The PGA TOUR heads to Vegas for the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, with Smylie Kaufman as the defending champion. TPC Summerlin serves as the familiar backdrop. Here are a few things worth noting before diving into this week’s power ranking.
Here are a few things worth noting:
- TPC Summerlin is a par-71 layout tipping out at 7,255 yards. As one would expect, it features three par 5s, 11 par 4s and four par 3s. It is of somewhat average length for a par 71, but certainly not short.
- The type of winner TPC Summerlin produces is generally one that is fairly strong with the irons. It is forgiving off the tee, meaning driving accuracy is less relevant, and the rough isn’t all that penal.
- TPC Summerlin used to be one of several courses utilized in this tournament when it took more than one to play the event, but it has stood alone since 2008. Because it has been in play since 1992, all course history has relevance.
- This is not an uncommon setting for a breakthrough winner. Ben Martin picked off his first PGA TOUR win in 2014, as did Kaufman last year. A deeper look reveals plenty more just like them.
- The PGA TOUR boasts a number of players with roots in Las Vegas, either via UNLV or otherwise. Ryan Moore is the poster child, and he’s also a winner here.
- This is a nice spot for a Web.com Tour grad to make some noise. Kaufman fit that bill last year, winning the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in his first attempt.
As always, taking a hard look at course history and current form is a good idea. Considering all of the relevant factors, here is a look at this week’s power ranking.
1. Kevin Na – A runner-up finish in 2015 isn’t even his TPC Summerlin highlight. He won this event in 2011. He had a top 10 in the Safeway Open before regressing in his last two starts.
2. Ryan Moore – He is a past winner who owns two other top 10s and a total of five top 25s in 10 attempts. Throw in the fact that he is now among the class of the field, and we have a real contender.
3. Brooks Koepka – Course history includes a MC-T4-MC run. If he keeps with that pattern, 2016 should be a banner year! Seriously though, his talent is elite and his ability to devour a course like this should be obvious.
4. William McGirt – If the golfing gods do exist, they owe McGirt one. He wanted to play in Mississippi last week, but wasn’t allowed due to being eligible for the WGC-HSBC Champions. Still, McGirt showed up in Mississippi and played the Wednesday Pro-Am. He tied for eighth here last year and is brimming with confidence after a massive 2015-16.
5. Webb Simpson – A true course horse, Simpson has three top-four finishes here in five tries. One of those was a win. He’s also a GIR machine, which explains the affinity for the course.
6. Jon Rahm – Now an official member of the PGA TOUR, expect him to contend early and often this season. This is his first visit to TPC Summerlin, but he played his college golf in the desert at Arizona State.
7. Chris Kirk – He’s scattered a couple of T36s and a missed cut here over the years. While that doesn’t ooze confidence, he played extremely well in Jackson, Mississippi last week and is one of the classier players in an average field of November golfers. His putter can get hot enough to propel him to the top of the leaderboard.
8. Kevin Streelman – The epitome of safe, Streelman has made all six of his cuts including a runner-up in 2014 and a T16 last year.
9. Grayson Murray – Rookie ended the 2016 Web.com Tour season hot and that has carried over to the PGA TOUR with a T8 in the Sanderson Farms Championship last week.
10. Scott Piercy – Another Las Vegas native lurking, Piercy already has a pair of top 10s this season. He also has three top 10s and five top 25s in this event, making eight of 10 cuts overall.
11. Martin Laird – Had a good go of it back in 2009 and 2010, when he was the victor and runner-up respectively. A T8 in the Safeway Open to start the year is an encouraging sign.
12. Spencer Levin – Easily overlooked, Levin has made all six of his cuts in this event. Half of those went for top 10s. He’s done nothing of note in the first three weeks of the new season.
13. Tony Finau – While TPC Summerlin is not necessarily a bombers paradise, a T7-T16 return in his first two tries is very appealing. He’s been average during his first two starts of the new season.
14. Patrick Rodgers – Improved upon his missed cut in his first Shriners Hospitals for Children Open with a T13 last year. He enters off a T21 in the no-cut CIMB Classic two weeks ago.
15. Ben Martin – Anytime a first-time winner manages a top 25 in their title defense, it is a good sign. That’s what Martin did last year in this event. Opened his season with a T18 in the Sanderson Farms Championship last week, so this sets up nicely.
Best of luck to all this week!