The PGA TOUR returns to America for this week's showdown in the desert.
Nope, it's not Tiger vs. Phil yet but we are headed to Las Vegas for the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
We'll have 132 golfers in the field this week. Given the time of the year and the lack of emphasis on pace of play, don't expect everyone to make it through their rounds on Thursday and Friday. UPDATE: They did drop the field by 12 guys this year but there have been past editions where 20+ golfers were left stranded. The cut is Top 70 and ties, as usual.
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TPC Summerlin has been the sole host of this event since 2008. Before that, it was a course rotation used.
The course is a par 71 that plays around 7,255 yards according to the scorecard.
As you'd expect from desert golf, there isn't any water in play off the tee. There is some on approach, though (3 holes plus one of the par 3s). The fairways are typically firm and fast which gives the shorter hitters a chance to knock out some lengthy drives.
With firm conditions, an average-lengthed layout, and slight altitude, golfers will put plenty of short irons and wedges into their hands. That makes this course play on the easy side of the spectrum but exceptions are always made whenever the wind decides to roll through. We saw that last year when golfers were dealing with heavy winds Friday thru Sunday and that resulted in a 9-under winning score. That was a stark contrast from previous editions which had seen winners reach 19-under or better in 8-of-9 editions since Summerlin become the lone host in 2008.
Unless there is a repeat of that fierce wind, we should expect to see birdies and eagles flying off the shelf. It's eagles in particular that ease the scoring here. Looking at all events since 2014, this ranks 6th in terms of eagle rate (8th in birdie rate). There are plenty of ways to get in trouble here but overall, every hole is a birdie hole here, when you are playing well. It's no surprise to see that we've seen a pair of 60s shot here (J.J. Henry, 2014; Rod Pampling, 2017).
When looking at those names that fired rounds of 60s, we notice that length isn't a requirement here. We've seen plenty of golfers call this a position-based course. It's more fairways-and-greens style of golf that is top priority. You really don't need to use your around-the-green prowess much around this layout. That makes sense when you consider most years golfers are pelting greens at a 70-to-75% clip.
For grass types, golfers will see bermuda from tee-to-green but then bentgrass on the putting surfaces. This is a strange one in that historical performance on bentgrass does not highly correlate with success here at TPC Summerlin. Based on the numbers and no other info, I would tell you they are overseeded greens but they are actually A1/A4 Bentgrass. Personally, it's not a week where I will look at grass splits at all.
Sifting through some past quotes over at the Fantasy Golfanac, let's try to break down the course to see how they will play...
Patton Kizzire: "this is a little bit more of a ball placement off the tee golf course, place your ball in the fairway and be accurate with your irons. And of course, I love a putting contest."
Rod Pampling: "You don’t have to be the bomber to do it all. Playing with Brooks today, he hits it a long way, but he was hitting a lot of irons off the tee, so it’s still a positional golf course, and that’s what you need to do is position yourself properly and give yourself the chances."
James Hahn: "Greens are rolling fast. Fairways are nice and firm. It’s definitely a premium to hit the fairways. The rough here, you’re getting some fliers, so it’s hard to adjust how far they’re going with the altitude. You know, it’s playable, a lot of low scores. "
Lucas Glover: "I’ve always had trouble with the distances here. It goes a little bit further than where I grew up and where I live, and a lot of trouble here short, so I find myself 20 feet long on a lot of my wedge shots. My direction has been okay, I’ve just been over the flag a bunch. That’s just being confident in my number and frankly my math."
Patrick Rodgers: "Yeah, I can take advantage of some of my length. I feel really comfortable on the greens. Some of the greens are pretty big with a lot of breaking putts. I feel like I putt well on those style of greens. But I know it’s going to take a lot lower than 6-under par to win this tournament, so I’ve got a long way to go."
Overview: Kizzire and Pampling both talk about this being a position-based course. There are a few mentions on dealing with altitude. Rodgers talks about the mentality of playing in a shootout. You know you need to keep your foot on the gas and not be satisfied with just one or two good rounds.
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:
El Camaleon GC
Harbour Town GL
TPC Kuala Lumpur
Most of these are courses where distances isn't a key requirement. TPC Scottsdale and the CBC are both desert events so there is definitely something about playing in this part of the country on similar course conditions that suits a certain type of golfer.
Thursday: Sunny with a high near 73 degrees.
Friday: Sunny with a high near 77 degrees.
Weekend: Temps stay in the upper-70s and there is no hint of precipitation in the forecast.
There is nothing extreme in the wind forecast but we'll revisit that as the event draws nearer.
Golfers to Watch
Couldn't close the deal last week in China but he remains a week-to-week contender. Now he heads back to Las Vegas where he has plenty of experience. The only worry is jet lag but otherwise, I think he's the man to beat.
Making his tournament debut here. Does he want to be here, though? The assumption is that Spieth is playing here (and the OHL Classic) as a part of his punishment for missing the 25-start minimum last year. We don't know if that's 100% true though. Perhaps, he really wants to make his way back to Maui for the Tournament of Champions? It's hard to say but he's also making his first start since the BMW Championship. A lot of question marks but he is the class of this field, alongside Rickie Fowler.
Another American Ryder Cupper. Webber is a past champ here at TPC Summerlin. He says the course reminds him of what he grew up playing. Hard to argue against that.
Called this course home for a brief period before moving down to Arizona. It's not a course I'd point out in terms of great course fit for Wise but his local knowledge certainly makes up that difference. He's an elite talent, especially in the fantasy scoring department. Has finishes of T10 and T32 in two appearances here.
Another golfer with plenty of ties to TPC Summerlin. Piercy probably knows this course better than anyone in the field. Just like Wise from above, both of them are coached by Jeff Smith who is based out of Summerlin. Others in his stable include Patrick Rodgers and Wyndham Clark if you are trying to play that angle. Clark is similar to Panda for me. I chased his pedigree right away but he's yet to really pay off in a big way. Maybe that local knowledge could be the boost needed to finally break out.
Arrives off an amazing week at the Sanderson Farms. Many are already labeling him the next superstar. I'm not ready to bite just yet. Last week was his seventh PGA TOUR start with ShotLink stats. It was the first time he's gained strokes on approach. He also gained 8 more strokes putting than his previous-best output. Maybe he truly did make a giant leap while on the Web Tour last year but I'm expecting some up-and-down results in 2019. In the meantime, he should continue to crush it with fantasy output, so I'm not going to talk anyone off him when setting fantasy rosters. I just think we need to have realistic expectations moving forward.
I'm going to be following Furyk closely. The Ryder Cup is now behind him so I'm intrigued as to whether or not he'll recommit himself and find his form in 2019. I'm not on board just yet, but he's been earmarked.
Missed the cut after his return from South Korea. I'm giving him a pass based on jet lag and think it's a good time for a bounce back. This week's course doesn't require distance off the tee so that means SJ is fair game again.
Ranking the Field
1. Tony Finau
2. Webb Simpson
3. Rickie Fowler
4. Jordan Spieth
5. Gary Woodland
6. Bryson DeChambeau
7. Patrick Cantlay
8. Lucas Glover
9. Martin Laird
10. Aaron Wise
11. Brendan Steele
12. Adam Schenk
13. Abraham Ancer
14. Ryan Palmer
15. Danny Lee
16. Ryan Moore
17. Chesson Hadley
18. Bronson Burgoon
19. Matt Kuchar
20. Carlos Ortiz
21. Jason Kokrak
22. Sungjae Im
23. Scott Piercy
24. Cameron Champ
25. Sam Ryder
Check back on Tuesday afternoon for our DFS Dish and Wednesday morning for the Expert Picks.