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The PGA TOUR heads back out west for a two-week stint in Las Vegas.
Week one in the Sin City will look familiar as they head to TPC Summerlin for this week's Shriners Children's Open.
This is a course they know very well while next week they'll head to a new venue, The Summit Club.
Back to this week, the field sits at 140 golfers with four more to be added after Monday Qualifying.
Let's jump right in and discuss the course.
TPC Summerlin is returning as the host of this week's event.
Played as a par 71 that stretches to just 7,255 yards, this Bobby Weed design has been a part of this tournament since the 1992 edition. Previously a three-course rota was used here but TPC Summerlin has played the role of solo host since 2008 when Marc Turnesa knocked off Matt Kuchar.
The raw yardage is not long by PGA TOUR standards. Add in a touch of altitude and firm and fast turf conditions, and it shrinks the course even more.
Off the tee, it's a mixed bag in terms of club selection. Golfers have a lot of options as they are forced to think their way around the course with doglegs and fairway bunkers along the way.
If you are debating whether distance is important this week, just look at the list of winners here and you'll see Kevin Na, Ryan Moore, Webb Simpson, and Ben Martin on the list over the last 10 years. These are some of the shorter hitters on TOUR while Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Cantlay have also added their name to the trophy in recent years, so don't dismiss the big hitters entirely.
Golfers will have plenty of wedges in hand this week. You can push the needle a little bit on some of the holes to maximize those wedge opportunities or you can lay back and still have lots of shot irons.
Looking at the scoring environment, the field averages more birdies and more eagles than the average TOUR stop while also swallowing fewer bogeys per round and right around average in terms of big numbers. That results in a scoring-fest that has produced winning scores of -19 or better in 11 of the last 13 years.
Talking about turf next, golfers will see bermudagrass fairways and rough with pure bentgrass greens that are relatively large targets (7,400 average square feet).
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Sifting through some past quotes, let's try to break down the course to see how it will play.
Patrick Cantlay: "I drive the ball pretty well so I have a lot wedge opportunities out there. I like the course. It sets up for a right-to-left shot on a lot of holes, which is my preferred shot."
Webb Simpson: "I like it because you have to think your way around this golf course. Other courses that we play, you don’t think. You hit driver and you hit it as far as you can. This golf course has doglegs, run-outs, bunkers. You really do have to think. I typically enjoy playing courses where you can hit driver, 3-wood, 5-wood on a lot of these holes."
Kevin Na: "I think you have to really drive the ball well and keep it in the fairway so you can control the spin. I know the roughs are not deep, but because of these greens and some of the hole locations, you have to hit the fairway to be able to spin the ball. You don’t have to bomb it out here. Anybody can win out here. You definitely have to make some putts."
Jordan Spieth: "Yeah, it’s a second-shot golf course. It’s not too difficult off the tee. Wider, but you can’t really hit a foul ball. You’ve got to to keep it in the barriers. And then the defense is really the pin locations with kind of around the greens, how difficult it is. I feel very comfortable on this grainy bermuda grass around the greens. I like the way the bent grass greens putt."
Patton Kizzire: "Yeah, this is a little bit more of a ball placement off the tee golf course, place your ball in the fairway and be accurate with your irons. And of course, I love a putting contest."
Looking at grass types, geography, course attributes, and past performance, here are a few courses/events that I think could prove to be a good pointer this week:
TPC River Highlands
Harbour Town GL
PGA West Rota
The main theme is shorter courses with lots of short irons and wedges...and then there is Quail Hollow. I'm not sure how they are most closely connected but there does seem to be a lot of overlap in success at Summerlin and Quail Hollow.
Thursday: Overcast with a high of 77 degrees. Winds at 10 to 14 MPH.
Friday: Partly Cloudy with a high of 71 degrees. Winds at 10 to 15 MPH.
There is a fair amount of wind in the pre-cut forecast so we may not see full scoring potential unlocked until the weekend.
Golfers to Watch
The Las Vegas resident is a two-time winner here, including a victory just two years ago. Na also posted a runner-up finish during the 2016 edition. He's always on the record for saying most PGA TOUR courses don't suit his style but this is one that does as it doesn't require power. It's also very familiar to him as he lives in the area.
The Wake Forest product was surely disappointed to miss out on the Ryder Cup this year but that was largely due to him fighting through injuries, early on in the 2021 schedule. He's looking healthy again and now he heads to a course that has treated him well over the years. Simpson is 8-for-10 here with seven of those doubling as top 25s including a win at the 2014 edition.
He was the hottest player on the planet for a stretch this summer but has cooled off since late in the season when he had to back out of a few events to rest his neck and back. Will he find that momentum again this fall? Tough to say but he did post a T21 here last year in his tournament debut.
There are four of five big hubs where the PGA TOUR pros decide to live. Las Vegas has joined those cities in a big way over the last five years. Wise is one of those youngsters that made Vegas their home base. He arrives off three straight top 30s and now he gets some home cooking this week. Not a bad option in weekly formats.
The Texan had a health scare to end the 2021 campaign and did not get a chance to play in the Ryder Cup. For someone who prides themselves on being Captain America, that had to be tough to watch. Will he respond to that omission with one of his signature out-of-the-blue wins or will he need some time to get back into form after his health scare? Reed is playing at TPC Summerlin for the third time (T22/2012; WD/2014).
Ranking the Field
1. Viktor Hovland
2. Abraham Ancer
3. Webb Simpson
4. Louis Oosthuizen
5. Brooks Koepka
6. Sam Burns
7. Scottie Scheffler
8. Will Zalatoris
9. Harris English
10. Paul Casey
11. Patrick Reed
12. Corey Conners
13. Hideki Matsuyama
14. Kevin Na
15. Sungjae Im
16. Ian Poulter
17. Joaquin Niemann
18. Cameron Tringale
19. Aaron Wise
20. Jason Kokrak