GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — There’s still plenty at stake at the Wyndham Championship this year — even if some of the big names from last year aren’t playing.
Tiger Woods didn’t return, sidelined by a back injury. And Davis Love III — a local favorite and three-time winner who had hip surgery last month — is only watching.
When play begins Thursday at Sedgefield Country Club, the field once again will be littered with players trying to force their way off the PGA Tour’s bubble in the final week of golf’s regular season and earn spots in the first round of the playoffs.
Others are trying to make one last impression on Love, who’s scouting as the captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
Woods made his only appearance in Greensboro a year ago in a last-ditch effort to make the postseason. He finished four strokes behind Love and fell short of the top 125 on the points list.
But his presence had Sedgefield abuzz all week and helped the tournament set its modern-day attendance record of about 143,000 for the four rounds, including about 35,000 on the final day. It was the last tournament Woods played on the tour because of back surgery.
This is the next-to-last chance to earn Ryder Cup points, with the top eight players determined after the first playoff event at The Barclays next week at Bethpage Black.
Love will make his first three captain’s picks Sept. 11 after the BMW Championship in Carmel, Indiana. The final pick comes two weeks later after the Tour Championship in Atlanta.
Among Love’s possibilities here this week: Jim Furyk plays his first round since shooting the first 58 in PGA Tour history during the final round of the Travelers Championship. Rickie Fowler is one of seven Olympians here, and 2007 Wyndham winner Brandt Snedeker also is back.
The Wyndham has long relished its spot as the last chance for the tour’s bubble players to force their way into the FedEx Cup playoffs, which are open to the top 125 players on the points list, and secure their spots on the tour for next season.
“The playoffs, obviously that’s where you can do the most damage,” said Harold Varner III, who grew up in Gastonia and played college golf at East Carolina. “Right now, I feel good. I just want to seal my card. That’s the biggest thing because sometimes you don’t get into all the events your rookie year.
“I did a pretty good job of that, got into two majors. A lot of positives, but there’s still some big tournaments coming up, like this one this week.”
Varner sure seems safe at No. 79 on the points list in his first year on the tour. Others aren’t nearly so secure.
Every player ranked from No. 121 to No. 135 has entered. Some, like No. 121 David Toms and No. 124 Matt Jones, want to play well enough to hold on to their spots. Others, like No. 126 Scott Stallings and No. 129 Steve Marino, need to earn enough points to move up a few spots.
Perhaps they’ll draw inspiration from Love, who last year made the biggest jump in the tournament’s history. His victory propelled him from No. 186 to No. 76.
But in 2014, only one player outside the top 125 — Sang-Moon Bae — earned enough points here to move into the playoffs. The year before, nobody did it.