The Bermuda Championship
It was another good week for us at the ZOZO Championship as despite not bagging the outright winner Patrick Cantlay three of our team of five Watson, Henley and 90/1 shot Ryan Palmer finished in the top seven places to give us a very handsome each way return.
As for Cantlay, who despite a slight blip on 16 played fantastically to reel in Thomas and Rahm, based on his previous success at the Nicklaus designed Muirfield Village, combined with the fact that he was brought up at nearby Long Beach, he was, with the wonderful degree of hindsight of course, very much ‘one that got away’. Still as I say it was a decent week so I am not going to grumble and we go forwards in great spirits.
So after two weeks of ‘one off’ courses being used to fill in in the absence of the PGA Tour’s normal jaunt to Asia we return to the relative normality of a regular tour stop, all be it one that is only being seen for the second time on tour.
The event in question is the Bermuda Championship, which debuted on the PGA Tour last year as an opposite field event to the WGC HSBC Champions event.
For the second year running the host course will be the Port Royal GC in Southampton.
This year due to the cancellation of the WGC event in China the trip to Bermuda takes centre stage on this weeks PGA Tour calendar however after two weeks of stellar fields attracted by the no cut/guaranteed purses over on the West Coast, and with Augusta looming in a fortnight, the games big guns are taking a breather and to all intensive purposes we are looking at an opposite field event from a field strength point of view.
Whilst we wont be seeing the games big names in Bermuda this week one thing we will be seeing is a return to fans on site at the course and with next weeks Houston Open also confirming that there will be up to 2000 fans a day on the property we can only hope that these two events turn out to be a big success and therefore open the door for more spectators being able to attend events in the near future.
As it is the market is dominated by two players defending champion Brendan Todd and young superstar in the making Will Zalatoris, who are both available around the 11/1 mark, which is half the odds of the next player in the market Harold Varner III.
Port Royal GC is a par 71 measuring just over 6800 yards.
The greens are Tiff Eagle Bermuda.
The course is a Robert Trent Jones design.
The course features a mix of tree lined holes early on before coastal holes exposed to the Atlantic Ocean take over later on in the front nine and dominate the rest of the way home.
From that point of view the wind can clearly be a factor and we should be looking towards other shorter coastal courses with obvious similarities for reference such as El Cameleon, home of the Mayakoba where last years winner Brendan Todd was also victorious a week later, Harbour Town at Hilton Head, Sea Island home of the RSM and Waialae CC home of the Sony Open.
With the event only having been on the calendar for one year we do not have too much to go on. Here though is the final top ten from last years leaderboard.
1st – B Todd -24
2nd - H Higgs -20
T3rd - H Lebioda, A Wise, B Gay, & S Scheffler -18
7th – F Gomez -17
T8th – D Hearn, W Roach & R Armour -15
As we can see we have a real mixture of players here with shorter straight hitting veterans like Gay, Hearn and Armour, mixed in with aggressive playing youngsters like Scheffler and Wise.
The winner though Brendan Todd is certainly renowned for being a really solid, straight hitting ball striker when on song who in general performs better on courses where accuracy trumps distance.
In addition he is known as a strong putter when on his more favoured East Coast surfaces and to me with low scoring likely to be the order of the day we should be looking for someone who performs well with the flat stick this week.
Temperatures look set to sit in a pleasant mid to high 70s all week and at the time of writing there does not appear to be a threat of rain across the four tournament days.
The main issue for the week though looks to be the wind as after a calmer opening day where there looks to be nothing more that 10-12mph in the forecast the remainder of the week shows for 20-30mph winds and even the possibility of 40mph+ on Saturday.
As I always say though…this could all change!
I have gone with six players this week as follows;
BRICE GARNETT –80-1 – 1pt e/w 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 21st
With the wind potentially set to blow this week and with a strength of field that means the market leaders are not players you would normally associate with the odds they are showing it strikes me as an obvious opportunity to roll the dice at bigger odds on a course, which while in its infancy on tour, you would have to think lends itself to a certain type of player.
From that point of view the first player who leaps of the page at me as someone to speculate on is Brice Garnett.
Garnett landed his maiden tour win just over two years ago at the Corales Puntacana event, an opposite field tournament played by the coast, which as time goes on you would have to think will tie in well with here.
In addition to his win in the Dominican Republic though if we dig deeper in to Brice’s history a clear pattern emerges as to the type of course he performs well at with the most obvious link being his results at the Mayakoba where he has finished 11 5 25 7 & 6 in his last five visits, and of course links well here both in venue ‘type’ and through last years winner Brendan Todd.
Away from the Mayakoba and there is further encouragement to be found in Garnett’s pair of top twenty finishes at Hilton Head over the years and his 11th place effort at the Honda earlier this year. Basically, put the 37yr old by the coast and he comes to life.
So we’ve established the venue on paper looks perfect for the 37yr old but what of his form coming in to the week?
Well, as you would expect for someone who has the course suitability on tap but is not near the head of the betting it is patchy to say the least, with four missed cuts in five efforts to close last season after his 17th at Hilton Head and nothing better than 51st in four outings so far this campaign.
Because Garnett is a player who as noted comes to life on this type of venue though his underwhelming recent form is not much of a concern to me, particularly as we see that his win at the Corales came after three missed cuts in his seven starts that calendar year and nothing better than 31st.
Having said that though if we look at Garnett’s performance in his most recent start at the Shriners there is actually encouragement to be found there in that he sat in 19th place through three rounds and only four shots out of the lead going in to Sunday after scores of 65 66 & 68.
Hailing from Missouri you would have to think Garnett is comfortable in the wind if it does get up this week, a fact which ties in with his strong history by the coast, in addition with the strongest club in his bag being the putter he is the type of player we are looking for on the greens.
A two time winner on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2017 to go alongside his Corales win in 2018 Garnett has clearly found the winning touch over recent years and he looks an excellent play to me to start off our team this week.
RUSSELL KNOX – 55-1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 16th
While I am swerving the top end of the market as a whole the one player nearer the top end of the betting who I do feel offers some value this week and does appeal to me is Russell Knox.
Like most of the relatively bigger names who are in Bermuda this week Knox is here because he has lost his way over the last few years, after all, almost five years ago to the week, Russell was landing his first PGA Tour title when bagging the WGC HSBC Champions event.
Of late however as I say things have gone awry for Knox and his 11th place finish in this event last year was the best performance of a season, which saw him miss ten straight cuts from the AT&T Pebble Beach in February right through to the 3M Open post lockdown in July.
Since then however there have been some glimpses of positive signs, which saw the Scot firstly make his final two cuts of last season before opening up with a 63 at the Safeway Open before going on to finish ninth.
Granted he has missed his two cuts since however after a poor effort at the Sandersons a missed cut with a -5 total at the Shriners cannot exactly be called a disgrace.
Knox started working with a new coach Mark McCann during the lockdown period so although he missed a bunch of cuts upon the tours return he has talked positively about the state of his game recently and how hard he has been working, both when in the hunt halfway at the Barracuda and more recently at the Safeway.
In relation to McCann I also like the fact that he used to work with fellow Scot Martin Laird and it is quite possible that Laird’s win at the Shriners will be an inspiration to Knox to follow suit.
All of these threads of Knox’s slight upturn in form are of course speculative, however what can’t be doubted and in all honesty my main reason for siding with Russell this week, is his suitability to this test.
Eleventh here last year as already noted, Knox at his best is a strong ball striker who thrives by the coast. To expand this further he has a second place finish at the RBC Heritage to his name alongside other strong performances there, he has finished second and third at the Honda, he has performed strongly over the years at the Sony Open, and the clincher for this week, he has posted finishes of 10 3 & 2 over recent years at the Mayakoba.
All in all at the odds available Knox makes plenty of appeal and I am more than happy to side with him this week.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON – 66-1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 - FINISHED 26th
This Fall series we have already seen one former Open Champion bag his first PGA Tour trophy since 2009 at the age of 47, and on that basis I see no reason why another at the age of 49 cannot follow suit this week and add his first victory worldwide since 2016.
The man in question of course is Padraig Harrington and once you look past the initial thought around whether he can still win at his age there is a heck of lot to like about the Irishman’s chances this week.
The first and most obvious point to like of course is this weeks venue, which appears to be a perfect place for Harrington to still be able to compete with the modern player. A short coastal track, with the potential for 30mph winds, you couldn’t hand pick a better place for him and on that basis it is no surprise that Padraig has chosen to make his first start on the PGA Tour since March here this week.
Whilst we can speculate about players suitability to the test this week another huge plus for Harrington is that he does have positive past experience of the venue as he tee’d it up in the former PGA Grand Slam of Golf event, which used to pit the years four Major Champions together at the end of the season and was held here from 2009 to 2014. Padraig lined up twice in the event during that time and was victorious in 2012 seeing off Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley & Bubba Watson.
So we’ve established that this is a good test for Harrington but what of the current state of his golf game? Well with Ryder Cup duties slightly on the back burner at the moment Padraig has turned his focus back on to his own game of late making four consecutive starts on the European Tour recently during which he posted ninth place and last time out a 14th place finish at the Scottish Championship a couple of weeks ago where he talked really positively about the overall state of his game.
As a three time Major Champion it goes without saying that Harrington’s career will be a different league to anything the vast majority of those on display this week will ever achieve and I firmly believe that he will still have the grit required to close out an event in this company if the opportunity presents itself and if the wind does blow he will probably be the most equipped player in the field to handle it.
Add that to the huge hint that Padraig has given us by deciding to head to Bermuda this week and he is a ‘must play’ for me this time out.
VAUGHN TAYLOR – 150-1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 40th
For my final three plays this week I am going to head out on a limb and side with big odds players who should fancy their chances of making an impact on this type of track.
First up of the three is Vaughn Taylor. Taylor’s 19/20 season was cut short by a rib injury, which continued to affect him at the start of the new campaign as he was forced to withdraw from the seasons first event, the Safeway Open.
Taylor finally returned to action at the Corales Puntacana event and after missing the cut there he went on to miss the cut in his following two starts.
Not much to get excited about then in Vaughn’s form obviously however with his missed cut in his most recent start at the Shriners coming on the -6 cut line there was certainly more encouragement in that effort particularly in the opening day 66 where all his key stats were positive.
A three time tour winner Taylor last shocked the golfing world in 2016 when he came out of nowhere to see off Phil Mickelson at Pebble Beach and that of course is a venue, which should stand him in good stead for this week.
Taylor’s two key strengths are accuracy off the tee, for which he has ranked 16th and 20th in the last two campaigns, and the putter for, which he ranked ninth and 45th over the past two years and they are certainly the two areas, which I would expect him to be able to thrive with this week if he can bring them to the table.
Second last year at the Mayakoba represented the Augusta residents best effort last season and at a venue, which should suit him this week I am happy to take a chance that he can bounce back to form.
DJ TRAHAN – 150-1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 45th
Next up in an event I am happy to roll the dice at bigger odds I will take my chances on DJ Trahan.
Two time tour winner Trahan looked destined to be a fixture near the higher echelons of the game earlier in his career however things have gone badly wrong over the recent years and he actually went an eight year stretch without having his full PGA Tour card before finally regaining it via the Korn Ferry Tour finals in 2019.
On the back of this success the first part of the 19/20 campaign was solid for DJ, however from the Honda on through to post lockdown it was a tough time for him as he missed seven straight cuts to finish the season.
Fortunately for Trahan though due to the Covid 19 related changes he gets another crack this time around and similarly to last season he started reasonably solidly this Fall with three straight made cuts including a 14th place first time out at the Safeway.
A possessor of a great tee to green game Trahan continues to thrive with his accuracy and in his most recent start at the Sanderson’s he ranked in the top ten from tee to green and approach play.
Unfortunately however like many good ball strikers he has always been suspect with the putter and this continues to be the case, which is a concern for this week but as we have often seen over the years it just takes one good putting week to transform the results of a good ball striker.
Trahan tee’d it up last year in Bermuda posting a solid 24th place finish and a couple of weeks later he went on to finish eighth at the RSM, his best result of the season, on another short coastal track. If we then go back further through his ‘wilderness years’ his second best effort in 2015 was a 17th place at the Mayakoba while his best effort by far in 2013 was an eighth in Puerto Rico.
To sum up Trahan has started his new season solidly with three made cuts, is striking the ball well, which will certainly be an asset if the wind gets up and seems to be comfortable on this type of test and on that basis I am happy to chance him at juicy each way odds.
JAMIE LOVEMARK – 200-1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
Finally I will go completely out on a limb and close things out for this week by including Jamie Lovemark.
Lovemark who was once the heir to the throne now held by the likes of Justin Thomas and more recently Morikawa, Wolff etc has had a torrid time over the years with injuries and as a result his career has unfortunately not gone as anticipated.
Still only 32 however I firmly believe we are yet to see the best of Jamie and as he now embarks on a campaign where he holds a Major Medical Extension on the back of a serious shoulder problem he can hopefully step forward this year.
Lovemark started this season with a couple of down the field efforts at the Safeway and Corales events before he followed a missed cut at the Sandersons with another on the -6 number at the Shriners.
Like the majority of our team then this week nothing spectacular of late so why chance Lovemark this week?
Well the main thing that kept drawing me back to Jamie is the fact that although originally from California this Jupiter resident seems to have a knack of producing his best performances by the coast.
Last seasons best effort was a 27th at the Honda and he finished seventh at the same venue the year before, a season he also finished 17th at Sawgrass.
If we then delve further Jamie finished sixth and ninth in the consecutive seasons of 15/16 and 16/17 at the RSM while he finished fourth and seventh over the same two campaigns at the Sony.
On this basis while this is his debut in Bermuda Lovemark ,who possesses a really strong game around the greens at his best, should be really at home at Port Royal GC and with a gradual upturn in form appearing compared to last season I am happy to chance him in this company at the juicy odds available.
UPDATED 27th OCT
FANTASY DRAFT KINGS PICKS
PICK 1 - HANK LEBIODA - DK VALUE - $6800 - FINISHED 16th - DK POINTS - 74.5
With three of our main team priced at $6600 or below we don't necassarily need to go hunting for more sub $7K picks this week however as always I will post another couple of specific DK plays in this bracket the first of, which is Hank Lebioda.
26yr old Lebioda had an underwhelming sophomore campaign on the PGA Tour last season with his third place finish here in Bermuda being by far his best return.
Hank earned his playing rights in the big league after a 2018 season on the Korn Ferry Tour, which saw him post two top ten finishes in the windy Bahamas conditions at the start of the year, which when coupled with his performance in Bermuda gives a clear pointer that he is comfortable by the coast.
A native of Florida Hank is surely at his best on bermuda greens and with him returning to the scene of his best PGA Tour finish to date on the back of two more promising efforts including a 21st place at the Corales I expect another solid showing from him this week.
PICK 2 - RICKY BARNES - DK VALUE - $6300 - FINISHED 63rd - 50pts
It may well be unfortunately that the likeable Ricky Barnes' best chances of ever coming out on top in a PGA Tour event have come and gone, however he still pops up on leaderboards from time to time and quite often at shorter coastal venues.
Over the years Barnes has posted a top three finish at Pebble Beach, Several top tens at Hilton Head, a top five at the Honda and a top ten in Puerto Rico so he is clearly more than comfortable on this type of track.
After a poor end to the 19/20 season Ricky has put in two solid showings in his first two starts of the new season at the Safeway Open and Corales events and I expect him to be here for all four days again this week.