With the WGC-Bridgestone stealing most of the top talent, an alternate-field event is taking place in between Reno and Lake Tahoe.
The main thing to know about this event is the scoring format. Unlike the week-to-week stop where the scoring is stroke play, this week we will use Modified Stableford scoring.
For anyone that plays DFS will be very familiar with this type of scoring. The specifics are +8 for an albatross, +5 for an eagle, +2 for a birdie, -1 for bogeys, and -3 for doubles or worse.
A field of 132 will take to the course this week with 300 FedExCup Points going to the winner and a total prize pool of $3.4 Million.
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Montreux Golf & Country Club plays host to this event on an annual basis. It's been played here since the inaugural 1999 edition.
It's a Jack Nicklaus Design that is played in extreme elevation, roughly 5,500 feet above sea level.
At 7,472 yards, this par 72 plays at a very reasonable yardage when you factor in elevation.
If we dive into the scorecard we'll find six par 4s under 440 yards and one par 5 under 520 yards. Given the altitude, those are very short holes. Add in par 3s and suddenly length isn't much of a factor for about 2/3 of the course.
There hasn't been a specific skillset that has excelled here in the past. Ball-striking form has been key (off-the-tee plus approach) but you also have Greg Chalmers as a past winner here. He arrived having lost strokes tee-to-green in 12-of-13 ShotLink starts before the win.
The fairways greens are a bentgrass/poa blend while the rough is kentucky bluegrass/rye/fescue which is the exact same grasses the pros will see over at Firestone CC for the WGC-Bridgestone.
Comfort in altitude should not be overlooked. In the next section, I will highlight a few TOUR courses that are played in altitude but also consider golfers that have a lot of experience in this Mountain West region.
Looking at grass types, geography, course attributes, and past performance, here are a few courses/events that I think could prove to be a good pointer this week:
TPC Deere Run
Innisbrook's Copperhead Course
Coco Beach GC
Farmers Insurance Open
The Old White TPC
A few more courses than usual but it was tough to break the tie on a few of these courses so I just included all seven events. Summerlin, Scottsdale, and The Old White are all played in a bit of elevation. Coco Beach is the host of the Puerto Rico Open, another alternate-field event. The Farmers has the regional connection. TPC Deere Run is another summer event with a weak field. I'm not sure on the exact link that ties together the Copperhead Course but it did pop a bit when looking at correlated success so I included it as well.
Thursday: Widespread haze. Sunny with a high near 91 degrees. Winds at 5 to 15 MPH with gusts as high as 30 MPH.
Friday: Sunny with a high near 89 degrees. Winds picking up in the afternoon, reaching 20 MPH gusts.
Weekend: Sunny with a high in the upper 80s.
Overall it looks like it will be a very warm week with plenty of wind in the forecast as well. There is a Fire Weather Watch in effect on Wednesday and Thursday.
Golfers to Watch
Arrives without much form but that's never been a prerequisite to compete here in Reno. Laird is a CSU alum so mountain golf is right up his alley. That's definitely showed in his results here, posting four top 10s in four tries.
If you isolate your research to the last few months or even the last year then Palmer probably won't be anywhere near your radar. However, from a long-term view he is among the class of this field. He's a three-time TOUR winner but hasn't won since 2010. This is the type of event that could bring out that old fire. Putting is always his downfall but with Modified Stableford scoring, he can be a bit more aggressive and not sweat the small missed, instead capitalizing with bunches of birdies and an eagle or two. Has top 10s in three of his last four starts here.
He's been battling through injuries for years now and this year seems to be pretty rough, withdrawing ahead of a handful of events. However, this Vegas resident should be quite comfortable this week and when he's healthy he can contend. A bit risky but plenty of upside here.
He's on the countdown to his wedding day but in the meantime why not pick up a maiden TOUR win? The Stanford alum will be glad to return to the West Coast where he can potentially pick up his 12th career top 10. His swing coach is located in Vegas so he should be comfortable in the state. Does most of his damage against weak fields so this would certainly qualify.
Has four top 15s here at the Barracuda and was right in the thick of things last week. He hasn't cracked a podium finish since 2012 but this Modified Stableford scoring system should allow him to be aggressive. Similar to Ryan Palmer, I think it might hide some of his putting blemishes. Just missed out on my top 25 (he is #26) but I think he still deserves a look.
Another named that didn't find my top 25 but I like his potential. Saunders doesn't have a lot of form to draw on but overall, he's having one of his best seasons. He credited that to targeting wins instead of targeting cuts made. That aggressive mentality should transfer well to Modified Stableford scoring. Saunders has top 10s in each of his last two trips here and he was also a Fort Collins resident for a while so mountain golf is very comfortable to him.
Most years he would make headlines for Monday Qualifying into four events. T.J. Vogel has ruined the level of expectations this year, but Oda is still impressive. The youngster left UNLV early to pursue a pro career. Having played a few years in Vegas, this region of the country should be very familiar to him. He's also a short knocker that pipes fairway after fairway. That doesn't translate to most TOUR stops but it should yield lots of birdie chances this week on an easy setup that doesn't favor distance. If you want to go a bit off the board, I really like Oda as a sleeper this week.
Ranking the Field
1. Martin Laird
2. Ryan Palmer
3. Kevin Streelman
4. Joel Dahmen
5. Shane Lowry
6. Bill Haas
7. David Lingmerth
8. Kevin Tway
9. Johnson Wagner
10. Brandon Harkins
11. Vaughn Taylor
12. Andrew Putnam
13. Seamus Power
14. C.T. Pan
15. Alex Cejka
16. Mackenzie Hughes
17. Ollie Schniederjans
18. Graeme McDowell
19. Richy Werenski
20. Patrick Rodgers
21. William McGirt
22. J.J. Spaun
23. Chad Campbell
24. Hudson Swafford
25. Ryan Blaum