SHRINERS CHILDREN’S OPEN: Las Vegas is a great place to visit any time of year, but early autumn, when the summer heat has broken and sportsbooks are in full swing with football season and the MLB playoffs (not to mention Fury/Wilder III on Saturday night), just might be the best time to hang out in Sin City. Perhaps that’s why the PGA Tour has decided on a two-week encampment in the world’s largest adult playground– following this week’s event an elite 78-man field will stick around for the CJ Cup, so there’s plenty of time for the fellas to soak in the atmosphere and make some regrettable choices.
The Las Vegas stop has been a fixture on Tour for nearly 40 years, with this week’s venue, TPC Summerlin, serving as the host course since 1991. It’s one of the easiest tracks on Tour, a 7,250-yard Bobby Weed design that features wide Bermuda fairways and perfectly manicured bentgrass greens. There simply isn’t much out there to trip the guys up so it turns into a straightforward birdie contest– last year the cut was 6-under and you needed to reach 18-under to crack the top-10, with champion Martin Laird getting all the way to minus-23 and still needing to survive a playoff to get the job done.
Laird is back to defend but it won’t be an easy task, as this tournament draws more elite players than it used to and this week’s field features 27 of the top-50 in the latest World Golf Rankings. Young Viktor Hovland, fresh off his first Ryder Cup, heads BETDAQ’s Win Market at 24.0, and he’s followed by a couple of players who were also at Whistling Straits in Scottie Scheffler (25.0) and Brooks Koepka (26.0), plus last week’s winner Sam Burns (25.0). As mentioned, there are some quality players in this field so there appears to be some mid-market value, but we should also keep in mind that this tournament has been won by triple-digit longshots in 4 of the past 6 stagings. A lot can happen on a course where nearly every hole is a birdie opportunity. That being said, here’s what I’m thinking this week:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Abraham Ancer (26.0)- Before taking the past few weeks off Ancer was red hot, winning the WGC-FedEx St. Jude in August and then finishing T9 in both the BMW Championship and Tour Championship. He now returns to a place that has treated him very well over the past few years, as he finished 4th in this event both last year and in 2018. With its abundance of short-to-mid iron approach shots, TPC Summerlin is target practice for a guy like Ancer, who is deadly accurate with the shovels in his hands. A streaky putter who does his best work on bentgrass, Ancer has repeatedly shown that he’s well-equipped for a birdie fest, finishing at 12-under or better in 10 different events over the past year. After watching the golf world celebrate an event that he can’t partake in as the “most important tournament in golf” or whatever, I’m sure he’s eager to get back out there and earn some of that attention for himself. He’s my pick to win this week and is very fairly priced at 26.0.
Si Woo Kim (50.0)- It isn’t often you get the chance to back a world-class player who has won big-time events, is playing well at the moment, and has a great course history at a price like 50.0, but that’s exactly what we have here with Kim. He shot 19-under last week at the Sanderson Farms Championship, finishing 8th, and he posted a T11 at the season-opening Fortinet Championship. It’s only been five starts since his runner-up at the Wyndham Championship, so he’s essentially been putting himself in contention every time he tees it up, and he’s absolutely eaten up TPC Summerlin over the course of his career, shooting a combined 50-under across four starts and posting three top-25s, including a T8 last year. All things considered, Kim feels like a must-bet at this price.
Lucas Glover (270.0)- There’s something about Las Vegas that just brings out the magic in some people (famous last words before incinerating 500 bucks at the craps table). Lucas Glover is one of those people. Once considered a blue-chip prospect, he’s had a checkered career that has included a few highs and many lows, both on and off the course, but when he gets to Sin City, he becomes that young, birdie-making machine again. Over his past 12 rounds at TPC Summerlin, Glover is a combined 49-under par, which has been good enough for finishes of 3rd, 7th, and 9th. On this course, his bad rounds are in the 70-71 range and the good ones are down around 63-65. I don’t care how he’s been playing lately– and it’s not like he’s been playing all that poorly, considering he’s made his last two cuts and is only a couple of months removed from a victory at the John Deere Classic– if you give me a player with the kind of course history that Glover has at TPC Summerlin for a price like 270.o, I’m taking it. And you should too.