No golfer ranked in the top 15 in the world entered the Wyndham Championship, and only two of the top 15 in the FedEx Cup standings took part. But for many golfers, it's annually the most important tournament of the year (though, obviously, not so important for Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo, who were no-shows).
No matter your standing, the Wyndham most surely is the cruelest tournament of the year.
Fates and futures changed by the shot as the 75th edition of the storied Greensboro, N.C., Tour stop wound down, with the projected point standings fluctuating like Wyndham Worldwide Corp.'s stock price on a volatile trading day.
There were winners and losers aplenty and also ... well, what's worse than losers? Sort of "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" of the PGA Tour.
One of the winners was the winner: Camilio Villegas secured his first title in four years, earning a two-year exemption and surging up the point standings to ensure he'll take part in at least three of the four playoff events. Villegas began the week 105th in the standings, so he already was in next week's Barclays.
The top 125 in both the points race and on the money list at the end of the Wyndham corralled their cards for 2014-15 (which, but the way, starts about 20 minutes after 2013-14 ends).
The names on the two lists are almost identical, though some of their positions are surprisingly different.
A sampling of the winners: Sang-moon Bae, Paul Casey and Robert Allenby. Some losers: Freddie Jacobson, Nick Watney, Nicholas Thompson, Charlie Beljan and Padraig Harrington. Worse-than-losers? They would be Heath Slocum, Brad Fritsch, Roberto Castro, Kevin Foley and David Duval.
It's always hard to watch the Wyndham on Sunday, and we heard it in Ian Baker-Finch's voice. Baker-Finch, filling in for Faldo and sitting alongside Bill Macatee, just like us, hung on every shot. "Oh, noooo," Baker-Finch said softly, more than once, as if he had had just learned that a friend lost his job - which, in a manner speaking, was exactly what was happening.
Bae was already exempt for next season, having won the 2013 Byron Nelson. But he began the week at No. 126 in the point standings, out of the playoffs. A birdie on No. 18, the hardest hole on the course on Sunday, a 507-yard par-4, moved him into a tie for 14th and, more importantly, No. 120 in points.
The so-called Bubble Boy began the week at No. 125 in the standings. He shot four rounds in the 60s to tie for 18th, moving up to No. 118.
The Aussie began the week at No. 122 in points, shot and opening 66, then collapsed to a 74, missing the cut and having to sweat out the weekend. For much of Sunday, the veteran had fallen outside of playoff qualification. It wasn't until Slocum three-jacked the 18th hole late in the day that Allenby was back in, right at No. 125. Allenby had already used his one-time exemption as a top-50 career earner, so he was in danger of losing his card. Allenby was among four golfers who are in the playoffs but finished outside the top 125 on the money list, the others being Ricky Barnes (126), Morgan Hoffman (128) and Bryce Garnett (132). Allenby was 145th.
Long considered one of the top putters on tour, the Swede took a share of the lead to No. 18, only to three-putt from just off the green. By then, Jacobson had already ensured a deep playoff run - at the least three events - but his second career win would've given him a great shot to qualify for the Tour Championship. Of course, he still may. He moved from 64th to 38th.
Watney made a huge playoff run last year to reach Eastlake, and he was within range of beginning another strong surge this season. He was the overnight leader and still had a share through 13 holes, but he bogeyed 14 and then doubled 18 by hitting his tee ball OB to fade to a tie for fifth. Beginning the day at 110th in the points, a win would've moved him to 37th. Instead, Watney made just an incremental move to 94th. He still has a lot of work to do to reach the third playoff event, the BMW Championship, and isn't even a lock for the second, the Deutsche Bank.
Thompson shot 69 on Sunday, but that was good enough to move him only into a tie for 70th - and cruelly, dropped him to 126th in the standings, finishing a single point behind Allenby. As consolation, Thompson is one of four golfers to miss the playoffs but still finish inside the top 125 on the money list (123rd), thereby keeping his card. You could make an argument that Thompson is a "push" rather than loser, but he won't feel very good watching the Barclays on TV on Thursday.
Beljan is one of the other three besides Thompson to miss the playoffs but keep his card, by way of No. 124 on the money list. The others are Mike Weir at 104 and Jim Renner at 118. But Beljan began the week at No. 127 in the point standings, and needed only to finish 43rd to reach the playoffs. Instead, he missed the cut. Loser.
The three-time major champion didn't play as many events as most golfers - 16 - but this will be the first time he hasn't retained his card. Beginning the week at No. 188 in the point standings, Harrington needed nothing short of a win to crack the top 125. But he didn't even make the cut. Like Allenby this year, Harrington has the opportunity to use his status at a top-50 career earner for a one-time exemption next season. He also could choose to partake in the Web.com Tour finals to retain his card, which is an option for golfers No. 126-200. That would be quite humbling for a golfer of Harrington's stature.
It was in 2009 that Slocum eked into the playoffs at No. 124 and then shockingly won the Barclays to extend his season all the way into the Tour Championship. And after Slocum eagled 15 and birdied 16 to tie Villegas for the lead, he had moved from No. 158 at the start of the week to well inside playoff range. And then, well ... well, oy. Playing alongside Jacobson, Slocum bogeyed 17 to fall outside the top 125. Given a reprieve when Jacobson three-putted 18, Slocum needed to make his eight-footer for par to get back in. But he missed, rising only to 129th. At a mere 19 points behind Allenby, Slocum was more than a loser, though we're not sure what. (You gotta know when to Slocum, know when to fold 'em? No?)
Beginning the week at 163rd in points, Fritsch spent much of the weekend vying for his first career title. But while many of his competitors were throwing darts on Sunday, the North Carolinian could muster only par-70, playing the back nine in 1-over. That lone bogey on 12 really hurt: Fritsch finished 151st, just outside of conditional status for those from 126-150.
The Georgian parlayed a stellar 2013 all the way to the Tour Championship. But he never got untracked in a followup to his breakthrough season, and entered the week at No. 144, having missed 16 of 27 cuts with only one top 10. Castro wound up T18 in Greensboro, one of his better efforts of the season, but it moved him only to 135th in the standings. Would like to know: How many have made the Tour Championship one year, missed the playoffs the next?
Foley began the tournament at 208th and needed only to knock in a four-footer for par on 18 to finish at 200, giving him a shot at keeping his card in the Web.com Tour finals. His putt slid by to the right, and Baker-Finch sounded like he just wanted to give Foley a hug.
Duval began the week right on the number - no, not 125 but 200. Just inside the threshold to go the Web.com route, if he so chose. Despite saying that if his game didn't improve this year, he'd find something else to do, Duval is having second thoughts. He said he doesn't want to keep taking sponsor exemptions, but having missed the cut at Sedgefield, he fell to 202nd. In 15 events in 2013-14, Duval accumulated all of 77 points. That's less than Champions Tour golfer Bernhard Langer totaled in his one PGA Tour start. Good gosh, I think the PGA Tour gives you 50 points just for signing your name.