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This week we move to Las Vegas, Nevada for the 2017 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. The PGA Tour has visited Vegas since 1983 and the tournament has had some high-class winners over the years including Tiger Woods (his first Tour victory), Jim Furyk (twice), Ryan Moore and Webb Simpson. It has to be said that this year's field is down on what we have seen in recent renewals in terms of quality, with Kevin Chappell the highest ranked player in the field at Number 30 in the Official Golf World Rankings. Patrick Cantlay, Tony Finau, Webb Simpson, Jimmy Walker, Bubba Watson and Gary Woodland headline with form horse Chesson Hadley topping the web.com graduates.
Over on the European Tour, Paul Williams previews the Turkish Airlines Open - you can read his thoughts on that event here.
Coral are offering 7 places each-way at 1/5 odds across the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. When it comes to full-field events across both the European Tour and PGA Tour, 7 places each way is standard practice for Coral. New customers get 4x £/€5 free bets when they join Coral and bet just £/€5. You must be over 18, T&Cs apply:
Course Guide: TPC Summerlin, based in the suburbs of Las Vegas, has been the sole host of this tournament for the past 8 years. The 7,255 yard, Par 71 has a 35-36 set-up and the course is designed to produce low scores. Played at altitude, all 3 of the par-5s are reachable for the whole field and the pure Bentgrass green complexes are large, flat and receptive. Up until 2015, Summerlin's only true defence seemed to be wind until tournament officials decided to not water greens and placed hard-to-access pin positions across the opening 54 holes. But it was service as normal 12 months ago with an opening round -11/60 from eventual champion Rod Pampling, plus -10/61 from both Francesco Molinari and Chez Reavie, highlighting that this course can be smashed by those with a sensible approach and a hot putter.
TPC Summerlin, Las Vegas, Nevada: Designer: Weed & Zoeller, 1992, redesign, 2007; Course Type: Resort, Desert; Par: 71; Length: 7,255 yards; Water Hazards: 4; Fairways: Bermudagrass; Rough: Bermudagrass 2.75"; Greens: 7,570 sq.ft average featuring Bentgrass; Stimpmeter: 11.5ft; 2012: 69.71 (-1.29), Difficulty Rank 40 of 49 courses; 2013: 69.55 (-1.45), Difficulty Rank 43 of 43 courses; 2014: 69.66 (-1.34), Difficulty Rank 42 of 52 courses. 2015: 70.08 (-0.92), Difficulty Rank 34 of 50 courses. 2016: 69.62 (-1.38) Difficulty Rank 40 of 50 courses.
Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for TPC Summerlin and how they compare to recent courses that we've seen on Tour:
Course Designer Links: For research purposes, other Bobby Weed designs/re-designs include:
Course Overview: Part of the Tournament Players Club (TPC) Network of golf courses operated by the PGA Tour, Summerlin is a Private Club that's played regularly by Vegas-based professionals. Alex Cejka, Charley Hoffman, Ryan Moore, Kevin Na, Scott Piercy and Cameron Tringale all have residences in the area. Butch Harmon and Claude Harmon III are also based locally, hence the entries for Jimmy Walker and Gary Woodland. The course itself features Bermudagrass fairways and rough with pure Bentgrass green complexes. That characteristic is shared with few courses on Tour apart from TPC Four Seasons and Colonial in Texas. The 2013 renewal saw the introduction of new bunkering on 7, 12, 13 (Par 5) and 18, but despite that Webb Simpson equalled the tournament total score record at -24/260. The course plays as a 7,255 yard, Par 71 which at above 2,000 feet above sea level can be attacked, however the greens have certain nuances where experience pays dividends.
Half of the challenge with TPC Summerlin is finding the fairway. In a PGA Tour arena where Driving Accuracy means very little most weeks, it's interesting to note that hitting fairways on this course looks of paramount importance when analysing previous winners' statistics. Summerlin had the 7th most difficult fairways to hit in season 2016/17. Undoubtedly missing fairways adds up here as working approach shots so as to get close to pins around Summerlin is not as easy as you would think (Difficultly Rank 11 of 50), plus on a course where birdies are essential, the penalty for missing fairways is par-saving putts rather than birdie opportunities. A scrambling difficulty rank of 11 of 50 magnifies the need to hit greens, as does a sand save percentage last term which yet again was in the top 5 most difficult on Tour.
TPC Summerlin in effect is a true test of tee-to-green consistency married to an unequivocal requirement for a white-hot putter. However 2017 looks like it will offer up something slightly different. We're used to seeing benign conditions at this tournament, but wind will be an undoubted factor this year with a 12-20 mph south-westerly blowing across the tournament. This will only lead to higher scoring, so we may well see a slightly new dynamic on a course where scrambling is difficult.
Winners: 2016: Rod Pampling (-20); 2015: Smylie Kaufman (-16); 2014: Ben Martin (-20); 2013: Webb Simpson (-24); 2012: Ryan Moore (-24); 2011: Kevin Na (-23); 2010: Jonathan Byrd (-24).
Tournament Stats: We've published some key player statistics for this week's event that are well worth a look. Naturally they'll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Top 20 Finishes.
Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 5 of the predictor are Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Chesson Hadley, Kevin Streelman and Tony Finau.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on a 10-tournament window that stretches back to the Northern Trust / Made in Denmark tournaments and includes PGA Tour, European Tour and web.com Playoff events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:
Winners & Prices: 2016: Pampling 300/1; 2015: Kaufman 250/1; 2014: Martin 225/1; 2013: Simpson 20/1; 2012: Moore 14/1; 2011: Na 60/1; 2010: Byrd 50/1. Average: 131/1.
Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Las Vegas is here. Las Vegas has received little rain across the late summer and early autumn as is the norm. However players will undoubtedly be surprised by the strength of the wind this week at a venue where traditionally there's calm, indoor-dome like scoring conditions. Afternoon starters will face 12-14 mph breezes across Thursday, freshening to 15-20mph wind across Friday and Saturday. 20+mph gusts are also forecast for Sunday.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of winners since 2010 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
Tournament Skill Averages:
So let's take a view from players as to how TPC Summerlin sets up and what skill sets the course favours:
Rod Pampling (2016): "No, this is a good golf course for the shorter hitters. Would it be nice to hit it long? Absolutely. But you don't need to. You know, it's just a good course for that. 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."
Kevin Na (2015): "Yeah, I think this is the toughest condition I've ever seen out here. The greens are drying out. They're getting firm. You see a little bit of purple in it. I thought it would be playing easy. I was surprised that it was playing difficult. This is the most difficult I've seen it. Wednesday playing the pro-am in the morning the greens were really soft, and overnight it just firmed up. I think a little bit of breeze helped. I think they cut the water off, and they've done a good job."
Webb Simpson (2013): "I love this golf course because it reminds me of the course I grew up playing. You have a lot of options off the tee and greens are undulating and fast. So I'm just comfortable here, comfortable playing this kind of golf. The main thing is I made a lot of putts and you've got to do that this week. There's three par 5s, all reachable, and a reachable par 4. So you have to take advantage of the short holes and make putts."
Ryan Moore (2012): "On a golf course like this and playing in these conditions it is right now: no wind and perfect temperature, greens are reasonably soft and rolling nice on top of that. So it's one of those days that you just keep putting it in play. You know you're going to have a bunch of pitching wedges, 9-irons, 8-irons into these greens, and a few shorter irons, too. I know I'm going to hit the wedge and 9-iron. I'm going to have enough pretty darn good birdie chances if I'm just in the fairway. I'm not spectacular out of the rough. It's one of those courses. It's certainly not impossible if you haven't played it, but there are little quirks and subtleties to the greens. The more and more you play you get the sense of it."
Kevin Na (2011): "First of all, you know the golf course very well because guys come out here and practice and you know the greens. I think the big key is distance control here because the ball goes further out here. Some of the guys have trouble adjusting to that. But if you live out here you know how far your ball is flying, so it's easier to club yourself with the irons. That's a big edge on everybody else in the field. If I was honest put my money on the guys, if you gave me a handful of guys to pick, I would pick all the local guys."
Jonathan Byrd (2010): "I think guys play well when they hit the ball in the fairway. And I think this year the tournament being a little sooner, I think we'll have more rough, and I think that's going to make the course play more difficult. So I don't think this golf course is easy. I think there's a lot of opportunities, but I don't think it's easy. If you're not sharp by hitting the ball in the fairway, I think this course can be very difficult. And you'll see guys making a lot of birdies, and it's hard to make birdies if you're not in the fairway. So you have to place them, be strategic and you have to drive the ball well."
Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 7 Shriners winners:
Incoming form of winners since 2010:
First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave and winning score since 2010. Full First Round Leader stats are here.
For the record, here's the breakdown of Bentgrass PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:
Course experience here is an important factor but course debutants shouldn't be overlooked either. George McNeill (2007), Marc Turnesa (2008) and Smylie Kaufman (2015) have all won this tournament on debut across the past 10 renewals. Indeed, since 2011, Tommy Gainey (3rd), Jonas Blixt (3rd), Ryo Ishikawa (2nd), Luke Guthrie (5th), Chesson Hadley (5th), Patton Kizzire (2nd), Brett Stegmaier (2nd) and Francesco Molinari (4th) have all finished in the each-way places on course debut. Guthrie, Hadley, Kizzire and Stegmaier were all new Tour graduates.
Other trends are difficult to highlight. Winners across 2011 to 2014 from an Official Golf World Ranking perspective ranked 88th (Martin), 20th (Simpson), 44th (Moore) and 76th (Na) in the OWGR. Remember a place in the top 50 by close of the year is a really huge deal, especially for those players who didn't qualify for the Tour Championship. However over the past 2 renewals Smylie Kaufman at 226th and Rod Pampling at 451st in the OWGR have completely blown that line of inquiry into the weeds.
So what did Rod, Smylie and previous winners here all have in common? A difficult question to answer, but all recent winners here have shown an ability to shoot low scores and play well at altitude, in the desert or both. Take 300/1 shock winner from last year Rod Pampling, who had finished 3rd and 5th at Montreux plus 8th at TPC Scottsdale and 9th at PGA West over the course of his career. An opening round -5/67 at the CC of Jackson the week before plus a couple of decent finishes in the web.com Playoffs gave a hint of what was to be. In 2015 Kaufman was a web.com graduate who had already finished 10th the week before at Silverado on his rookie PGA Tour debut. Importantly he had also shown the ability to be able to play at altitude with 4th in Mexico and 2nd at Highland Springs CC in Missouri across 2015. 2014 winner Ben Martin had already finished 6th at Montreux in 2011 and other more straight-forward winners like Simpson, Na, Moore and Byrd all had top 8 finishes at TPC Scottsdale prior to winning this.
Bookmaker Offers: Latest offers and extended each-way places are detailed below.
My selections are as follows:
Byeong Hun An is trending nicely right now and I think he's one to watch on his TPC Summerlin debut this week. The 26 year-old South Korean, who lives in Orlando, is an interesting proposition this week on the basis that the renowned ball-striker is definitely hitting form as we enter the closing weeks of the golfing year. 21st at the Italian Open included an opening round of -6/65 and a Saturday -5/66 which placed him in the fourth from last group on Sunday in Monza. An eagle and 20 birdies placed him only 2 birdies behind tournament winner Tyrrell Hatton across the week. Ben then took the long flight to Jeju Island in South Korea for his home KJ Cup tournament. 8th going into Sunday after an excellent -5/67 in tough windy conditions was another signal that An is gaining momentum. Finishing 11th, An topped the week for birdies, was 7th for All-Round and tellingly 3rd for Putts per GIR on a week when he was the second Korean home under the intense pressure of the home media.
An's performances on the PGA Tour are of course fairly limited, but we know that he can mix it in the United States. 2nd at the shortened Zurich Classic at TPC Louisiana in 2016 is the closest he's come to victory in 37 Tour starts and this year has seen Ben finish 8th at Eagle Point, 5th at TPC Four Seasons and 6th at TPC Scottsdale. That appearance is worth looking at in detail as he led across Friday, Saturday and a proportion of Sunday before the pressure exerted by Hideki Matsuyama became too much. An eventually finished 6th and that carries on a European Tour desert career which includes 5th in Abu Dhabi (2016), 5th in Qatar (2015), 4th in Dubai (2016) and 4th at the Earth Course (2015). Comfortable in the wind, which could be a real leveller this week, I expect big things from the World Number 76. RESULT: T32
It's never a bad strategy to follow Webb Simpson on a track where he's had previous success and there are no doubts that Simpson has more success waiting just around the corner. 17th last time out at Silverado was a solid result for a player who had a couple of previous missed cuts on his visits to Napa. I'm drawn to his results on short course formats from Colonial onwards: 5th in Texas has been followed by 8th at TPC River Highlands, 3rd at Sedgefield, 6th at Glen Oaks and 9th at Conway Farms. At a tad over 7,200 yards at altitude, TPC Summerlin is perfect for Simpson who sits 2nd in my Driving Accuracy 10-week tracker and more tellingly 14th in the Putting Average (putts per GIR) tracker. 9th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green and 10th for Strokes Gained Putting at Sedgefield, 10th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green at Glen Oaks, plus 1st for Strokes Gained Putting on his last visit to pure Bentgrass greens at Conway Farms highlights a player in rather good nick. When he marries the 2 facets of his game together he'll undoubtedly win and that could well happen this week at TPC Summerlin where he was 4th in 2010, won in 2013 and was 4th when defending in 2014. His liking for desert golf is easy for all to see, especially when you include 5th (2009) and 7th (2015) at PGA West, plus 8th (2011), 8th (2012), 10th (2014) and 2nd this year at TPC Scottsdale. He also went mighty close at Greyhawk CC in his rookie season of 2009 and was a Quarter Finalist at the 2013 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship played at Dove Mountain, near Tucson. My published Predictor Model Number 1. RESULT: T20
The other player at the top of the market that you have to back is Patrick Cantlay who's clearly a class act. 15th last week on his WGC debut at Sheshan was his fifth straight top-20 finish covering the fully-loaded FedEx Cup play off events. The 25 year-old is clearly a huge talent and this week must be a huge opportunity for him to claim his first victory on the PGA Tour. The drop down in grade is palpable and that downgrade is best illustrated by both Brooks Koepka and Francesco Molinari, who flew direct from Shanghai to Las Vegas last year and finished 2nd and 5th respectively - the latter on course debut. Cantlay's statistics from last season also make sense at a tournament where avoiding bogeys will be key this week. 6th in Bogey Avoidance, 30th in Birdie Average, 60th in Scrambling and 8th in All-Round highlight a game that's pretty perfect for Summerlin. His win on the web.com Tour was in Colombia, so he ticks the can play at altitude box, and despite limited desert golf experience, a nice performance at Montreux back in 2012 - 4th after Round 1 - suggests he'll be fine in Las Vegas. I'm limiting the stake a little so I can include some bigger prices, but Cantlay needs to be included this week - especially as he was in the top 10 for Putts per GIR last week on the Bentgrass greens of Sheshan. RESULT: Winner
Scott Brown makes plenty of sense this week at TPC Summerlin, especially as a strong breeze is set to be a real factor. Brown has always been comfortable in the wind and as we know he's a streaky player who can string together contending performances one after the other. Despite the wind, TPC Summerlin will still be scoreable to those who can manage their way around the course and Brown showed in the CJ Cup that he can mix it with the very best on the Tour. This feels like a step down in class this week and Scott, who's best friends with Kevin Kisner, definitely seems to have made some real strides across 2017. 2nd at Riviera surrounded by the likes of Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose and Thomas Pieters on the leaderboard highlights the quality the Augusta, Georgia born 34 year-old possesses. He made a playoff with team-mate Kevin Kisner at TPC Louisiana, was 12th at Colonial and a best ever major finish of 13th came at the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow in August. Brown was 5th after 54 holes at the BMW Championship at Conway Farms (finished 20th) and was right in the mix again at the CJ Cup, co-leading with Justin Thomas after 54 holes before finishing 5th. You feel a second PGA Tour win is not that far away and Scott fired rounds of 67-68-66 to close strongly here in 2014 to finish 10th. RESULT: T63
Patton Kizzire is always one to watch in these wraparound events and he's undoubtedly comfortable around TPC Summerlin, on the west coast and in desert climes generally. Patton has undoubtedly struggled with his game throughout 2017, but green shoots have been visible of late. A dangerous scorer, Kizzire hit the PGA Tour in 2015/16 with a bang. 2 wins and a further 10 top-10s on the 2015 web.com Tour marked him out as a talent of high regard. One of those victories came at the Utah Championship and he finished the season 8th for Greens in Regulation, 1st for Birdie Average, 1st for Scoring Average, 5th for Scrambling, 1st for Putting Average and 2nd for All-Round. Kizzire then hit the PGA Tour hard finishing 2nd here at TPC Summerlin and 4th at the CC of Jackson. Since then 8th at Torrey Pines (the 40+mph wind Sunday renewal!), 2nd at Silverado and 9th at Montreux highlight a liking for the west coast. He should have won the 2016 Fry's.com Open holding the advantage all the way down the stretch on Sunday, but Kizzire is the sort who could well take advantage here in Las Vegas. That 9th place finish at the Barracuda Championship was surrounded by a couple of top 25s at the John Deere Classic and Wyndham Championship pre-Playoffs, and 10th last week at the CC of Jackson came with closing rounds of 69-68. After months of nothing, the putter finally fired over the weekend and that makes him a dangerous proposition for me this week. RESULT: T4
Watch these tips on YouTube with Steve Bamford: Golf Betting System YouTube Channel