Shriners Hospital for Children Open
Las Vegas, Nevada
Yards: 7,243 as per the scorecard
Par: 71 (35-36)
Greens: Bentgrass that are 7,570 square feet on average.
Rough: Bermudagrass at 2.75”
Water Hazards: 4
Course Architects: Bob Weed and Fuzzy Zoeller (1992)
Winner’s Share: $1,080,000
FexExCup Points: 500 to the winner
Defending Champion: Las Vegas resident and former UNLV star Ryan Moore fired 24-under-par to defeat Brendon de Jonge by one shot last year.
Dates: October 17-20
Notes: Stroke play where top 70s and ties will play the weekend. Remember, since 2008 TPC Summerlin has been the ONLY host venue. This used to be played over four courses and was FIVE rounds at one time.
There were 40 tournaments last season. The USA won 31 of them but it was Sweden’s Henrik Stenson who went home with all the cash on the final weekend in Atlanta. This season Jimmy Walker has made it one out of one for the red, white and blue.
There were 12, first-time winners in 2013. Remember, that was LAST season but at least it’s a point of reference. Jimmy Walker has already given the maidens hope for 2013-14 with his first TOUR win in 188 starts.
There were six players with multiple victories last season as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker, Adam Scott and Henrik Stenson. Only Jimmy Walker has a chance to join this group this week in Sin City.
Past Champions in the field since the tournament moved exclusively to TPC Summerlin:
Marc Turnesa (2008)
Martin Laird (2009)
Jonathan Byrd (2010)
Kevin Na (2011)
Ryan Moore (2012)
The last SEVEN of nine winners of this event have been first-time winners. Only Jonathan Byrd (2010) and Moore (2012) have won previously on TOUR.
Only Jim Furyk has defended his title in this event and that was in the mid-90s when it was played over multiple courses.
Inside the Ropes
Welcome to 2013-2014! If you have any ideas/suggestions/wants/etc. for the column this season, shoot me an email and I’ll try and include it. After all, you are the reason I’m writing this so to not listen to your suggestions would be quite stupid.
Week two of the 2013-14 PGA TOUR season finds lovely Las Vegas as the scene for the second consecutive birdie-fest to start the season. The average winning since this event has moved to the TPC Summerlin has been a ridiculous 21.6-under-par so birdies will be the order of the day. Bogeys here will feel like doubles because this course is constantly one of the easiest on TOUR and checked in as 4Oth-easiest of the 49 used in 2012. The greens are rather large and the Stimpmeter is kept at a reasonable 11’ so the pros can make as many birdies as possible and avoid bogeys. It feels like a Web.com event because the winning score is 19-under or better every year.
During Ryan Moore’s one-shot victory last year, he racked up 26 birdies, finished T4 in GIR and was first, second and fifth in the putting categories. He only made four bogeys on the week but there were four players who made FEWER bogeys! Desert golf is pretty simple. Hit in the fairway, find the putting surface and hole copious amounts of putts. It’s just that easy!
My job this week is to find the players whose form suggests they are ready to make a ton of birdies plus those who are most comfortable when birdies are the order of the day. I wouldn’t get carried away in too many other stats this week besides scoring, birdies and bogey avoidance. It’s a TPC course and we have learned over time that these pros DESTROY resort courses. It’s quite simple this week. If these guys don’t get low, they’re not going to be in contention, so find guys who love to make birdies and are warm/hot like the desert!
Zach Johnson: He’s finished in the top eight in seven of his last events and his other finish was T27. In his only time here in 2008 he opened with 62-65 and finished T10. He has no problem getting low with his short game and wedges.
Jimmy Walker: DY-NO-MITE! He crushes par four, makes birdies and has finished T11 at WIN in his last two starts. He was T10 here last year even though he closed with 73. He closed with 66 last week and should be brimming with confidence after his first ever win.
Graham DeLaet: It’s a toss-up between him and Henrik Stenson for the best ball-striker on TOUR but the Canadian hasn’t gained as much attention because he hasn’t won. Yet. He’s 16th in birdie average and was fourth in total birdies in 2013. In his only appearance at this event he fired 63 in the second round in 2010 en route to 15-under and T18.
Webb Simpson: His last appearance in 2010 saw him rack up a T4 as he fired 20-under. His worst round was 68. He had 15 top 25s in 21 finishes and carded 11 bogey-free rounds (of 88) in 2013. That’s three times better than the TOUR average. He hasn’t won on TOUR since his 2011 U.S. Open and he’s pushing in the right direction.
Nick Watney: In his four FedExCup Playoff events, he had exactly two rounds over par from 16 so his form is of no concern. The last three years the Las Vegas resident has posted finishes of T6, T2 and T10 last year. None of those rounds have been above par and only ONE has been at par.
Hideki Matsuyama: He’s never been worse than T21 when he’s made the cut on TOUR. He’s playing against the weakest fields he’s seen and almost took advantage last week with his T3. The young Japanese will hit almost every fairway and every green and should be in contention on a course that plays this easily. Remember, he racked up finishes of T10, T6 and T19 in the final three majors of the season. I think he’ll be able to find his way around TPC Summerlin.
Scott Piercy: Another resident of the area who has destroyed this track in previous years, Piercy has finished T14, T28, T10 and T6 last season so he’s quite comfortable around these parts. The only concern might be his 18-OVER finish at the BMW his last time out but I believe he’ll bounce back in these familiar surroundings.
Chris Kirk: He’s taking another shot at a course where he started 64-68 last year before fading to 71-74 on the weekend. He closed out the FedExCup Playoffs with T16 and T24 to fall just short of TTC but it’s not like he was playing poorly. He’s 12th in birdie-or-better conversions, fifth in par three performance and second in par four performance. Drive for show, putt for dough but he’s still 16th in the all-around category.
Matt Jones: With two top 10s in his last four events before the 2013-14 season, I’ll throw out that he MC here in 2011 with 65-75. Jones made a leap last year that you all should be aware of by now and should be excited to take it to the next level. He’s 13th in the all-around category and in the top 30 in scoring.
Brendon de Jonge: He almost broke through for his first win here last year but his final round 67 was one short of Ryan Moore. His 23-under included an opening round 62 and his 67 was his worst of the week. He’s going to hit almost every fairway and almost every green so that will be plenty of birdie chances to be had. He was sixth on TOUR in actual scoring and his confidence should be flying after a solid showing as a captain’s pick at the Presidents Cup. First-time winners are the norm around here so him lifting the trophy would hardly be surprising.
Brooks Koepka: The youngster without any TOUR status held the fort down for 62 holes last week before limping home with T3. He’s won four times as a professional overseas but received a taste of what it takes to close out on the big boy TOUR. There’s no question that he has the talent. Hell, he had a four-shot lead on No. 9 tee on Sunday. His press conference on Sunday showed me all I need to know and I think he bounces right back into the top 15 again this week.
Robert Garrigus: He began the final round with a chance to catch Koepka last week but he also was over par on Sunday to finish T12. His double on the 72nd hole knocked him out of the top 10. The question with Garrigus is always with the putter and last week at Frys.com he was seventh in strokes gained-putting and T9 in putts per GIR. If he has that success again this week on the greens he’ll be there again on Sunday.
Brendon Todd: He matched his worst start in 11 starts last week (where he’s made the cut in nine of them) with his T26. He came alive on the weekend to fire 69-66 to jump into the top 30 again. He’s hot. Giddy up.
Ben Martin: Get used to seeing this name in these preview columns. He was No.1 in the all-around category last season on the Web.com Tour and he did nothing in his return to the TOUR last week to make me think he can’t cut it out here. He was 10-under heading into Sunday before an even par 71 stalled out his bid for a top 10 as he finished T16. I know the Web.com is NOT the PGA TOUR but check his numbers from last year. Can’t “fake it” through that many events and this week will feel like a Web.com event where it takes 25 birdies to win. He led that Tour in birdies last year.
John Peterson: A complete letdown last week as Peterson did NOT finish in the top FIVE for the first time in six events. He was T21. #sarcasm. He remarked on Twitter that (reading between the lines here) that he “faked it” around last week and he needed to get better. I like that he’s not satisfied with T21.
Camilo Villegas: He played great last week minus one bad round, again, sunk him to T26. I liked that the three others had only three bogeys and a double and he closed bogey-free with 65. He’s played the weekend in 14 of his last 15 as well. Get in.
Russell Knox: Similar to Brendon Todd, the Scotsman has hit inside the top eight times in the last two months including T6 at the Web.com Tour Championship. He finished T26 last week to keep up his solid play and was T13 here last season.
Ryo Ishikawa: His Web.com Playoffs included finishes of fifth, T7 and T8 and he was on course for another top 10 last week at Frys.com before his final round 72 knocked him down to T21. You know my rule. Good golf is good golf no matter where it’s being played. I’m not jumping up for him but if he’s there in later rounds this week, I’m taking a look.
Vijay Singh: He opened here 66-66 last year before fading on the weekend. That is exactly the OPPOSITE of what he did last week as he closed 65-68 to claim second alone at Frys.com. He only had four bogeys on the week and led the field in GIR. He’s found something so it’s time to take advantage now.
Max Homa: Jordan Spieth has opened our eyes to college kids that can really play and Max Homa’s audition last week at the Frys.com didn’t scare me off. The NCAA and Pac-12 champion from 2012 looked quite comfortable as he posted four rounds in the 60s to finish T9 and get into the field this week. His 22 birdies were T5 last week.
Ryan Moore: In the three times he’s played since the event moved exclusively to TPC Summerlin he’s finished T24, T7, MC on top of his victory last year. Moore had a tough 2013 as he made half of what he earned in 2012 ($2.8) but he closed well with T11 at the BMW and obviously is comfortable at home.
George McNeill: Some will ask why he’s not in the form category or even in the chalk category but this is where he belongs. He’s six-for-six in this event and that includes his 2007 victory. He backed that victory up with T15 in 2008, T2 in 2009 and T14 in 2010 before MDF in 2011 and T36 last season. I kept him here because he did fire two rounds in the 70s last week, including even par in the final group on Sunday. His 10 birdies and 62 on Saturday vaulted him from four-under to 13-under. One round doesn’t make me panic and overvalue.
Kevin Na: As I discussed last week in the wrap up column, Na missed the entire summer trying to get his discs healthy in his native Korea. His game came together last week as he dismissed an opening round 75 to close 67-64-64 to finish T3. He’s played this event six times in the last seven years and the Las Vegas resident has the 2011 title plus four top 25s in his CV.
Martin Laird: He won here in 2009 and lost in a playoff in 2010. In 2010 he shot 62-63 on Friday/Saturday. In 16 rounds he’s put 13 of them in the 60s.
Spencer Levin: The former TOUR player is working himself back into shape after a wrist injury and his brother’s death. If you remember, he had a massive lead at Scottsdale two years ago before giving way to Kyle Stanley in the end. He jumped onto the Web.com Tour last year to play himself back into shape before taking his Major Medical Exemption on TOUR in 2013-14. He started off quite well last week with T12 and the last two times he’s played in Vegas he’s placed T4 in 2011 and T5 in 2010.
Off the Radar
Ryan Palmer: He hits it a mile, tags plenty of GIR and can get the putter hot. His summer of 2013 saw him lose a childhood friend and he didn’t have a top 25 in his final seven events. He had a T8 here in 2010.
Richard H. Lee: Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Go ahead and look up his numbers. Go on. It won’t hurt. He was T6 on his maiden voyage here last year but most will just remember that he fizzled out in the playoffs. He almost doubled his rookie dollars last season and I expect another doubling or close to it this year.
Josh Teater: His last three trips to the desert have seen him post a 65 or better in finishes of T18, T57 and T22 last year. He made 21 birdies last week and was T5 in putts per GIR. He also made three doubles but he was obviously close.
David Hearn: He was T5 here in 2011 and T30 last season and his worst round is 70. He’s a superb putter, 15th in strokes gained-putting and 20th in birdie average last season. He also was eighth in par four birdie percentage. His best two finishes last year were on easy courses in Puerto Rico and TPC Deere Run.
Andres Romero: He hits it everywhere but has a penchant for showing up at courses when bushels of birdies are needed to contend. He has 10 of 12 rounds in the 60s here. He made plenty of birdies in his only top 10s last season at Puerto Rico and Reno-Tahoe.
Jason Bohn: I almost put him in here last week because of the birdies needed to be in the mix. He made 19 of them on his way to T40. His best three scoring rounds last year were at the Humana, JDC and Sanderson Farms which all are in the bottom quarter of easiest courses played. Calculated flier.
Carl Pettersson: He was second in strokes gained-putting in 2010. He was 23rd in 2011. He was 21st in 2012. He was 111th last year. He could begin his rebound here this week where he was T5 in 2011.
Russell Henley: His last top 25 was T6 at the Memorial in the first week of June. He was third in total putting on TOUR last year and that should help him avoid a sophomore slump. You can never have enough putters on big greens.
Charley Hoffman/Morgan Hoffmann: Charley makes birdies for fun but hasn’t seen the top 25 since late June. Morgan was 13th in birdie average and second in par four birdie or better leaders because he can really putt.
Will MacKenzie: His last two top 10s on TOUR were both at the Frys.com. One came last week and the other one was in 2010.
John Huh: His putter went cold in 2013 as he went dropped from 34th his rookie year to 120th last season. His ball-striking has been solid but I’m going to sit back and wait for him to get back into form.
Derek Ernst: His only top 25 last year was his WIN at Wells Fargo when he out-dueled Mickelson on Sunday. This is a UNLV connection that I don’t endorse as he missed 14 of 21 cuts last year and fired 73-75 last week at Frys.com
Jordan Spieth of the Week Last Week
The column was taken over and thrashed by the kid from Texas last year. Out of respect, I’m not changing the title of it for 2013-14. It will remind me just how good Spieth was in the last three months of the season. This year, we’ll still identify an up-and-coming player and/or rookie that fantasy players should have on their radar.
I asked Rob Bolton this question the other day, “when does the PGA TOUR season officially start?”
He replied, “When your OAD pick is over-par on Thursday.”
Boy was he right.
SEASON TOTAL: ($6,689,685 in 2013; $0 in 2013-14)
Frys.com: Gary Woodland, MC. Well, at least I don’t have to worry about when I’m using GARY WOODLAND again!
SHFC Open: Hideki Matsuyama. Time to break through, son.