SHRINERS HOSPITALS OPEN: The PGA Tour’s wraparound season continues this week with the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, an awkwardly-named event that supports an extremely noble cause and therefore has drawn a better field than you would expect for a Fall Series tournament scheduled in the heart of the traditional offseason.
Of course, the location doesn’t hurt– and I’m not talking about the host course, the thoroughly unremarkable TPC Summerlin. No, I’m talking about the town– Las Vegas, Sin City USA, where you can get married by Elvis, fly a helicopter, fire off a few rounds at the machine gun range, take in some bikini mud wrestling at a perfectly seedy dive, party with the rich and famous at some of the swankiest night clubs in the world, and lose your life savings, all in the span of a few hours. If you haven’t been there, take it from me: it’s every bit as glorious as it sounds. And if you’re one of those “Vegas is horrible” people, we can’t be friends.
As for the golf course, it’s a 7,250-yard par-71 that features bermuda fairways and rough, and bentgrass greens. This will be the 12th consecutive year that TPC Summerlin has hosted this event, so there are no secrets out there, and the scores are generally quite low. Last year, for instance, Bryson DeChambeau shot 66 or better in all four rounds to finish at 21-under, the third time in the past five years that it’s taken 20-under or lower to get the job done here. Unless the winds kick up like they did in 2018, we can expect a birdie fest once again.
World No. 1 Brooks Koepka heads BETDAQ’s Win Market at 12.0, but I don’t know about you– I think I’d rather back Koepka in the U.S. Open than at the Shriners Hospitals Open. This doesn’t exactly fit the profile of a “get your attention” event, know what I mean? And after Koepka’s comments about seldom practicing outside of majors, I think it’s pretty safe to say that the craps tables at the Bellagio will be seeing more of Mr. Koepka this week than the driving range at TPC Summerlin. So I’ll be putting my money elsewhere, and frankly I’m feeling pretty good about what we came up with. Here’s what I’m thinking:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Webb Simpson (26.0)- Simpson quietly played some of the finest golf of his career this summer: over his last 8 starts, which encompass the FedExCup Playoffs and two majors, he has three runner-up finishes, no finishes of worse than 30th, and is a combined 53-under par. He’s had a few weeks off, and now he comes to one of his favorite stops on Tour: TPC Summerlin, a course that he once said reminds him of the courses he grew up on in North Carolina, which also featured Bermuda fairways and bentgrass greens. Simpson won this event back in 2013, blitzing the field with a 4-round total of 24-under par, and he finished 4th the following year. Last year he broke 70 in all four rounds and tied for 15th, so his history at Summerlin speaks for itself. He should be viewed as one of the clear favorites this week and is a worthwhile bet at a price like 26.0.
Aaron Wise (52.0)- This past summer was a struggle for Wise, as he just couldn’t quite get over the hump. It’s not that he’s been playing terribly– he’s made the cut in 10 of his past 12 starts, but has only found the top-20 twice in that span, which is disappointing for a player of his caliber. But he showed some signs of life at the Sanderson Farms Championship two weeks ago, with only a poor third round (73) keeping him from contention, and now he returns home to Vegas, where he’s been living since finishing college three years ago. Home cooking seems to agree with Wise, as he’s always played very well in this event, finishing T10, T32, and T15 in three career appearances. Maybe the familiar surroundings and the confidence gained from returning to a place where he’s had success will be just the jolt Wise needs to elevate his game from cut-maker to contender. He’s worth a shot at better than 50/1.
Kevin Streelman (130.0)- If you’re looking for someone worth chancing in the triple-digits this week, you may want to consider Streelman, an 11-year veteran with 2 career victories who is just two starts removed from a 4th-place showing at the Sanderson Farms Championship. A Scottsdale, Arizona resident, Streelman generally does his best work out West, and this event has been particularly good to him over the years, as he’s made the cut in all nine of his appearances here and has logged five top-25s, the most recent of which came last year. Though he’s always been a bit inconsistent, Streelman has shown the ability to contend when his game is right– in addition to his T4 at the Sanderson Farms two weeks ago, he’s had three other finishes of 6th place or better over his last dozen starts. He has a better chance this week than his price would indicate.