The Shriners Hospital For Children Open
It was a good week for us at the Sanderson Farms Championship as two of our picks ended up landing us some place returns.
Our biggest success came from 200/1 shot Hayden Buckley who thrived in his home state to finish fourth and bag a full place return. The small icing on the cake was then added by Si Woo Kim who brought some further money to the pot by finishing in a three way tie for eighth.
The event itself was won by Sam Burns who courtesy of a superb ball striking display defied a poor putting week to get the job done. Burns had started the final round one shot back and after a slow start once he put his foot on the gas there was an air of inevitability that his quality would shine through.
So we roll on in good spirits and for the second year running it’s time for a two week stop in Vegas. Next week with Covid related restrictions still preventing a return to Korea the CJ Cup will head to another new Vegas venue, the Summit Club, firstly though it’s time for the regular Vegas stop, The Shriners Hospital For Children Open.
The event, which regular followers will know brought us our biggest success of last season as we landed a 250/1 winner with Martin Laird, was first held in 1983 and this year will see the 38th playing of the event.
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.
After a couple of events with weaker fields as the games leading lights took a break around Ryder Cup duties, several big names return to the fray this week at a stop, which invariably draws a strong field.
Heading up the market just is Viktor Hovland from Brooks Koepka. This duo are then followed by Abraham Ancer, Scottie Scheffler and last weeks winner Sam Burns.
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.
So let’s take a look at the last ten winners of the event.
2020 – M Laird
2019 – K Na
2018 – B Dechambeau
2017 – P Cantlay
2016 – R Pampling
2015 – S Kaufman
2014 – B Martin
2013 – W Simpson
2012 – R Moore
2011 – K Na
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 Laird, Cantlay, Pampling, Simpson, Na [twice] & Moore all certainly falling in to this category.
In addition over the last four years the names of Ancer, Zalatoris, Nesmith, Gay, Dahmen, Cejka, Molinari, Glover, English, Stanley, Bradley, McGirt and Ryder have all featured in the final top 10 here.
This tells me that, while there are of course several roads to success, for example the key to Na’s second victory here last year was a hot putter, the art to conquering TPC Summerlin more often than not is to find enough fairways and greens so that you give yourself plenty of birdie looks. To rubber stamp this view our hero of the hour last year Martin Laird ranked second from tee to green and seventh in approach play and ninth in old fashioned driving accuracy for the week.
The next thing to look at is course form and it is fair to say that while previous form on this track is not a requisite if we cast the net a bit wider there is a clear correlation to be found with the recent winners here and previous form on the other events played on tour which are played at venues classed as desert tracks. These are the Desert Classic, The WM Phoenix Open and The Barracuda Championship, with nine of the past twelve champions here having one or more previous top ten finish at one of these events prior to winning here.
The odd ones out were Kaufman who was playing in only his second PGA Tour event of his first full season, Cantlay and Byrd, who although he had no top tens, had finished in the top 15 at Reno the year before.
In fact the Barracuda is an event worth paying particular attention to as a whole with Byrd, Na, Laird [two time winner], Martin and Pampling all having high finishes in that event prior to winning here.
To rubber stamp this and If we focus specifically on 2020 champion Martin Laird he was a perfect example of the above as with numerous top tens in the WMPO and Barracuda to his name as well as his previous win here, his desert form stood out prior to the event.
Away from desert form one other event perhaps worth cross referencing in the John Deere Classic as both events are played on par 71 tracks and three of the past eleven winners here, Byrd, Moore and Dechambeau have also been victorious at TPC Deere Run.
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 twelve winners had a top twelve finish in their previous three starts with the odd ones out being Ben Martin, Kevin Na and last years champion Martin Laird. It is worth noting though that Na, in addition to being a former winner here, had finished 14th two starts prior at the Greenbrier so he only just failed to meet this criteria].
Furthermore, somewhat interestingly seven of these nine had delivered a 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, although 2017 was a notable exception with stronger winds leading to Cantlay’s winning number being only -9.
The early part of the week actually shows the possibility of a thunderstorm on Tuesday before dry weather takes over for the week.
Temperatures are not quite as warm as normal for Vegas with 75-80 being the order of the day for Friday, Saturday and Sunday after a warmer Thursday.
Wind could be an issue though as gusts of 20mph or so are at the time of writing showing as a possibility through the week.
As I always say though…this could all change!
I have gone with five players this week as follows;
SI WOO KIM –40/1 – 1.5pts e/w 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
I make no apologies for starting off this weeks team with the same player who I lead with last week, Si Woo Kim.
I stated this time last week that I felt the South Korean was building momentum following a solid end to his 20/21 campaign and a good performance to get his new season underway at the Fortinet Championship, and he most certainly proved that to be the case with another really strong effort in Mississippi.
At the Sandersons on his way to an eighth place finish Si Woo built on the long game promise he had shown at the Fortinet to finish the week ranked fifth in approach play, seventh from tee to green and 11th off the tee, confirming once again that his long game is in great working order, something, which, as noted earlier, is important around here. Furthermore even his often suspect putter behaved reasonably well to see him finish ranked 23rd for the week on the greens.
Arriving then in Las Vegas in the requisite strong form and with the recent top ten finish we are looking for the next piece of the jigsaw we need to look for is the historical form either here or in other desert events, to give us the past top ten finish in these conditions, which former champions almost always have here.
Looking then at the 26yr old’s CV and fortunately he most definitely brings that to the table as in addition to his win at the American Express earlier this year he has another top ten to his name in that event and an eighth place finish to his name here last year.
I mentioned last week that Si Woo historically is a tough player to catch right but all the signals are there at the moment that another win could be on the way and with the case for him being as straightforward as you can get this week I am happy to keep him on side.
ADAM HADWIN – 125/1 – 1pt e/w 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 6th
Next up for me this week is a player who has shown some glimpses of a return to form of late and certainly enjoys desert conditions, Adam Hadwin.
Hadwin who landed his lone tour title to date at the Valspar Championship in 2017 has struggled through much of 2021 and from early April to the back end of July he missed seven out of ten cuts with an eighth place finish at the Charles Schwab the only noteworthy performance.
At the 3M Open though Hadwin snapped that run of form with a sixth place finish before adding a 10th place finish at the Wyndham Championship two starts later to round of his 20/21 campaign in a reasonably positive fashion.
Moving on to the new season and the Canadian began things positively at the Fortinet Championship on the Thursday with an opening round of 66 in which he gained just under three shots from tee to green and just over two shots on the greens. Inexplicably however the wheels then came off on Friday when he shot 77, struggling in all areas, to miss the cut. Still, I’ll take the positive from the Thursday, which leads me to believe Adam isn’t far away with his game.
Last week at the Sandersons and Adam produced a ho hum 45th place finish, however again there were certainly glimpses of some solid stuff there particularly off the tee for the first three days from an accuracy point of view, something, which we know is key around here.
So we’ve established that Hadwin appears to be close to producing some really good stuff again however what makes him really interesting to me this week is his form both in this event and in the desert.
Firstly in five previous visits here the 33yr old has made the cut on four occasions posting two top ten finishes along the way including a best of fourth place in 2019. In addition last year whilst Adam only finished 34th he showed his affinity for the event once more by posting a third round 62 before stalling on the Sunday. Furthermore his other made cut here of 27th in 2016 featured a 64 on Friday.
Away from here meanwhile Hadwin has memorably posted four consecutive top six finishes in the American Express event over recent years, has a couple of top twenties at the Waste Management Phoenix Open to his name and a top ten at the correlating Joh Deere to boot.
Finally Hadwin can boast a victory on what is now known as the Forme Tour in the desert in 2010.
To sum up Hadwin is creature of habit who tends to repeatedly play well on tracks he likes and has performed well on in the past, of which TPC Summerlin is certainly one, and if we add that to his glimpses of eye catching form over the past couple of months it makes me want to have him on side this week.
NICK WATNEY – 175 /1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 56th
At 40yrs of age and having finished 204th in last seasons Fedex Cup standings Nick Watney finds himself at a crossroads in his career, which if he is not careful could lead to him taking the path to other income streams such as the commentary box over the next few years.
In last chance saloon then Nick is playing this year on a ‘once in a lifetime top 50 money list’ exemption and if the early signs are anything to go by it would seem that he is determined to make this opportunity count.
Nick endured a horrendous run of form last season, which saw him miss no less than 18 consecutive individual event cuts from October last year through to July and he has admitted that during this period he fell out of love with the game and questioned his desire to continue.
At the John Deere in July though Nick finally snapped that streak finishing 50th and he then made his next three cuts as well, while showing some positive signs with his ball striking, particularly at the 3M Open where he ranked eighth in approach play for the week.
On to the new season then and after a solid 30th place at the Fortinet where he ranked 23rd from tee to green it all came together for Nick at the Sandersons last week where he finished second.
In that performance in Jackson it is fair to say that Nick leaned fairly heavily on the putter as he ranked number one on the greens for the week and only 49th from tee to green. He did though rank fifth for the week in good old fashioned GIR and listening to him speak after the round you could tell how good he felt about the overall state of his game and where he is heading.
One key component to Watney’s upturn in form must surely be that after a long break he has returned to his original long term coach Butch Harmon and this is clearly having an impact.
Nick’s reunion with Butch leads us nicely on to this week as both of he and Harmon are based in Las Vegas and if you could pick an event for Nick to build on last weeks performance this one would surely be near the top of the list. Granted Watney has not played well here over recent years however lets be honest he has hardly played well anywhere over recent years, more tellingly to me though is that he posted five top 16 finishes including three top tens back in his heyday over six consecutive years here showing he, as you would expect for a Vegas resident, is more than happy round here.
The layers seem comfortable that ‘one swallow doesn’t make a summer’ and are therefore happy to offer Nick at juicy three figure odds this week, however if you factor in the improvement at the end of last season along side the return to Butch I am more of the view that Watney is on his way back and on that basis I am keen to take the chance that he can push on from last week.
SCOTT PIERCY – 150/1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
Ever since Scott Piercy justified my confidence in him in the desert at the Barracuda in July and then backed it up with some strong play at the Wyndham I have had him earmarked for this week.
As a West Coast guy before we got to this tournament I was happy to side with Scott at the season’s opener the Fortinet and while he came up just shy of rewarding us it was another strong performance to finish 11th and rubber stamp the fact that his game is in good shape, whilst giving us the recent preferrable high finish.
Last week Scott tee’d it up at the Sandersons and burst his recent run of strong form by missing the weekend, however I must be honest, while of course you would never be pleased to see your pick this week have a MC the week before, it didn’t bother me and I was certainly pleased he wasn’t in the mix again, which would have naturally impacted his odds.
Instead then lets take Piercy’s overall recent solid form and add it to his desert form, where as I stated pre Barracuda, he is undoubtedly a specialist.
Piercy who is born and bred in Vegas landed his maiden PGA Tour title in Reno back in 2011 and then on his first appearance in it since finished third in the current version of the event last season, furthermore over the last three seasons he has posted top tens in the American Express and the Waste Management Phoenix Open as well as at altitude in the CJ Cup.
Finally looking at Scott’s record in this event and he has posted four top tens over the years showing again how comfortable he is in the desert and playing in his home city event.
We saw last season’s Fall events, including this one with Laird of course, be kind to the seasoned pro’s and I can see Piercy following in these footsteps by making a very bold run at a fourth solo PGA title this week.
ADAM LONG – 250/1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 10 - FINISHED MC
Finally to wrap things up this week I will have a roll of the dice on another Long shot…Adam Long.
Long as we know shocked the golfing world when staring down Phil Mickelson and the aforementioned Adam Hadwin to land the American Express title in fine style in his rookie season in 2019.
Following on from that after initially struggling Adam played solidly in the 19/20 season to show that result was no fluke and he posted two more runner up finishes and, significantly for this week, an eighth place finish out of nowhere in Phoenix.
Moving on to last season and after some strong form in the Fall events it was a struggle after Christmas for the 34yr old and he was unable to post any further high finishes, although he did, it should be noted, produce a solid week at the correlating John Deere, which included rounds of 64 and 65.
After a missed cut on the number at the Fortinet, Adam moved on to the Sanderson’s and it was there that he caught the eye with a far improved performance which saw him rank 33rd for the week in approach play, his achilles heel over the past year or so, and fifth on the greens, on the way to 29th place.
Adam remains one of the straighter drivers on tour and despite some patchy play last season he ranked 24th in accuracy. If he can bring this straight hitting to the party this week while keeping the improvement in his iron play going I believe he can be a threat at big odds, particularly as he has an affinity to desert golf.
Finally as we know certain players tend to play better at certain times of year and I do like the fact that Adam has produced some of his best stuff over the past two seasons in the fall events.
In some peoples eyes Long is probably seen as a ‘one hit wonder’ but he seems to have that certain something extra that makes me feel he has another win him and even though this is his debut at TPC Summerlin here this week I have a hunch he could thrive.
UPDATED 5th OCTOBER
FANTASY DRAFT KINGS PICKS
PICK 1 - ADAM SCHENK - DK VALUE $6800 - FINISHED 3rd - DK POINTS 116.5
I'll be honest I was close to rolling the dice on Adam Schenk as one of our main betting picks this week however in the end I just preferred others at the odds. Instead though I am happy to chance Schenk in this section as I have a hunch he could produce a big week.
Since Schenk's fourth place finish at the Barracuda in the summer it is fair to say his form has been up and down. That fourth place finish though along with his three top 30 finishes in four visits here and a couple of solid showings at the American Express, tell us that Adam clearly enjoys his time in desert and if you then add in back to back top tens at the corellating John Deere you have several pointers leading to him.
To sum up it is a big reach to see Schenk winning for the first time in this company however there is a lot to like about him this week and he looks a good DK play at the price to me.
PICK 2 - ANDREW PUTNAM - DK VALUE $6200 - FINISHED 11th - DK POINTS 98
My second play in this section this week is Andrew Putnam.
Putnam showed when landing his maiden tour title at the Barracuda in 2018 that he loves his time in the desert and he rubber stanped that by nearly repeating that victory last July.
Andrew also posted a seventh place finish in Phoenix earlier this year to give us some further desert form to lean on.
Granted a missed cut at the Sanderson's was hardly ideal preparation however he performed solidy to finish 30th at the Fortinet prior to that and in an event he has made the cut in on three out of four starts I expect him to be with us for all four days again.