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Shriners: Longshots with massive value

Kurt Kitayama

Kurt Kitayama

Ray Acevedo-USA TODAY Sports

The PGA Tour heads back to Las Vegas, NV, for a Tour staple; the Shriners Hospital Open. This week’s event is played at TPC Summerlin, a course that can be scored on with calm weather. It’s a 7,255-yard par-71 course that was resodded over the past year. Interestingly, the pros will be the first golfers to play on this course since they added the new grass. The course will play shorter than 7,200 yards due to the air being thinner because of the course elevation. Driving distance has a significant influence here because the bombers can let it rip and not be penalized by the rough or hazards. Water does come into play, but only on four holes. This course has been bested by ball strikers who gain a ton of strokes on approach. There are far too many golfers who fit my handicap for this tournament. That leads me to the golfers with bigger odds. Here’s a look at my top two longshot golfers.

Kurt Kitayama to win +8000

The UNLV product should be a fun bet this week. When looking at my primary model, Kitayama is ranked ninth. While he has yet to win a PGA Tour event, he still makes a lot of sense to sprinkle a little cash on him. He’s only played in this once in the past four years, where he missed the cut. I’m not all that worried, Kitayama is a better golfer today than he was in 2020. It’s also fair to say that he’s probably played this course more than most of the golfers in the field.

Kitayama had success in events dominated by guys who gained many strokes on approach. He most notably finished third at the Honda Classic and second at the Scottish Open. His skillset should be useful at TPC Summerlin. He’s long off the tee and an above-average ball striker. At the Honda Classic and Mexico Open, much of his success came on his second shot. He gained a ton of strokes on approach at both.

This will be a ball strikers’ event. After Mackenzie Hughes drained birdies in bunches as a 100-1 longshot last week, we could see the chalk golfers take a back seat this week, and the long shots continue to shine.

Mark Hubbard to win +6600

The craziest headline of last weekend certainly came from Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine. The headline was, “Mark Hubbard goes from getting stabbed in the foot to leading Sanderson.” Wild right? What’s wilder than Hubbard getting stabbed in the foot by his daughter and wilder than him leading at Sanderson is the fact that over the last 36 rounds, Hubbard leads the field in Strokes Gained: Approach. When looking at TPC golf courses, I first look to see if it fits in the “ball-strikers paradise” category. TPC Summerlin certainly does.

I toggled my model to show the top-ranked ball strikers, followed by the toggling to see the top-ranked golfers in SG: App. While Hubbard is 12th in SG: Ball Striking, he’s first in SG: App. Sign me up to bet him at this great price. He’s yet to finish higher than T42 here, but if he brings the game he had last week, he will be live heading into Sunday.

Hubbard is a good putter who seldom three-putts and does well to avoid bogeys. At an event that will likely have a very low cut line, it’s essential to bag birdies and avoid bogeys. Hubbard does that. He’s a worthy sprinkle for me.