The Shriners Hospital For Children Open
After three slow weeks to start the new 18/19 season last week proved to be a great week for us in the end.
The week had started slowly and the WGC ultimately proved to be a disappointment with our main hope going in to Sunday, Tommy Fleetwood, fading.
Over at the Sanderson Farms however two of our pre event 100-1 picks, Roberto Castro and Anders Albertson, stormed through the field on Sunday to both grab full place payouts for us, resulting in us making a healthy profit across the two events on the week.
A word also for both of the weekends winners. Xander Schauffele has proved over the past year plus that he is a man for the big event and so he proved again in China.
He definitely, if you pardon the pun, has the X factor and I predict Major Championships to come for him in the future.
As for the Sanderson winner Cameron Champ, he is undoubtedly a prodigious talent, the longest hitter on the PGA tour, he reminds me a lot of a young DJ and if, like DJ, he can hone his wedge game he is headed for the very top of the game.
So with the Asian swing now concluded, for its remaining three official weeks of the year the PGA Tour is now focused back on US soil.
For the first of those three weeks we are of to Nevada for the annual stop in Vegas, which owns the trophy for the event with the longest name on tour, The Shriners Hospital For Children Open.
The event was first held in 1983 so this year will see its 36th playing.
After being played at several different courses over the years and after sharing course duties with TPC Canyons, TPC Summerlin took over as the sole host in 2008.
This year we have as strong a field as we’ve seen for several years in Vegas, with Jordan Spieth making his first Fall start since 2015 [After his botch up of only playing 24 events last season].
In addition Tony Finau, Rickie Fowler, Bryson Dechambeau & defending champion Patrick Cantlay are in attendance.
At the time of writing Finau is the slight market leader followed by Fowler and Spieth.
TPC Summerlin is a par 71 measuring just over 7250yds.
The greens are Bentgrass.
The course was opened in 1991 and was designed by Bobby Weed.
The course is affected by altitude as it is on average 2700ft above sea level.
With fairly wide fairways, and with altitude making the three par 5s reachable for all players, if the wind doesn’t blow this is basically a birdie fest.
For those who like trading in running the more scoreable nine is the back nine, with two par 5s and a driveable par 4.
So lets take a look at the last ten winners of the event since TPC Summerlin became the sole host course.
2017 – P Cantlay
2016 – R Pampling
2015 – S Kaufman
2014 – B Martin
2013 – W Simpson
2012 – R Moore
2011 – K Na
2010 – J Byrd
2009 – M Laird
2008 – M Turnesa
Looking at this list of players the main thing that strikes me is that whilst perhaps you would have expected this event to be a haven for aggressive bomber types, actually the more successful player here over recent years has been ball strikers who plot their way round a course with Cantlay, Pampling, Simpson, Na & Moore all certainly falling in to this category.
In addition over the last three years the names of Cejka, Molinari, Glover, English, Stanley, Bradley & McGirt have all featured in the final top 10 here.
This tells me that, without stating the obvious, the art to conquering TPC Summerlin is to find enough fairways and greens so that you give yourself plenty of birdie looks.
In search of further clues that connected this list of names I decided to look at their recent form coming in to the event and this threw up one interesting connection.
This is the fact that nine of the past ten winners had a top twelve finish in their previous three starts [Ben Martin was the odd one out]. Furthermore, somewhat interestingly seven of these nine had delivered this high finish in their third previous start prior to their win in Vegas.
The latter detail of course is probably nothing more than a coincidence, however the fact remains that this does not appear to be an event where players find their form completely out of nowhere.
With regards to the winning score pretty much every year we have tended to see a birdie fest leading to a number somewhere between -20 & -24, however last year was a notable exception with stronger winds leading to Cantlay’s winning number being only -9.
As you would pretty much always expect in Vegas we look set for wall to wall sunshine through the week with temperatures in the mid 20s.
As I mentioned above wind was a major factor last year. This year it does not look to be as big an issue however we could see gusts of up to 15mph on all four days.
As I always say though…this could all change!
With several elite players teeing it up this week it is quite possible the title could go to a big name, however in my mind the market leaders all have question marks about them.
For example how will Finau cope with last week’s disappointment? Will Spieth be rejuvenated? Will Fowler, Bryson & Simpson be rusty? How will Cantlay handle defending his first trophy?...etc, etc.
As I say there are question marks about them all and they are tough to separate.
On that basis I have chosen to swerve the big names right at the head of the market and have instead chosen to look for the e/w value elsewhere.
As such I have gone with five players this week as follows;
RYAN MOORE –50-1 - 1pt e/w 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED 36th
Regular readers will know that I am fan of Las Vegas resident Ryan Moore and I have been anticipating another win for him for a while now.
This win, without any of our money on it, so nearly came a few weeks ago at the Safeway Open, however despite staying really solid down the stretch and making no real errors in the play off he was pipped at the post by Kevin Tway.
As I say another win from Ryan is definitely not far away and if it is to come this side of Christmas it will almost certainly be this week in his home town event.
I mentioned earlier on that players who find plenty of fairways and greens have success at TPC Summerlin and this area has been the absolute strength of Ryan’s game throughout 2018.
To confirm this we only need to look at Moore’s stats for the 17/18 season, which showed that he finished 4th in DA, 29th in Strokes Gained Off The Tee and 15th in Strokes Gained Approach To The Green.
Ryan’s stats to start the 18/19 season were then similarly impressive at The Safeway Open where he finished the week 1st for DA & 2nd for GIR.
As has been well documented the big problem for Ryan last season was with the putter and this can be seen by the fact that he finished 17/18 164th in SGP!
On this basis the most interesting stat to come out of the UNLV grads week at the Safeway was the fact that he ranked 6th for SGP.
Until last season Ryan was always a decent putter so rather than see this as one good week on the greens for a historically bad putter, my hope is that the 17/18 putting blip is behind him and if this is the case he will definitely be a force to reckon with over the next 12 months on tracks that suit his game.
One such track has proven to be TPC Summerlin over the years as Ryan has notched four top 15 finishes in his last eight visits, including his win in the event in 2012.
Since his play off defeat at the Safeway Ryan has turned in a couple of lacklustre efforts in the Far East.
Neither of these however particularly concern me. Firstly this is because even though the CIMB is played at a venue which Ryan has had great success at before, it is not surprising that he was sub standard that week on the back of a long journey after the emotional let down of a play off loss.
Secondly Ryan was making his debut at the CJ Cup, and to be frank I really don’t see Nine Bridges as a course suited to his game.
In addition these two ‘down the field’ finishes have helped Ryan’s price drift out to a far more attractive level.
Refreshed now after a week off and back on home territory in Vegas I expect us to see the Ryan who was on display at the Safeway and I am optimistic for a bold show this week.
SCOTT PIERCY – 66 -1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED 10th
Next up for us this week is another Vegas resident Scott Piercy.
Piercy did us a huge favour a couple of weeks back when finishing 5th at the CJ Cup after we had included him as our weekly trader pick and there are strong grounds for believing that he can ride that wave again this week.
Not unsurprisingly for a Vegas resident Piercy has proven himself to be something of a desert specialist over the years notching his first PGA tour win in Reno and playing well in Phoenix.
In this particular event, with the exception of a missed cut in 2013, Scott has not finished worse than 32nd in his last nine starts and he has posted three top 10s.
Piercy has shown over recent years that he plays his best golf in short bursts and this was most noticeable when he had back to back 2nd place finishes in the US Open and WGC Bridgestone in 2016.
In addition he had back to back top 10s at the beginning of the 16/17 season, three top 17 finishes in four events at the end of 2014, whilst his last two solo victories came straight after he had finished 14th & 3rd respectively.
So the message is clear with Scott, if he starts to get ‘hot’ take notice.
Piercy has a ‘win’ to his name this year as he landed the Zurich Classic pairs event with Billy Horschel, however it is over three years now since he landed his last solo victory and I think he has a great chance of ending that barren spell this week.
BEAU HOSSLER – 40 -1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED 23rd
As regular readers will know Beau was responsible for our biggest ‘hard luck’ story of the 17/18 season when he was robbed of his first PGA tour win, and we were robbed of a 150-1 winner, by Ian Poulter’s heroics in Houston.
Since that loss Beau has played some really steady golf, notching one more further 2nd place finish at TPC River Highlands and only missing two cuts in seventeen starts.
This time last year Beau arrived in Vegas as one of the ‘can’t miss’ rookies coming of the Web.com tour and he gave himself every chance to land his first PGA Tour title here as he had a share of the lead after three rounds.
Unfortunately it wasn’t to be that week for Beau as he struggled on the Sunday, in what naturally was a new situation for him and he ultimately ended up finishing 7th.
I am sure Beau learnt a huge amount on that Sunday and on a few other disappointing Sundays, which came early in 2018, and he showed in Houston that he undoubtedly has what it takes to get the job done.
After a sluggish start to his 18/19 season Beau had a couple of solid weeks in Asia finishing 30th and 18th at the CIMB and CJ Cup respectively.
Beau is 23yrs old, which is the same age as last week’s winner Cameron Champ and as they both grew up in California, whilst I have no concrete evidence to back this up, I am sure they must know each other well.
My thought therefore is that now returning to Vegas, a year after his great play here and as a much more experienced campaigner, Beau can be inspired by his fellow Californian’s success to land his first PGA tour title.
SUNGJAE IM – 66-1 – 1pt e/w 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED 15th
Next up this week I am going to jump on board with another player destined for the very top, Sungjae Im.
Im as most of you probably know by now was the star performer of the 2018 season on the Web.com tour, notching two wins and leading the season long money list from start to finish.
Im appeared to take to life on the PGA Tour like a ‘duck to water’ when he gave himself a chance to win in his first start at the Safeway Open before ultimately finishing 4th.
On the back of this the 20yr old was all the rage a couple of weeks later when he teed it up on the course he group up playing, Nine Bridges on Jeju Island, for the CJ Cup.
As is often the case in these situations the hoopla of being in the spotlight and playing in the marquee group on Thursday and Friday got the better of the young man and he ended up finishing 41st.
The week after this Im returned to the States to play the Sanderson Farms event and based on his undoubted potential he went off as one of the favourites.
Without wanting to sound like ‘Mr Hindsight’ I was wary of Sungjae last week as I felt that the new experience of being the home town hero carrying high hopes and everything that went with it the week before at the CJ Cup would have taken an emotional toll on him.
Whether this was indeed the case or whether it was just a bad couple of days at the office we will never know, but either way the young Korean struggled at the Sanderson’s on Thursday and Friday before missing the cut.
My hope now is that he will have had a few days to recharge the batteries and he will be raring to go again.
Assuming this is the case I feel TPC Summerlin should be a course right up his street.
My reasons for saying this is that whilst short of the tee Im’s strengths are neat and tidy play from tee to green with a good putter at the end of it, exactly the sort of player, which tends to perform well here.
In addition as I mentioned earlier TPC Summerlin has an element of ‘altitude’ in play and if there is one player in the field who should be used to playing at altitude it should be Sungjae as the course he grew up on, Nine Bridges, is 3500ft above sea level.
We have seen several times over the recent years that players can come straight of the Web.com tour and land a win with the big boys and of course we saw it again last week with Cameron Champ.
Im is another undoubted star of the future and I can see him adding his name to that list of rookie winners this week.
JJ SPAUN – 100-1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 FINISHED 15th
For my final selection this week I am going to side with the other player who held the joint 3rd round lead in this event last year, Californian JJ Spaun.
Spaun opened up here last year with rounds of 66 & 65 to take control of the event at the halfway stage.
He then struggled on Saturday to a 73, allowing Hossler to catch him, before a closing 74 on Sunday left him in 10th place.
Since then Spaun has gone on to notch three further top 3 finishes on tour so there is no doubt that this one time Web.com winner is knocking on the door for his first PGA Tour win.
One point of particular interest to me regarding these further high finishes is that JJ finished 3rd at the Barracuda Championship in Reno in August.
In addition the 28yr old posted a top 5 in Phoenix in his first year on tour so it is clear to see that this Californian native thrives when he gets to the desert.
JJ has started his 2018/19 campaign solidly and last time out he finished 10th in Korea at the CJ Cup.
With a weeks rest he should now be primed and raring to get back to Nevada and I can see JJ giving us a great run this week at a big price this week.
UPDATED 31st OCTOBER
TRADER - WYNDHAM CLARK FINISHED 57th - SHORTEST PRICE TRADED 80
One former University of Oregon man and Las Vegas native, Aaron Wise, is all the rage in the betting this week, however for my trader selection in Vegas I have decided to take a chance with another, Wyndham Clark.
There is no doubt that Wise is the player far further down the career path in terms of success at this stage, however Clark is also a highly rated prospect who had a hugely succesfull amateur career.
After turning pro Clark needed only one season on the web.com tour to earn his PGA Tour card courtesy of four top 5 finishes.
The back end of his 2018 Web.com season was fairly low key however Wyndham has started his first full season on the PGA Tour with two solid made cuts.
After this steady start Clark will this week get to tee it up in his city of residence on a course he plays regularly.
Now as I have already mentioned earlier in the preview in relation to Im in Korea recently, playing in your home city, with all that comes with it, can be a poisoned chalice, however Vegas has proven to be a venue over the years that many home favourites have performed well at.
One possible explanation for this could be that TPC Summerlin is at altitude, meaning that local experience of these conditions gives an advantage.
If this is indeed the case then Clark certainly should be at an advantage as not only does he now live in Vegas but he hails from Colorado, meaning he will have had plenty of experience of playing at altitude growing up.
Obviously as already stated Clark is still in the very early stages of his PGA Tour career and he is yet to produce a really big finish with the big boys.
This however is naturally reflected in Wyndham's price this week and on that basis I am happy to roll the dice in Vegas that this hugely promising rookie can have a big week in his home city.
CURRENTLY TRADING @ 600+