It was great to see Tiger Woods capture his 82nd PGA Tour win at the ZOZO Championship last week at 33/1. He controlled throughout and put down a serious marker for 2020. Indeed it was the 8th time in his career that he won his season-opening appearance. In 5 of the previous 7 instances, he won at least one Major later that season.
Motivationally I highlighted the imminent President’s Cup Captain’s Pick selection deadline, but failed to build that into Tiger’s psyche as he effectively built his own case for 1 of the 4 Team USA spots. Potential International Captain’s Pick candidates Sungjae Im and Corey Conners both finished in the paying places, as did my tip Gary Woodland at 33/1.
This week we move from Japan to the North Atlantic for the inaugural Bermuda Championship, with the event playing second fiddle to the WGC- HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai. These alternate, second category PGA Tour events really fascinate me – with only 300 FedEx Cup points up for grabs and no Masters invite for the winner, the fields are always weak. However rookies, veterans and PGA Tour journeymen flying into Bermuda this week all have the opportunity to grab a PGA Tour victory and, more importantly, full playing privileges until the close of season 2021/22. It’s a huge prize for plenty of players, but equally a pressure that a large number of the rank-and-file in attendance will struggle to handle mentally if and when they hit the front.
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Course Guide: The tiny island of Bermuda has the biggest concentration of golf courses on the planet, with 7 courses packed into 21 square miles. The inaugural Bermuda Championship takes places at Port Royal Golf Course, which, up until very recently, has seen high-level professional golf played upon it. This course hosted the PGA Grand Slam of Golf from 2009 – 2014, organised by the PGA of America, where the 4 reigning Major champions came here to compete in October. So the likes of Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott and Bubba Watson played here on a course which as most coastal courses do, plays as tough as the wind conditions.
Port Royal Golf Course, Southampton, Bermuda: Designer: Robert Trent Jones 1970, with Roger Rulewich renovation 2009; Course Type: Coastal, Mid-Score; Par: 71; Length: 6,828 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 4; Bermuda; Rough: Bermuda 2″; Greens: TifEagle Bermudagrass; Tournament Stimpmeter 11ft.
Course Designer Links: For research purposes, other Trent Jones designs include:
- Bellerive – 2018 PGA Championship
- Hazeltine – 2009 PGA Championship
- Firestone South – WGC Bridgestone Invitational
- Robert Trent Jones Golf Club – 2015 Congressional Loans National
- Highlands Course, Atlanta Athletic Club – 2011 PGA Championship
- Valderrama – 2002 – 2008 Volvo Masters, 2010-11 Andalucía Masters, 2016 Open de Espana, 2017 Andalucía Valderrama Masters
Course Overview: Port Royal Golf Course is a short Par 71 set on the Atlantic coastline of Bermuda. It has a 36/35 split, with the front 9 featuring a couple of par-5s. The course reminds me a little of El Camaleon in Mexico, which we will be visiting next week for the Mayakoba Golf Classic, in the aspect that both are short and have contrasting elements to the course. Here at Port Royal, the first 6 holes are played away from the coastline, protected partially against the wind, set in a low point. Most of the holes are guarded by trees earlier on, and it gives the appearance of a tropical inland golf course. With a genuine par-5 (2nd hole) and what in-effect is a long par-4 (517 yards) playing as a par-5 (7th hole), this is the section of the course where scoring is essential, especially as there are 3 attackable par-4s as well. From the 7th green onwards through the 10th hole, the course opens out onto the coast, with no protection from the wind. This again is the case across the closing 5 hole stretch of the 14th through the 18th.
The back 9 has a couple of stretching par-3s (13th and 16th) both measuring 235 yards, with the 17th par-5 at 501 yards being a huge eagle opportunity if you can avoid the fairway bunkers and water all the way down the left-hand side. From an overall perspective, players here mention huge elevation changes across the course and a number of isolated tee boxes. The course itself features Bermudagrass throughout and TifEagle Bermudagrass greens. When the PGA Grand Slam of Golf came here the course also featured rough which was described as penal enough to cause problems with approach shots in terms of distance control. Jim Furyk describes this course back at the 2014 Grand Slam as not being about power. Instead it’s a test where both course and wind management are critical.
It’s hard to know what to expect this week with such a weak field, but with relatively light winds in-play for 54 holes I can see a high-teens score being required for victory.
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
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 10 of my published predictor are Russell Knox, Zac Blair, Lanto Griffin, Scottie Scheffler, Scott Harrington, Mark Hubbard, Sepp Straka, Brian Stuard, Denny McCarthy and Cameron Percy.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Porsche European Open, across PGA Tour and European Tour 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:
- Driving Accuracy: 1) Chad Campbell; 2) Brendon Todd; 3) Boo Weekley; 4) Brian Stuard; 5) Doc Redman; 6) Tim Wilkinson; 7) Robby Shelton; 8) Alex Cejka / David Lingmerth; 10) Harry Higgs; 11) Ryan Armour; 12) Tyler Duncan; 13) Vince Covello; 14) J.J. Henry; 15) Denny McCarthy / Alex Noren; 17) Fabian Gomez; 18) Henrik Norlander; 19) Russell Knox; 20) Roberto Castro / Michael Gligic / David Hearn.
- Greens in Regulation: 1) Boo Weekley; 2) Doc Redman; 3) David Hearn / Denny McCarthy; 5) Alex Noren; 6) Branden Grace; 7) Henrik Norlander; 8) Scott Harrington; 9) Bo Hoag; 10) Scottie Scheffler; 11) Ben Taylor; 12) Russell Knox / Cameron Percy; 14) Brian Stuard; 15) Tyler Duncan; 16) Rhein Gibson / Sepp Straka; 18) Ben Crane / Lanto Griffin; 20) Robert Allenby.
- Top 20 Scrambling: 1) Ricky Barnes / Lanto Griffin; 3) Brian Gay; 4) Peter Uihlein; 5) Fabian Gomez; 6) Mark Hubbard / Rod Pampling; 8) Alex Noren; 9) Kramer Hickok; 10) Rafael Campos; 11) Michael Gligic / Brian Stuard; 13) Cameron Percy; 14) Mark Anderson / Brendon Todd; 16) Alex Cejka; 17) Parker McLachlin; 18) Bo Hoag / Boo Weekley; 20) D.J. Trahan.
- Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Dominic Bozzelli; 2) Maverick McNealy; 3) Rod Pampling; 4) Robert Streb; 5) Tommy Gainey / Lanto Griffin / Harry Higgs; 8) Denny McCarthy; 9) Aaron Wise; 10) Beau Hossler; 11) Chad Campbell; 12) Brian Gay; 13) Patrick Rodgers; 14) Cameron Percy; 15) Mark Hubbard / Seamus Power; 17) Sam Ryder; 18) Russell Knox; 19) Scott Stallings; 20) Anirban Lahiri / Alex Noren / Scottie Scheffler / Brian Stuard.
Recent Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 20 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Porsche European Open, which includes both PGA and European Tour 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:
- Top 20 SG Off The Tee: 1) Scottie Scheffler; 2) Doc Redman; 3) Robby Shelton; 4) Alex Noren; 5) Boo Weekley; 6) Harry Higgs; 7) Scott Harrington; 8) Sebastian Cappelen; 9) D.J. Trahan; 10) Cameron Percy; 11) Sepp Straka; 12) Vince Covello / Tyler McCumber; 14) Ryan Brehm; 15) Lanto Griffin / Denny McCarthy; 17) Chris Baker; 18) Anirban Lahiri / Zack Sucher; 20) Patrick Rodgers.
- Top 20 SG Approach: 1) Alex Noren; 2) Scott Harrington; 3) Ryan Armour; 4) Mark Hubbard / Doc Redman / Boo Weekley; 7) Russell Knox; 8) Mark Anderson; 9) Lanto Griffin; 10) D.J. Trahan; 11) Cameron Percy; 12) Sepp Straka / Brian Stuard; 14) Brian Gay / Fabian Gomez / Sam Ryder; 17) Rob Oppenheim / Ben Taylor; 19) David Hearn; 20) Ben Crane / Michael Gellerman / Bo Hoag.
- Top 20 SG Around The Green: 1) Daniel Chopra; 2) Fabian Gomez; 3) Peter Uihlein; 4) Rafael Campos; 5) Alex Noren; 6) Roberto Castro / Parker McLachlin; 8) Brian Stuard; 9) Lanto Griffin / Wes Roach / Aaron Wise; 12) Seamus Power; 13) Alex Cejka / Beau Hossler; 15) Scott Stallings; 16) Ricky Barnes / Robert Garrigus / Rob Oppenheim; 19) Ryan Armour; 20) Mark Hubbard.
- Top 20 SG Tee to Green: 1) Alex Noren; 2) Doc Redman; 3) Boo Weekley; 4) Lanto Griffin; 5) Scott Harrington / Brian Stuard; 7) D.J. Trahan; 8) Ryan Armour; 9) Fabian Gomez; 10) Scottie Scheffler; 11) Sam Ryder; 12) Rafael Campos / Mark Hubbard; 14) Cameron Percy; 15) Zack Sucher; 16) Rob Oppenheim / Scott Stallings; 18) Robby Shelton; 19) Mark Anderson; 20) David Hearn.
- Top 20 SG Putting: 1) Denny McCarthy; 2) Lanto Griffin; 3) Rod Pampling; 4) Tommy Gainey; 5) Cameron Percy / Kristoffer Ventura / Chase Seiffert; 8) Brian Gay / Maverick McNealy; 10) Mark Hubbard; 11) Patrick Rodgers; 12) Chad Campbell; 13) Tim Wilkinson; 14) Peter Uihlein; 15) Michael Gligic / Johnson Wagner; 17) Dominic Bozzelli / Brendon De Jonge; 19) Rhein Gibson / Russell Knox.
- Top 20 SG Total: 1) Lanto Griffin; 2) Denny McCarthy; 3) Alex Noren; 4) Doc Redman; 5) Mark Hubbard / Brian Stuard; 7) Scott Harrington; 8) Cameron Percy / Sam Ryder / D.J. Trahan; 11) Scottie Scheffler; 12) Brian Gay; 13) Chad Campbell; 14) Peter Uihlein; 15) Fabian Gomez / Boo Weekley / Aaron Wise; 18) Dominic Bozzelli / Robby Shelton; 20) Roberto Castro.
Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Southampton, Bermuda, is here. As you would expect with a tropical island in the north Atlantic, precipitation can be a feature here in Bermuda with tropical storms. However the course has had no rain for over 2 weeks and there’s none forecast for tournament week, so I would expect running fairways at the very least. An easterly wind up to 20 mph will be a feature on Thursday, turning Port Royal into a bit of a challenge. But from there, the wind seems to subside each day, with weekend scoring likely to be the best of the tournament. Temperatures will be a pleasant 22-24 degrees Celsius throughout.
So let’s take a view from players as to how the Port Royal Golf Course sets up and what skill sets the course favours:
Martin Kaymer: “There are a couple very difficult holes where you can really screw up, where you can make big numbers. When you take 16, for example. But I think when you play on that grass, that Bermuda grass, it’s very important to hit good tee shots. It’s very difficult to judge distances from the first cut, from the rough, so I think the key is really to hit as many fairways as possible. But again, tee shots and then give yourself as many chances as possible. The wind, we all know, is going to be a factor. Playing on an island, it’s not a big surprise. We all have done that in the past, we all know how that works.
Yeah, when you’re standing on that 10th tee box, you know the next four or five holes are going to be difficult, because there are some tricky tee shots, a lot of elevations as well, especially when you’re standing on the 11th fairway and you have to hit it down to the green. It’s very difficult to judge the yardage or to judge the wind more and therefore to judge the yardage. So the back nine, that’s definitely more challenging than the front nine. The first six, seven holes, they’re important that you take advantage of them, that you make at least two or three birdies. That helps for the back nine.”
Jim Furyk: “Not at all. 17th is very reachable for me. The 7th is an iron shot for me in for a second shot. The only hole that I might give up ground on, is No. 2. But, I just played the fives really poorly. I drove it bad on 7, I did hit a bad drive there. A bad second shot on 17. I hit a good bunker shot, missed the putt. Hit a bad wedge into No. 2. I had it laid up perfect. No, I didn’t take advantage of the 5’s, but it’s not really the yardage. Two of them are very, very short. They’re long par-4s, really. Then the second hole is not going to be reachable for me unless it gets real downwind. But, I need to do a little better job with my wedge game. It’s not a power, this golf course, power has nothing to do with playing well on this golf course. I realized those three are all very long, but they’re also very good at scoring. Bubba can hit a lot of shots and work it into the wind. Rory’s obviously able to do that, being the No. 1 player in the world. And Martin is a good ball-striker. So, the power isn’t part of it, but they can move the ball better than I did today.”
Adam Scott: “Well, the wind is what makes this course a real challenge. The rough is long, so hitting the fairways is going to be premium whether the wind is up or not. But, this course has such elevation change, and that always makes it tough, and that’s why I think playing a couple extra rounds is helpful, because you just get a better feel for how much downhill a tee shot is or a par 3 shot into a green. That’s the stuff that you can only get with experience of playing a course. So a lot of picturesque holes. Obviously everyone talks about 16 but 8 is equally as beautiful I think, and I think it’s a really good hole, the 8th hole. It’s got a nice green and they did a nice job with that. A lot of really nice holes; the back nine is a very nice nine holes of golf.”
Justin Rose: ” Yeah, obviously I went around the golf course yesterday morning in a golf cart, but stopped to play a couple shots here and there and putted around the greens. I thought I really enjoyed it. I thought it was a great golf course. I couldn’t help but play 16 a couple of times, what an amazing hole that is. But today the course showed me something different, a little bit of breeze out there; to get above the hole with down grain putts, there’s a couple of holes that you have to be really defensive with the putting I think just speed‑wise and I thought it was a good test of golf today. I haven’t played in a heavy breeze like this for quite a while. Going off the 9th, I hit a 7‑iron from about 127 yards, so that has not happened for quite a while either. It’s an adjustment today just getting back into seeing, judging the wind. I think that was the biggest challenge today, but I’m glad I got that under my belt and the surprise wasn’t tomorrow.”
For the record, here’s the breakdown of Bermudagrass green PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:
- 3 – Brian Gay.
- 2 – Ben Crane, Fabian Gomez, Davis Love III, Mark Wilson.
- 1 – Ryan Armour, Cameron Beckman, Charlie Beljan, Jason Bohn, Jonathan Byrd, Daniel Chopra, Tommy Gainey, Robert Garrigus, Branden Grace, Cody Gribble, Will MacKenzie, John Senden, Heath Slocum, Scott Stallings, Robert Streb, Brain Stuard, D.J. Trahan, Johnson Wagner, Boo Weekley, Aaron Wise.
Alternate PGA Tour tournament winners and odds since the new style PGA Tour season was put in place can be seen here: Morikawa (12/1), Herman (500/1), McDowell (40/1), Trainer (125/1), Champ (66/1), Putnam (28/1), Merritt (55/1), Garnett (66/1), Armour (66/1), Stroud (80/1), Murray (66/1), Points (175/1), Gribble (125/1), Baddeley (55/1), Chalmers (300/1), Finau (50/1), Malnati (250/1), Piercy (25/1), Henry (80/1), Cejka (125/1), Nick Taylor (400/1), Ogilvy (40/1) and Hadley (50/1). Chesson Hadley was the highest ranked of these in 2014 when he won the Puerto Rico Open at 92nd in the OWGR.
As we know this course hosted the PGA Grand Slam event from 2009 -2014. That tournament was played over 36 holes and produced the following winning scores:
- 2009 – Lucas Glover -11/131
- 2010 – Ernie Els -5/137
- 2011 – Keegan Bradley -4/138
- 2012 – Padraig Harrington -9/133
- 2013 – Adam Scott -8/134 – this included a course record -7/64
- 2014 – Martin Kaymer -6/136
How this translates to an extremely weak Bermuda Championship field remains to be seen, but in essence the level of scoring will be completely dictated by wind strength this week.
My selections are as follows: