Villegas, Els, Harrington among names on the bubble for playoffs

Villegas, Els, Harrington among names on the bubble for playoffs

Camilo Villegas has recorded only one top 10 this season.
Fred Vuich/SI

Camilo Villegas won the last two playoff events of 2008, the BMW and the Tour Championship, but golf's onetime Next Big Thing is the Bubble Boy at this week's Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C.

At 125th in FedEx Cup points, Villegas can't afford to slip even one spot or he won't qualify for the mega-bucks, four-week FedEx Cup playoff series, which begins with the Barclays in Edison, N.J., next week.

At least Villegas has plenty of company. Tiger Woods is already out of the playoffs; he's 129th and not playing this week. Others find themselves in need of a good finish in Greensboro, lest their season end earlier than they'd hoped. Ernie Els is 126th, and will tee off No. 10 at Sedgefield with Villegas and Cameron Beckman at 7:40 ET Thursday morning. Padraig Harrington was one of the giants of golf heading into the 2008 FedEx playoffs, having won three majors in just over a year. But he's put off a vacation to play the Wyndham in hopes of climbing from 130th on the FedEx points list. He must finish 12th or better to crack the top 125 and get to the Barclays. Others who need a big week at this Donald Ross classic, where the scoring is usually low, include Angel Cabrera (150th) and Paul Casey (147th).

Even those in good shape to make it to the Barclays will be keeping an eye on their numbers. Vijay Singh, the 2008 Cup winner, is 42nd in FedEx Cup points. Defending FedEx Cup champion Jim Furyk is 70th. Only the top 30 players will advance to the season-ending Tour Championship at Atlanta's East Lake.

The featured attraction at Sedgefield is expected to be Jason Dufner, who is coming off a three-hole playoff loss to Keegan Bradley at the PGA.

"It's been kind of a weird experience," Dufner said Tuesday. "Everybody that's kind of come up to me, I almost feel like it's a funeral or something tragic happened. I don't feel that way at all. It was a great experience. Unfortunately I wasn't able to win that event, but I had a great chance, best opportunity probably to win a Tour event, so I feel good."

That's easier to believe when you consider the aftermath of Dufner's defeat included a visit to his alma mater, Auburn University (he still lives in town). He was summoned to an auditorium on campus, where he was thrilled at being given a standing ovation by the football team. He's trying to approach the Wyndham as if it's just another tournament, and as if he's still the same golfer he always was, even if he gave up a five-shot lead with four holes remaining at the season's final major.

"I made contact with the golf ball on the first tee [in a practice round at Sedgefield], so that was nice," Dufner said. "Didn't whiff any putts or didn't lose my golf game overnight because of what happened on Sunday. I think maybe the media plays into that a little bit. And maybe some guys are different; maybe some guys would feel like it was a tragedy. But I don't really look at it that way. I'm disappointed with not being able to finish that tournament off with a W, but I'm a professional golfer, I'm going to continue to be a professional golfer."

Westchester C.C. back in the mix — for seniors
Westchester Country Club was a 41-year fixture on the PGA Tour, from 1967 to 2007. The club is back in the spotlight as host of this week's Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship. Five players in the field won at Westchester as PGA Tour pros: Bob Gilder (1982, when he made a double-eagle on 18), Scott Simpson ('84), Bob Tway ('86), Hale Irwin ('90) and David Frost ('92).

Mark O'Meara is the defending champion, but he won the title last year at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm in Maryland. Tom Lehman's lead in the Charles Schwab Cup points race has dwindled to 291 points, over second-place Olin Browne. Fred Couples will play Westchester after a recent trip to Germany to get treatment for his chronically ailing back. Apparently it was a success. Said Couples, "I haven't felt like this in 10 years, health-wise."

Nationwide pros head into home stretch
The end of the PGA Championship brings closure of sorts to the PGA Tour just as the Nationwide gets serious. Ten events remain for players to earn enough cash on that tour to graduate to the PGA Tour in 2012, starting with this week's Midwest Classic at Nicklaus Golf Club at Lions Gate in Overland Park, Kan.

The best recent reminder of Nationwide relevance is that Keegan Bradley was 25th on the money list and on the bubble for advancing to the PGA Tour exactly one year ago. Then he went T3, T3, T5 and T4 to finish 14th in earnings and secure his Tour card for 2011. The rest is current events.

Short game
Yani Tseng headlines a field that also includes Paula Creamer, Alexis Thompson and Michelle Wie at the Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola at the Ghost Creek Course at Pumpkin Ridge in North Plains, Ore. This week marks the 40th anniversary of the LPGA in Portland. … Miguel Angel Jimenez, who designed both the Old and New Courses at Prosper Golf Resort in Celadna, Czech Republic, will seek his first victory of 2011 at the European Tour's Czech Open at Prosper. The tournament will use a composite course for the first time. … The U.S. Amateur will begin with stroke-play qualifying at Erin Hills next Monday.

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