Birdies will be had as the PGA Tour heads west to Las Vegas for this week's Shriners Children's Open.
Just eight courses played easier than TPC Summerlin last season, including last week's venue, Country Club of Jackson. But unlike the Sanderson layout, TPC Summerlin is much more forgiving off the tee. There's a reason why Matt Wolff finished runner-up here in back-to-back years. Martin Laird, who can still hit his irons at an elite level, is a horse for this course, which should also tell you something.
There are a couple big names who are also past champions at this event: Patrick Cantlay, the 2017 winner at TPC Summerlin, and defending champion Sungjae Im. Both were top-50 approach players on Tour last season.
Starting with those two stars, here are my top 10 players to watch – plus a sleeper – for this week's Shriners:
(And let's see if we can top last week, when my top 10 and sleeper went 7 for 11 in making the cut while combined for three top-10s and two other top-30s.)
1. Patrick Cantlay: No one in the field has played this course better in the past five years than Cantlay, who has made four starts at TPC Summerlin during that span, winning in 2017, finishing runner-up in each of the next two years and tying for eighth in his most recent trip in 2020. He’s in great form, too, going 3-1 at the Presidents Cup after winning the BMW and posting four other top-10s in his last five starts.
2. Sungjae Im: The defending champ has been knocking on the door with three runner-up finishes in his last five starts. TPC Summerlin would be a logical place to break back into the winner’s circle as he also own two other top-15s in his past three Shriners starts.
3. Aaron Wise: He ended last season with a strong 12-event stretch that included a runner-up at Memorial, six other top-25s and only one missed cut. This week marks his first start of the new campaign, and it comes at a place where he owns three career top-10s in six tries.
4. Taylor Montgomery: Sure, there’s a local angle with Montgomery being a Las Vegas native and UNLV product – and the son of the GM at Shadow Creek – but the rookie is also playing elite golf right now with back-to-back top-10s to start the fall. If you include KFT events, he’s got six straight top-10s dating to last season.
5. Tom Kim: The 20-year-old earned his Tour card by winning Wyndham in August, and he recently stole the hearts of everyone at the Presidents Cup. Now, it’s time for his Shriners debut under the bright lights of Las Vegas. Buy the hype; he’s going to have another big week.
6. Matt NeSmith: Loves it here as he’s posted a T-18, T-8, T-14 record in three trips to TPC Summerlin. And he’s coming off a T-9 at Sanderson, which got him back on track after a MC in Napa. When he plays well, he gains a ton of strokes via approach, and he’s coming off one of the better ball-striking weeks he’s had this year.
7. Nick Hardy: Last week we went with a different Illini alum (Thomas Detry, who just missed the top 10 this week). This time we’ll go with Hardy, who has the potential to be out on Tour a very long time. Tee to green, he can hang with anybody, and he’s hitting his irons at an elite level right now. T-5 last week in Jackson and he really has been playing nicely since returning from a wrist injury in May.
8. Emiliano Grillo: So-so record at TPC Summerlin, cracking the top 50 in each of his past two trips. But he’s coming off a T-5 in Mississippi and owns two runner-up finishes since July. If he doesn’t throw a club into a cactus – see last week’s overhead toss – he’ll contend.
9. Dean Burmester: Solo fourth in Mississippi and now gets a chance to bomb it in the desert. For as much talk as there is about his length, though, he putted it quite nicely last week. He also made me look smart, so I'm rolling with him again.
10. Max Homa: Riding quite the momentum wave following a win in Napa and then a 4-0 Presidents Cup debut, so he makes the list. But beware: he’s a bit risky this week as he’s missed three straight Shriners cuts (and four of five for his career), plus you never know when the baby is going to come!
Sleeper: Beau Hossler: It’s a super small sample size, but no one has hit their irons better so far this season than Hossler (1.445 strokes gained approach), who opened his fall with a T-25 in Napa. He’s played well historically in Vegas, too, highlighted by a T-7 showing back in 2017.