GREEENSBORO — As always, our region’s golf tournament is a place to discover young talent and renew acquaintances with old friends.
Just take a peek at Friday’s crowded leaderboard through two rounds of the 83rd Wyndham Championship at stately Sedgefield Country Club. With second-round play suspended for 90 minutes Friday afternoon, six players remained on the course when play was suspended Friday night – they completed their rounds at 6:45 Saturday morning. The cut was set at 1-under par, the highest since 2013.
Atop the leaderboard at 9-under par are a couple of kids, Brandon Wu and Joohyung “Tom” Kim, and a veteran 2009 champ Ryan Moore.
Trailing a single stroke behind is another threesome – Russell Henley who led almost all of the 2021 tournament before finishing tied for seventh, a stroke outside the epic six-player playoff, first-round leader John Hugh and 24-year-old South Korean Sungjae Im.
Each has a chance. And each has a story of his own to tell.
Moore scored the first of his five career PGA TOUR victories here, winning in a playoff back in 2009.
He’s 39 years old now, with a little more salt than pepper in his beard and a sore back that has tormented him this season. It’s something only six or eight weeks of rest and treatment will fix, but there’s still golf left to play.
“Fortunately, it’s nothing I need surgery for, but it’s a very tricky spot,” Moore said. “It’s called a costovertebral joint, where your rib joint meets your spine. I have some chronic deterioration in there, and I basically just keep spraining it over and over again, which you can imagine doesn’t feel great twisting and swinging a golf club as hard as I can.”
And yet he’s still got game, shooting rounds of 65 and 66 on the familiar Donald Ross-designed course.
“I don’t hit it long, and there’s getting to be less and less golf courses where I feel like I have a chance as they keep evolving and changing them over the years,” Moore said. “This one still remains more of a shot-maker’s golf course with a lot of blind tee shots, and shorter and tougher angles. The fairways are harder to hit at times, and you can’t just send it down there as far as you possibly can every single hole. That helps me. … I’m pretty precise with my irons, and I have good distance control. That really matters around these greens, keeping it on the proper side of the hole as much as possible. It’s just a combination of a couple of those things that suits me.”
The old-school course suits some of the new kids, too.
Tom Kim, the 20-year-old phenom who was born in South Korea and raised in Australia and Thailand, made more than 300 feet of putts in his second-round 64.
Kim built a snowman on his very first hole of the tournament Thursday afternoon, penciling in a figure “8” on his card on Sedgefield’s No. 1. After the quadruple bogey, he played his next 35 holes in 13-under par to climb the leaderboard.
“If you would have told me after the first hole yesterday where I’d be after two days,” Kim said, “I definitely would have taken it.”
Kim, who nicknamed himself after “Thomas the Tank Engine” as a child, is playing free and easy. He earned his PGA TOUR card for next season with a strong finish last week, playing on a sponsor’s exemption at the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit. It was just his eighth PGA TOUR start this season.
“Last week was a little bit more intense,” Kim said. “… I knew that I needed to play well to kind of give me some breathing space this week. And once I had done that, I told myself, ‘You know what? I’m going to come out here and enjoy it, just try to be as happy as I can.’ That’s what I’m doing.”
That included a déjà vu moment on the first tee Friday morning.
“I went in the (fairway) bunker again,” Kim said, “and I was like, ‘Well, here we go, just don’t make a quad.’ I was like, ‘Let’s just get this on the fairway.’ And I did. I had a good number, I hit a great shot to 2 feet, and I was like, ‘You know what? This is strokes gained right here, four shots better than yesterday.’ So most improved on hole No. 1.
“I played better than I thought I was going to, so it’s a bonus. Just definitely happy to finish the round today and kind of laid back knowing I’ve got the weekend to play.”
Wu, a 25-year-old Tour rookie from California, is around for the weekend, too, after rounds of 64 and 67.
Wu started the week No. 83 in FedEx Cup points, safely in the playoffs. But a big finish in Greensboro could put him in the top 25.
It’s a test of his game, but also a mental test.
“In the past, it’s been easy to get distracted by what other people are doing, or by whatever else is going on,” Wu said. “I think the biggest advice for myself is just to stay within myself: Play my game and figure out what I can control and what I’m doing, and just focus on that.”
Bottom line? There’s a lot of golf left to play this weekend by young talent and old friends.
By Jeff Mills. In his career at the News & Record, journalist Jeff Mills won 10 national and 12 state writing awards from the Associated Press Sports Editors, the Society for Features Journalism, and the N.C. Press Association.