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Turning Back Time

The Wyndham Championship is one of the PGA Tour’s secondary tournaments, but this week it became the center of the golf world.

It was a week in which the hands of Time were turned back and some old familiar faces were once again front and center.

The Wyndham is the last event of the 2015 season in which a player can earn FedEx Cup points, so there are two very compelling reasons to perform.

The Top 125 players on the yearlong FedEx Cup points list after this event qualify to play in the first week of the PGA Tour playoffs next week. But even more importantly, that same Top 125 also secure their Tour card for the 2016 season.

However, the biggest reason that the entire golf world was watching this weekend, was because Tiger Woods was in serious contention for the first time in two years.

As riveting as the rise of the new young players (Spieth, McIlroy and Day) has been, there can be no doubt that Woods still pushes the game’s needle more than any other player. The Wyndham had to print an additional 49,000 tickets after Woods announced that he was playing at the beginning of the week. It was his first appearance at the tournament, but based on both his performance and the love from the massive crowds, it may not be his last.

Woods was tied for the lead after his opening rounds of 64 and 65 on this classic par-70, Donald Ross course; Sedgefield CC in Greensboro, NC. Woods played steadily in his 3rd round and shot a 2-under par, 68, that left him in a tie for 2nd behind overnight leader Jason Gore.

Woods is three victories short of Sam Snead’s record of 82 PGA Tour wins. Snead won the Wyndham Championship a record 8 times and it was the site of his last PGA Tour win when “The Slammer” was 52 years old. Woods would be undone with a disastrous triple bogey-7 on the par-4, 11th hole, in Sunday’s final round, but showed his resilience with birdies on 4 of his last 6 holes to finish the week at 13-under par. It was however a glimpse of the “old” Tiger and may be a sign of things to come.

41-year old journeyman, Gore, has won once on the PGA Tour in the 2005 “84 Lumber” Classic but by 2009 had lost his game so completely that he applied for the job as the coach of the Pepperdine University team. He didn’t get it and as he points out “I’ve basically came to the fact I’m unemployable so I better start playing good golf.”

The affable Californian got his Tour card for this season by virtue of his 9th place finish on the Web.com’s money list last year, but was outside of the Top 125 coming into this week. Gore shot a final round 69 that gave him second place and a job on the PGA Tour in 2016.

But the player who would turn back time the most was 51 year old Davis Love III. Love, a 20 time winner on the PGA Tour and next year’s U.S. Ryder Cup Captain, took a sip of Ponce de Leon’s water. Love’s closing round 64 featured eagle-3’s on both the par 5’s and gave him a 4-day total of 17-under par and a 1-shot margin over Gore.

Love has overcome two surgeries in the last few years, most recently being sidelined for three months after foot surgery in April of this year. On Sunday he never missed a step.

This is Love’s third win at the Wyndham and he becomes the third oldest winner in the history of the PGA Tour. Amazingly, Love also becomes the first (and probably only) player to have won Tour events in each of the last 4 decades.