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August 18, 2008

Wyndham reaching for relevance

This past week's Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C. _ formerly the Greater Greensboro Open _ has been floundering for years in its attempts to attract a top field and, to a lesser degree, significant crowds. A group from Greensboro that I ran into at the Verizon Heritage in Hilton Head Island a few years ago summed it up when they said they'd rather drive to Hilton Head because of the setting, atmosphere and competition than attend the GGO in their backyard.
The tournament overcame one issue this year, when it sold out over the weekend for the first time in at least 58 years. During the 1950 GGO, tournament organizers ran out of tickets but printed more, so a sellout is debatable. This year 25,000 tickets were allotted daily, including all hospitality passes, weekly badges and general-admission tickets. The fact that Sweden native Carl Pettersson, a Raleigh, N.C., resident who spent part of his childhood in Greensboro and attended N.C. State, contended and eventually won probably helped the local cause. But the fact that Pettersson outlasted runner-up Scott McCarron, who hasn't finished inside the top 50 on the PGA Tour Money list in six years, is symptomatic of the tournament's larger issue. There weren't a lot of stars entered in the event, and there aren't likely to be many in coming years. The moved to Sedgefield this year from Forest Oaks won't do much considering this year's birdie-fest _ amateur Danny Lee shot no worse than a 68 _ and the position of the tournament between the PGA Championship and first FedEx Cup Playoff event makes it attractive to none of the PGA Tour's stars and a limited number who are already in the top 170 in FedEx Cup points. The old GGO still has its work cut out for it in the future.


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