By Dave Shedloski
Welcome to crunch time.
The $5.6 million Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, North Carolina is the final regular-season event of the FedExCup season on the PGA TOUR. It’s last call for collecting FedExCup points. When the last putt drops on Sunday, the top 125 players in the points standings advance to the Playoffs — and also assure their exempt status for the 2016-17 PGA TOUR season.
Ten of the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking are entered, led by USA Olympian Rickie Fowler, who is No. 8, and reigning PGA champion Jimmy Walker.
But perhaps, more importantly, scores of challengers are gathering with sweaty palms. All but 11 players ranked 91-190 in the points standings are entered, including every player from 124-135. The man on the bubble is Johnson Wagner at 125. Nothing like the added pressure of a target on your back.
The field also features seven Olympians: USA’s Fowler and Patrick Reed (2013 Wyndham winner), Canada’s Graham DeLaet and David Hearn, Germany’s Alex Cejka, New Zealand’s Danny Lee and Spain’s Rafa Cabrera-Bello. And, not to be overlooked, Jim Furyk is playing for the first time since firing a 58 at the Travelers Championship.
Frank Nobilo, working the 16th hole this week for CBS Sports, takes a look at the final regular-season FedExCup event and what to watch for at Sedgefield, a Donald Ross-designed course that plays 7,127 yards, par 70.
Describe the pressure the players around 125 in the points standings might be feeling.
The pressure has been on the last month or so. It’s sort of like the show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? You’re running out of options. There are no more safety nets. And it’s a very good field this week. That doesn’t do the tail end any favors. We always say you have to beat the best. If anyone gets in [the] back door, they deserve it. They’re going to have to play their best four rounds somehow.
Only two players played their way into the playoffs last year. One was winner Davis Love III. Jason Gore was the other. And they were outside the top 140. Is that a product of the course and the fact that players have gone low there?
I think it’s a little bit of everything. The guy who has been on the bubble (125th) the last six years has made the cut. The basic mathematics requires a monumental leap then because you’re not going to sneak in at 126. That means you probably need a top-five finish. You do have to play better than people realize. If you’ve been struggling, no matter what course you’re playing, it’s harder to shoot 15 or 16-under par. It’s hard to be defensive, too if you’re trying to protect your spot. You almost would rather see U.S. Open-type conditions than see a lot of crazy numbers.
Will the Olympians feel a burst of momentum and energy after their experience in Rio?
I think so. I think there will be a lot of backslapping going on from the other players. Obviously, it’s all positive. The guys who went are Olympians, and they’re heroes. It’s a win-win. All the questions to them are going to be positive: How good was the experience? I imagine it’s going to be a fun week for those guys. They will be pretty popular people, and that could give them a real lift.
What could Jim Furyk possibly do for an encore? How tough will that first round be for him after such a historic effort?
He felt like he was getting closer prior to Hartford, and then it looked like he was getting farther away. And then bang, he shoots 58. That round, it wasn’t just from anybody. He’s been a stalwart for American golf for a long time. It was only one round, but it generates a lot of momentum for the Hall of Fame, the Ryder Cup picture … and it will be interesting to see how he responds this week.
Give us your favorites and dark horses, as well as one guy far down the list who might surprise.
I’ve got my eyes on Patrick Reed. He’s going to a place he’s won before, it’s a good course for him. And he’s got his eye on the Ryder Cup and playing his way in. He doesn’t want to rely on a pick. Dark horse? Maybe Matt Jones, who is at 124. He’s better than that. I know he’s had some neck issues, but … he has a good game for that golf course. There’s nothing there that’s out of his realm. Looking at guys farther back, Ernie Els  would be a romantic pick. He hasn’t missed the playoffs, and maybe on the back of Davis Love winning, there are a lot of fans who would like to see the Big Easy playing well again.
Journalist and author David Shedloski of Columbus, Ohio, has been covering golf since 1986, first as a daily newspaper reporter and later as a freelance writer for various magazines and Internet outlets. A winner of 23 national writing awards, including 20 for golf coverage, Shedloski is currently a contributing writer for Golf World and GolfDigest.com and serves as editorial director for The Memorial, the official magazine of the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio. He is the author of three books and has contributed to three others, including the second edition of “Golf For Dummies,” with Gary McCord. He’s a fan of all Cleveland professional sports teams, the poor fellow.