty of run-off areas around them, so quality scrambling is required.

The 507-yard par-four 18th and 501-yard par-four 14th are the most difficult holes, while the 547-yard 15th and the 529-yard fifth (the only par-fives on the course) are the easiest.

Story of last year Henrik Stenson needed to find top gear to see off a spirited challenge from Ollie Schniederjans, the Swede edging the Texan by a shot.

Weather forecast Sunny, calm and hot for the most part, with a thunderstorm threat from Friday onwards.

Type of player suited to challenge There are five holes at Sedgefield which fall into the category of difficult – the par-fours at 11, 14 and 18, and the two long par-threes (seven and 12) – but the rest of the track is fairly straightforward. The champion is likely to have spent four days regularly rolling in birdie putts.

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Simpson loves the Wyndham so much, he even gave that name to his second daughter
E.W. Terms
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