SHRINERS OPEN: While COVID may have temporarily changed Las Vegas– and not for the better, if reports are to be believed– it hasn’t kept away the PGA Tour, which has made a regular stop in the area for nearly 40 years and has found an excellent cause to support, with this being the 13th official staging of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
This tournament has seen better and better fields in recent years despite an unfavorable slot on the schedule, and this year, perhaps due in part to players wanting to stay in shape for next month’s Masters, the competition is especially stiff. Bryson DeChambeau (9.6) is teeing it up for the first time since his U.S. Open victory, and he’s joined atop BETDAQ’s Win Market by the likes of Webb Simpson (15.5), Collin Morikawa (19.5), Patrick Cantlay (20.0), and Hideki Matsuyama (21.0). Tony Finau entered the week as one of the favorites as well, but unfortunately it was revealed on Tuesday that he has tested positive for COVID and will be forced to withdraw. Still, there’s plenty of blue-chip talent on hand and a nice crop of mid-market challengers– it should be a fun week.
That is, it should be a fun week if you like birdies. This isn’t the U.S. Open, friend, far from it– it’s taken 20-under or better to win this tournament in 4 of the past 5 stagings, with Kevin Na reaching -23 last year. The course, TPC Summerlin, is a 7,250-yard Bobby Weed design with wide Bermuda fairways and large bentgrass greens. There won’t be any surprises out there, as this is the only course that has ever hosted this event, and only strong winds like we saw in 2017 can slow down the birdie deluge. West Coast guys have done well here recently, with the last three stagings being won by Na, DeChambeau, and Cantlay. But no matter where you’re from, if you want to get it done at TPC Summerlin, you better bring your birdies.
With that in mind, here are three I have an eye on this week:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Matthew Wolff (23.0)- Despite one of the more unusual swings you’ll see, Wolff is a ball-striking virtuoso who has been on an absolute tear over the past couple of months, logging six top-25s in his past nine starts, including runner-ups at the Rocket Mortgage and U.S. Open and a 4th-place showing in the PGA Championship. He carried the lead into Sunday at Winged Foot and was the only player other than DeChambeau to finish the week at par or better, and after a couple of weeks off he’s ready to take on a course that didn’t give him any problems on debut last year, as he broke 70 in all four rounds and finished the week at 15-under, good enough for a T18. He’s long enough to totally dominate the par-5s at Summerlin, and with the way he’s been striking his irons he’s a sure bet to be staring down birdie putts all day. He is only average on the greens, but he’s one who subscribes to that old Nick Faldo adage– “if you’re not making putts, hit it closer”. Wolff is well worth a bet here at better than 20/1.
Doc Redman (48.0)- We’re looking for someone who isn’t afraid to take it low this week and Redman certainly fits the bill, as he ranked 10th on Tour in total birdies last season and is fresh off a Sunday 62 at the Safeway Open that earned him a 3rd-place finish. That was Redman’s second excellent result over his past four starts– he also finished 3rd at the Wyndham, firing a third-round 63 in the process– so he’s been on a nice little run lately, shooting a combined 43-under is his last 14 competitive rounds. He got his feet wet at TPC Summerlin last year, making the cut and firing a 65 on Saturday before settling for a T42, and he’s playing much better this time around, so I expect a far better result. Redman is one to watch this week and a nice value at nearly 50/1.
Adam Hadwin (84.0)- Hadwin had a solid but unspectacular summer, making the cut in 10 of his past 11 starts but never really contending aside from a 4th-place showing at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. That’s pretty much the way it’s been for most of his career, however– he’s a guy who treads water for the most part and really makes his hay 3 or 4 weeks of the year, with those weeks often coming on the same courses, or the same types of courses. Well, it turns out TPC Summerlin is one of Hadwin’s “get rich” spots, with his highlights here including a T10 in 2015 and a 4th-place showing last year, when he closed with a 63. He always does his best work on bentgrass greens, so it’s no surprise that he generally rolls it well at Summerlin, and his relative lack of length off the tee doesn’t hurt him on the shortish layout. “Horses for courses” is a real thing, and Hadwin has shown that he’s tough to beat in this tournament. At better than 80/1, he’s my favorite long-odds bet on the board.