Garcia Surges at Wyndham
So many people came out to Sedgefield Country Club Saturday it was difficult to hear exactly what they were hollering but it sounded like “Heels” after UNC grad Davis Love III holed a short putt for a birdie on the ninth green.
There was no mistaking the “Go Sergio”shouts at the man who emerged from a bunched up band of golfers at the end of the day. Spaniard Sergio Garcia, who played his first competitive round in America in 1998 in a mini-tour event at Sedgefield Country Club, was the leader at 14 under par on the same course.
His gallery Saturday was huge in the third round of the Wyndham Championship. Nearly all golfers had decent followings. At one time six players were stacked together in the lead at 12 under, with Love and many others not far behind.
The decision to return the Wyndham Championship to Sedgefield in 2008, after 31 years at Forest Oaks Country Club, looked grand Saturday. The galleries were announced as a sellout, all 28,000 tickets sold. This was the second year in a row Saturday has sold out. Sunday’s final round has been a sell out all four years since the tournament returned to the course where it all began in 1938.
Impressive, too, was Thursday’s and Friday’s crowds, which at Forest Oaks had dwindled to a pitiful few. And they were not huge for the first few years at Sedgefield. That changed this year,
“It was by far the biggest Thursday and Friday crowd I have ever seen,” said tournament media director Rob Goodman. “Thursday sat a record for merchandise sales and Friday was a record for parking.”
He said he went out to see Webb Simpson and others Friday “and it looked like a weekend gallery...They were 15 deep around the fifth green.”
What was more impressive was the scene on the par 4 9th hole Saturday when Garcia and Tim Clark were on the green and defending champion Simpson and Jimmy Walker were on the tee.
The galleries lined both sides of the fairway. The grandstands beside the green were full and people arched around the back edge of the green. Others could be seen watching through the windows of the club’s dining room in the Tudor-style clubhouse that frames the ninth hole.
It was a fitting following for Simpson, the reigning U.S. Open champion. He seemed to be playing like an Open title was at stake. He studied at length his second shot from the rough at the ninth before hitting his ball to the left of the green and then nearly chipping it in. He ran into some trouble on the back nine and finished 10 under, four shots behind Garcia. Love, who has won the tournament twice, made up some ground on the back side after getting in the creek and making a double bogey on the seventh. He ended 11 under, three shots back.
What’s amazing is that so many spectators showed up when there was another option. You can watch almost the entire tournament, Thursday through Sunday, on TV. Years ago, only the last holes on the two last days were televised.
A man in the gallery asked a colleague, “What time does CBS come on?” That sounded as if they would leave to watch the leaders on the tube. They could have departed earlier because before CBS came on the air, the Golf Channel televised golfers who teed off earlier.
But nothing beats being there, especially when so many golfers were bunched near the lead. At one point when all were on the back side, before Garcia made a surge, Tim Clark of Raleigh, by way of South Africa, was 13 under and a shot ahead of six golfers. Six more were two shots behind. Three were within three shots and six were within four.
Clark boogied the par 4 11th hole, while Garcia made some birdies to take a one-shot lead.
Most of the tournament’s big names are within striking distance of Garcia. They include Jason Dufner and former champion Carl Petterrsson, both 12 under; Love at 11 under; Justin Leonard and defending champion Simpson at 10; former Masters champ Charles Schwartzel and Tommy (Two Gloves) Gainey at 9 under.
The weather was threatening at times, but temperatures in the low 80s made walking and watching comfortable. More of the same, with slightly cooler temperatures, are predicted for Sunday.
The title could go to anyone within five or six shots of the lead.These golfers are capable of making up lots of shots. Duffner did so Saturday with a 63.
He probably is too far back to win, but the comeback of the tournament goes to Tim Herron. He shot an opening 76. The next day he improved 15 shots with a 61. Saturday he shot a 67 to stand at six under, eight behind Garcia.
More like this story