Matt Wallace. Jared C Tilton
Donald Ross fans, avert your eyes. An Englishman has taken aim at one of the legendary course architect’s North Carolina gems — Sedgefield Country Club, host of this week’s Wyndham Championship.
In a stunning turn of events, that Englishman’s name is not Tyrrell Hatton, a man who seems to have nothing nice to say about any venue on the PGA Tour schedule (except for TPC Sawgrass, of all places). It’s four-time DP World Tour winner Matt Wallace, who opened with a solid three-under 67 on Thursday, which has him in a tie for 16th and inched him a little closer to the projected top 70 in the FedEx Cup standings. It’s the type of start you’d think a player would be thrilled with in a make-or-break event.
Thrilled is the last word you’d use to describe how Wallace was feeling afterward, however. Two bogeys over his final three holes certainly played a role in that, but so did a few of the design features he felt contributed to those bogeys.
“A bit [annoyed] actually with the finish,” Wallace said. “Playing nicely. Yeah, just frustrated. I don’t like this golf course.”
Why is that, a reporter on site astutely followed up. Wallace was more than willing to go into detail.
“Because the run-offs are just absolutely ridiculous and this — it’s just not fun to play,” said Wallace. “Hit a shot out of the rough on the last and it landed on the front and runs backwards 40 yards. Like, it’s just not great.
“Yeah, I shouldn’t be in the rough,” he added. “But it’s difficult to hit the fairway all the time, especially like this. And then hit shots to the front and just — this is my third time playing. Every single time like, yeah, 83 per cent of the winners hit green in regulations pretty much, so a lot of green in regulations is key, but the penalty for miss — even on the par 3 down the hill, 12, you can’t go long because you can putt it off the green, so you play the smart play and you play it towards the front, the middle and, from 220 yards, I mean, it’s too severe, so they need to do something about it.”
Wallace, a notoriously fiery player, missed the cut in each of his previous two appearances at Sedgefield, each time needing a huge week in order to advance to the FedEx Cup Playoffs. So you can understand the frustration. Though, to that, some would say, “play better”.
In fairness to Ross, an all-time great, Wallace wants to like it. He’s trying.
“Just know that — I’m trying to like it, I’m trying to like it,” he said. “I think the most important person here this week with me is my psychologist and we’re trying to enjoy the tournament rather than what it produces. So great tournament, great sponsor. Just for me, if I didn’t have to come here, I wouldn’t, but I kind of need to.”
Wallace entered the week at 80th in the FedEx Cup standings, needing to jump 10 spots in order to make the Playoffs for the first time in his career. The Playoffs come with some serious job security for 2024, hence why Wallace not only needs to be here, but needs to play well here.
“I want to be here, I just don’t like the golf course,” Wallace said. “I want to be here, I want to play here and I want to play well. Maybe I shouldn’t say that. And hopefully if I win I’ll say something different at the end of the week, I absolutely love this golf course. But I know the way to play well around here, you’ve got to hit lots of greens and I felt like I’m doing that. You know, the putting was good today, which has been great.
“I just think the penalty is just really, really severe, especially with Bermuda grass, you know. It’s difficult to chip and play and I just think — yeah, just personally, my personal belief, my personal preference is if I play or design a golf course, I just have areas where it wouldn’t just carry on running away.”
Before the haters pounce, Wallace did make sure to acknowledge that he was being a little … well, we’ll let him take that one.
“I don’t know, maybe I’m just being me and being a bit bitchy, but yeah, it’s just how — it’s just how I see the golf course. Runoffs in the fairway, you can hit the fairway and they run into the rough. I mean, I don’t see that.”
Wallace is currently projected at 74th in the standings, on the outside looking in. The minimum finish he needs to have a chance to get into next week’s FedEx St Jude Championship is solo 14th. Based off of historical PGA Tour projections, however, a two-way tie for fourth or better would give him the best possible chance. So there’s much work to be done, both mentally and physically, for Wallace this week.