GREENSBORO, N.C. – The final round of the Wyndham Championship is B.Y.O.A. As in, Bring Your Own Abacus.
The PGA Tour’s annual number-crunch nears its conclusion, as players of varying abilities scramble in the summer heat to make it inside whatever particular cutoff point most applies to them.
For some, Sunday’s final round will determine where they play their golf for the next 10 months. For others, it’s a tantalizing opportunity to nudge toward a more patriotic incentive.
The bubble is always the place to watch at the Wyndham, and this year is no exception – largely because Si Woo Kim has taken command of the actual tournament over the past two days.
The Korean prospect notably earned his PGA Tour card at age 17 back in 2012, becoming the youngest ever to do so. Now a seasoned veteran at 21, he has made a habit of feasting on the Tour’s cozier confines. Kim contended at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba, then finished fourth at the Sony Open. He added top-25 finishes at both the RBC Heritage and Travelers Championship, sandwiched around a playoff loss to Aaron Baddeley at the Barbasol Championship.
Kim used the disappointing loss last month as an opportunity to reach out to countryman K.J. Choi, who offered notes of encouragement that Kim quickly put to use.
“He talked to me after Barbasol, [said] that’s all right, next time you have a chance, you have a lot of chances because, you know, you can do it,” Kim said. “I said yes.”
It turns out, Kim’s next chance arrived this week in the form of Sedgefield Country Club, an old-school Donald Ross layout that the Korean has turned into his personal playground. After a 10-under 60 that set the tournament scoring record, Kim shook off the pressure of Saturday’s final pairing to post a 64 that grew his lead over Rafael Cabrera-Bello to four shots.
“I never play like this this week, almost first time for me,” he said. “I missed a lot of iron shots before but I keep trying last week, keep trying short iron, mid-irons, lot of practice. This week very much better.”
While the drama may be lacking near the top of the leaderboard, there is still plenty to monitor further down the list. Kyle Stanley appears to have played his way into The Barclays with his scores this week (apologies, Whee Kim), while Shawn Stefani enters the final round squarely on the bubble.
Stefani made a move up the leaderboard thanks in large part to a hole-in-one during the third round, and after starting the week at No. 133 he is now projected to knock Matt Jones out of the 125th and final spot by a single point. It’s an improvement, sure, but Stefani knows there’s work yet to be done.
“Obviously we all know I’ve got to play good. That’s all it boils down to,” Stefani said. “Obviously there’s stress and pressure out there. I try not to focus on that. I’m trying to hit the shot, each shot the best I can every time and just be patient.”
Then, of course, there’s the cutoff that still looms a week away.
The eight automatic qualifiers for the U.S. Ryder Cup team won’t be determined until after The Barclays, but Sunday’s results at Sedgefield could go a long way toward shuffling the order. J.B. Holmes entered the week at No. 7 but missed the cut, and now could be passed in the standings by both Patrick Reed and Brandt Snedeker.
Reed birdied his final three holes Friday to make the cut on the number and followed with a 64, while Snedeker is T-6 after a third-round 65 on a course where he annually contends.
“I’m going to need a perfect round tomorrow,” said Snedeker, who trails by six shots. “My putting is there, the rest of the game is there. If I can think well for 18 holes, I’ll have a chance.”
The last variable to track during the final round is Jim Furyk, who won’t qualify automatically for Hazeltine but who continues to make a strong case for his inclusion as one of Davis Love III’s four selections. In his first start since breaking the Tour’s all-time scoring mark, Furyk is T-3 and looking to build on his momentum to ensure his truncated season extends beyond Bethpage.
“I’m in next week but need to play well to get to Boston. You know, that’s in the back of my mind, but that’s not a goal, I guess, by any stretch,” Furyk said. “My goal would be to go out and play a good round of golf tomorrow, shoot a good number, hopefully have a chance to win the golf tournament down the stretch.”
From the top of the leaderboard all the way down, there are races to watch and bubbles to monitor. Inevitably, some dreams will be dashed while other last-ditch pleas will ring true, as the Tour’s various standings endure one final re-calculation before the books close on another marathon regular season.