By Jeff Mills
Special to the Wyndham Championship
GREENSBORO — As we head for the weekend at the Wyndham Championship, we see a leaderboard chock full of players with something to prove.
And it starts right at the top.
First-round leader Russell Henley followed up his opening 62 with a 4-under 66 on Sedgefield Country Club’s classic Donald Ross golf course Friday morning to stay alone in first place.
Billy Horschel shot a career-best 62 in his second round to get to 11-under par, one stroke off Henley’s lead.
Lucas Glover leads a group of four players tied for third place at 10-under. Glover, who shot rounds of 66 and 64, is a fan favorite here who grew up playing Sedgefield’s golf course on visits to relatives who lived nearby.
Henley and Horschel will tee off last on “moving day,” while Glover and Adam Svensson are the next-to-last group.
In all, 30 players start the third round within six shots of the lead, setting up the kind of weekend shootout we’ve grown accustomed to at the Wyndham Championship.
Henley, Horschel and Glover all know a little something about that.
Henley has held the outright lead after five of the last 10 rounds at the Wyndham, coming agonizingly close but never winning. He’s making his seventh start here, and has three consecutive top-10 finishes.
In 2021, he led in the final round but struggled on the back nine and missed out on the six-man playoff won by Kevin Kisner by one stroke.
“I don’t think about it a ton, but I think about it some,” Henley said. “I was leading the tournament through 10 holes in the final round. I birdied No. 10 on Sunday, and I felt like I was in control of the tournament. I had a couple three-putts, missed a couple short ones and a couple bad swings on the back and missed out on the playoff by one shot. It definitely stings to kind of lose it right there, because I played so well the first 60 holes. But I’ve got to play all 72 holes. It’s just hard to do, hard to finish it off. But I’m excited and hoping for another good weekend.”
Henley played a solid second round Friday morning, but wasn’t quite as sharp off the tee and therefore unable to attack the rain-softened course the way he did Thursday afternoon.
But he likes where he is, and he’s more at ease after so many near misses.
“I’ve learned a lot about my game,” Henley said. “I am definitely more content with whatever happens now than I was a couple years ago. I desperately want to play well, but I have definitely learned a lot from some of those ones that stung a little bit. … I just hope that through all my experience I would be a little more comfortable next time in that situation.”
Horschel, meanwhile, is wrapping up his own journey of self-discovery this season.
The 2014 FedEx Cup champion started the week 116th in the points standings after struggling mightily this year. Only the top 70 qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs, which start next week at the St. Jude Championship in Memphis.
“It’s been well documented, this year has been a real struggle for me,” Horschel said. “But the game has actually been heading in the right direction. The results haven’t shown that until last week and so far this week, but there’s been a lot of positive stuff coming, a lot more confidence in my ability to strike the golf ball, which has been the biggest issue all year.
“I’m excited where my game’s going. We’ve still got a long way to go to get back to where I would like to be in this game of golf, but at least we’ve got momentum behind us, pushing us forward now.”
Horschel needs a top-two finish at the Wyndham Championship to jump inside the top 70 and qualify for Memphis. He has consistently played well at Sedgefield, a course that rewards players who hit fairways.
“I realized a couple months ago there’s a really good chance I may not make the Playoffs based off the way my game was going, so I was more or less trying to focus on getting the game back in the right shape and getting some momentum going into the fall,” Horschel said. “I’m still in that same mindset. … Listen, I feel very comfortable on this golf course, and I’m excited to see what the weekend has in store.”
Glover, too, is a longshot to make the FedEx Cup Playoffs. He started the week 112th in the standings and needs a top-two finish.
That irks him a little. This is the first year of the Playoffs since the qualifying field was trimmed from 125 players to 70.
“It’s very contrived to me, the whole thing,” Glover said. “I don’t understand it. If you finish in the top 125, I don’t know why you don’t get to play next week. That’s my opinion, and I’ve been pretty outspoken in that. I think it’s silly that it’s only 70 playing in these elevated events.”
The truth is, with the weekend coming, it’s still anybody’s tournament. Former Wyndham winners and crowd favorites J.T. Poston (-7) and Webb Simpson (-4) are in striking distance. So are stars such as Matt Kuchar (-4), Adam Scott (-4) and Justin Thomas (-5).
Thomas, who came to Greensboro 79th in the FedEx points standings, shot a 65 in his second round after a ho-hum 70 Thursday left him in danger of missing the cut.
“I needed to make this cut, literally, very badly,” Thomas said. “If I wanted any chance at what I want to do the rest of the year, I had to make it. … Man, I played really, really well today. I was super patient. I hung in there. I keep believing good stuff is going to happen, and it just hasn’t. I feel like I’m very close to playing some unbelievable golf, some great golf. It was nice to have a good day to put ourselves in a good spot going into the weekend.”