LAS VEGAS -- It always takes a little luck to win in Las Vegas. At TPC Summerlin, it takes the luck of the draw.
Wind can be a huge factor in the desert, and it will be this week during the Justine Timberlake Shriners Hospitals For Children Open. The gusts sweep over the exposed TPC Summerlin course, causing balls to veer toward the desert and hazards. The breezes wick moisture off the greens, creating firmer, faster and more challenging putting surfaces.
The winds usually arrive in the afternoon but there can also be found in the morning, creating a disparity between early and late tee times.
A player who goes late on Thursday and plays in windy conditions is hoping for a softer golf course during his Friday morning session, but this is not always the case. There are times when the wind is blowing hard all day long, or it can howl in the morning and lay down in the afternoon.
Players look toward downtown Las Vegas and the Stratosphere Hotel. There are thrill rides at the very top of the hotel, which are exposed to the wind. If those rides are running, the wind is minimal. When the breezes get gusty and the rides are stopped, it's a signal the wind is coming, and golfers are in for tough conditions.
One player told me: "It was like someone flicked on a switch as they announced my name on the tee. Like turning on a huge fan. All of a sudden, the wind blew and then howled. It was at least two shots harder. That's just the bad end of the times."
When you factor in the pressure of the week, with many in the field fighting to secure their PGA TOUR cards for 2013, it can seem nature conspires against golfers.
There has always been a "luck factor" in golf. Rub of the green. Good and bad tee times are suppose to even out over the course of the year, but at this point of the season, it often doesn't feel equitable to some struggling players.
It never hurts to have luck on your side in Las Vegas.
Downtown: TPC Summerlin affords a great view of Las Vegas but players aren't glancing toward the Vegas Strip to admire the neon lights. The land gently slopes from Summerlin to Las Vegas, and it's a great indicator of which direction the putts will break. Just like in Palm Springs, when everything breaks toward Indio, everything at TPC Summerlin breaks toward Las Vegas. That's where the money is.
Par 5s:Players need to take advantage of the par 5s this week. There are only three of them on this par 71, and they offer great scoring chances. The ninth is the easiest hole on the course, and most of the field will reach it in two. The 13th hole begins a string of scoring chances with a reachable par 5, a short par 3, a driveable par 4 and the final par 5. That four-hole stretch is where a player has to make his move.
Drama:The 17th hole is a great penultimate test. It's a 200-yard par 3 with water down the left-hand side. The green slopes towards the water. When a player is in contention on the 71st hole with the wind blowing, it is a very intimidating tee shot. Golfers have celebrated and cried walking to the 18th tee. It was here than Jonathan Byrdscored his aceto win the 2010 event in a playoff.
Winner, winner: The course and tournament seem to spit out first-time winners like Kevin Na -- solid players who are looking for a breakthough victory. In fact, eight of the last ten winners scored their first victory at TPC Summerlin, so let's go outside the box this week: Kevin Stadler. He played well in the FedExCup Playoffs and has posted five top-10s this season. When in Vegas, you sometimes have to play the longshot.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio,click here.
- Las Vegas