2023 Wyndham Championship: Russell Henley grabs first-round lead with J.T. Poston, Adam Scott in top five



Consistent and annoying showers did nothing to damper the spirit or score of Russell Henley in the first round of the 2023 Wyndham Championship. Arriving at the PGA Tour’s season finale just outside the top 30 in the FedEx Cup standings, the former Georgia Bulldog shot out to the first-round lead with an 8-under 62 and is now in position to cement his place in the Tour Championship.

Henley will look to become just the seventh multiple-time winner this season joining Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy, Max Homa, Tony Finau and Wyndham Clark should he raise the trophy at Sedgefield Country Club. The 34-year-old has done just about everything but win around the Donald Ross design as he has rattled off three straight top 10s at this tournament including one of major disappointment in 2021.

Commanding a three-stroke lead at the 54-hole mark, Henley struggled in the final round of the 2021 tournament missing near tap-in putts as his nerves got the better of him. One final failed conversion on the 72nd hole saw Henley finish one stroke outside a six-man playoff. He has since won on the PGA Tour and looks like a new player ready to tackle the Sunday scaries with vigor. 

He will experienced a quick turnaround as will many of the names on the first page of the leaderboard as J.T. Poston, Adam Svensson, Andrew Novak and Byeong Hun An will hope the birdies continue to come in bunches.

The leader

1. Russell Henley (-8)

Henley’s season has vastly gone under the radar despite claiming a victory and factoring in a major championship. Before this week, he had finished inside the top 20 in nearly half of his 20 starts and has been even more impressive when that timeline in crunched. Since the Players Championship, he has connected on eight top 20s in 11 tournaments and ranks 13th in the world in total strokes gained. A win would add another ball for U.S. Ryder Cup captain Zach Johnson to juggle.

Other contenders

T2. Adam Svensson, Byeong Hun An (-7)
4. Andrew Novak (-6)
T5. Adam Scott, J.T. Poston(-5)
T7. Thomas Detry, Ludvig Aberg, Austin Smotherman, Martin Laird, Lucas Glover, Vincent Norrman, Peter Kuest, Kelly Kraft (-4)

Scott has made a habit of making FedEx Cup moves late in the season, and looks to be up to his old tricks this week with an opening 65. The Australian began the week outside the top 70 but is now projected to move in and qualify for the postseason. That would be familiar territory for Scott as he made a memorable run in last year’s playoffs when he cashed a pair of top-five finishes at the St. Jude Championship and BMW Championship to qualify for the Tour Championship.

“I don’t really mind. I mean, at this point, you know, it is what it is,” Scott said. “I feel like when I come out to play golf, I’m there to give it my best shot and if I make it, I make it, and if I don’t, I don’t. I’ve had a lot of years having a go at the FedEx Cup Playoffs and all these kind of things come to an end at some point. But for sure, I mean, I want to win this tournament and if I do that, I can have a really good run right through to East Lake, I believe.”

Bubble boys

The FedEx Cup bubble is the story of the week and will be a very fluid situation moving forward. Andrew Novak and Adam Scott are among the big movers hovering around the top-70 cut off after the first round while Austin Eckroat finds himself on the outside looking in. The good news for those in need of additional movement is it is only Thursday, and this blurry picture will only get more clear as the week progresses.

Beau Hossler

63

65

Matt NeSmith

65

66

J.J. Spaun

67

67

Adam Scott

81

68

Cam Davis

69

69

Ben Griffin

68

70

Austin Eckroat

70

71

Andrew Novak

106

72

Garrick Higgo

72

73

Ben Taylor

71

74

Matt Wallace

80

75

JT’s quick switch

When your back is against the wall, you pull out all the stops. Justin Thomas did so last week at the 3M Open when he introduced a new putter into the bag as a means to spark a rather lackluster season on the greens. It was an unsuccessful two days at TPC Twin Cities, and the switch back to his old gamer has been immediate. Thomas was just about average on the greens en route to an opening 70 putting him T68 after Round 1 with plenty of work to do in his quest to finish 18th or better and qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

“I just went back to my old faithful. I putted with it on Saturday last week after I missed the cut for probably like an hour, maybe a little more, on the putting green, it felt great. I think if it was a little different situation or a little different part of the season I’d probably keep messing with it, but with a week like this, I want to — I want to have the putter in my hands that I’ve made the most clutch and successful and good putts with and that’s what that one is.”

2023 Wyndham Championship updated odds and picks

  • Russell Henley: 5/2
  • Byeong Hun An: 15/2
  • J.T. Poston: 8-1
  • Adam Svensson: 9-1
  • Adam Scott: 14-1
  • Ludvig Aberg: 30-1
  • Andrew Novak: 30-1
  • Brendon Todd: 30-1
  • Andrew Putnam: 30-1

Putnam is a player I was a big believer in to begin the week, and he did nothing to sway me off this position. Firing a 3-under 67, he finds himself just five behind Henley after ranking second in strokes gained approach in the first round. Putnam entered the week ninth in strokes gained putting over the last three months among those in this field so expect some regression on the greens to allow him to close the gap from him to the top.





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