PGA's Wyndham Championship: Looking Back at a Former Marquee Tournament
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The Wyndham Championship is sandwiched between the PGA Championship and the FedEx Cup. It is of little notoriety, mostly serving as a last chance for someone to qualify for the Barclays, though it wasn't always this way.
Known as the Greater Greensboro Open until 1988, the tournament was held in April or May and attracted strong fields. Sam Snead is the godfather of this event, with a record eight wins. His final win came in 1965 and at age 52, he remains the oldest winner of a PGA Tour event.
The Tournament debuted in 1938, with Snead as the winner. The next winner was Ralph Gudahl, a three time major champion. In 1940 and 1941, legends Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson won in Greensboro. Perhaps no tournament has had more storied initial winners. The event was played on both Sedgefield Country Club and Starmount Forest Country Club in those initial years.
Following World War II, Byron Nelson recorded his second victory at Greensboro in what was his record breaking 18-win season. Other notable players to win the tournament include Gary Player; Billy Casper won the event twice in 1962 and 1968; Seve Ballesteros and Raymond Floyd won in 1978 and 1979, respectively; Julius Boros won in 1964. More recently, Sandy Lyle was a two-time winner, as was Davis Love III.
What relegated this tournament was its 2003 move from the spring to late summer. The development of the FedEx Cup playoffs further hindered its status on the tour. Despite a move back to the Donald Ross-designed Sedgefield, the tournament is unable to attract big name talent to the field.
The contrast between the first years of the tournament and now is remarkable. It served as a battleground for the best three golfers of a generation. Ben Hogan established himself in 1940 with four victories. He later went on to win nine majors in 16 starts, a mark that is unmatched. Byron Nelson made the tournament part of his record 11 straight victories along with his record 18 wins in a season. Sam Snead won more PGA events than anyone in history and his greatest success came here.
This was a tournament built on the backs of legends who have records that still stand to this day. Now the tournament is largely a glorified qualifier for the Barclays. So while you may see a group of unknowns at the Wyndham, remember that it was a proving ground for the all time greats. Enjoy the piece of living history while you still can.
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