THE SHRINERS OPEN PREVIEW
This week the Tour heads to TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas Nevada for the Shriners Hospital for Children Open. Vegas has been a PGA stop since 1983 and it is where Tiger notched his first ever victory on Tour back in 1996 (Damn I’m old). Bryson Dechambeau who is coming off a decent showing in Napa, is your defending champ and the field in general is rather decent. It is headlined by golf’s Alpha Brooks Koepka who somehow got his brother Chase in the field (he’s bad). Phil’s Calves, which he will be known as until he makes a cut, Cantlay, Bryson, Finau and the reigning U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland round out a field that has seen high class winners over the years. Before we break down TPC Summerlin lets recap the Safeway Open.
SAFEWAY OPEN RECAP
After what had to be a roller coaster week, Cam Champ held onto his 54-hole lead to take the crown in Napa. What an awesome story that made it really difficult to root against the now two-time winner on Tour. The sky is the limit for the longest player on Tour and if can continue the kind of putting form he showed last week you can expect multiple trips to the winner’s circle this year. Morikawa played well but couldn’t make a run on Sunday, notching another T10. Adam Scott, behind a first round 65 that found him in the lead, bested Sungjae Im by 8 strokes to cash the featured head to head. Finally, an unfortunate 2nd round 74 prevented Cameron Tringale from cashing the very generous T20 number as he finished in a tie for 44th.
TPC Summerlin, located in the suburbs of Las Vegas, has been the host of this event for the last 9 years. The Par 71, 7255 yard track is setup for low scoring, with past winners coming in at -20 or better. The course plays at altitude, roughly 2.000 feet above sea level, which makes all 3 Par 5s reachable for the entire field.
The true test Summerlin presents is hitting the Bermuda grass fairways. In most weeks, especially during the swing season, accuracy off the tee means very little but when looking at the path to success of previous winners here off the tee statistics jump out. The last 4 winners have averaged 10th in the field in Strokes Gained Off The Tee while Averaging 12th in Strokes Gained Approach and 31st in Strokes Gained putting. This makes sense when looking at the fact the course has played in the bottom third in most difficult every year except 2017 when winds kept golfers at Bay. Golfers must find the fairway In order to put themselves in prime position to fire at pins for those necessary birdies.
Players will love the pure Bentgrass green complexes, always the most pure surface to putt on. The greens are said to have certain subtleties that reward players who have experience at Summerlin. Missing the green will leave you not only without a birdie opportunity, but also in gnarly Bermuda rough which contributes to scrambling difficulty here usually ranking inside the top 10 most difficult.
My model this week reflects the necessity to make birdies at TPC Summerlin. SG: OTT and Fairways Gained are the statistics I’m looking at to identify those who are solid off the tee. With a keen approach game necessary, SG: APP and Opportunities Gained will also be included.
Tony Finau +2350 – Tony Finau needs a REAL win on tour, and no I don’t count his Puerto Rico Open win that ran concurrent to a WGC back in 2016. The guy is an absolute stud with multiple runner up finishes to go along with T10s in every single Major. Finau is in excellent striking form, gaining an average of 6.7 strokes ball striking over his last 5 tournaments. His game always comes down to the putter and Bent is his preferred surface as it is the only green type where he has gained strokes putting over his career. Finau is likely to win at a course like Summerlin where the putting isn’t a premium; the last 4 winners have averaged 31st in the field in strokes gained putting. This is an event Tony has played in every year since 2014 and he will have no issues adjusting to the altitude considering he hails from Utah. While the price is steeper than I usually play, I just can’t ignore the fit here.
Aaron Wise +6050 – If off the tee game is pivotal for success at Summerlin, it is hard to ignore Aaron Wise. Wise didn’t see the same success in 2019 as 2018 where he came away with a win and Rookie of the Year honors but it certainly wasn’t because of his driver as he finished 11th on Tour in Strokes Gained Off the Tee in 2019. What Wise was unable to do last year is put together an all around solid game for 4 rounds. In tournaments where he gained strokes on approach, he lost them putting. Putting well? Irons left him. Then when both of those aspects clicked, he would lose strokes around the green. As stated earlier, Wise doesn’t have to have an all world putting performance for success. His OTT game will be there and if he needs to rely on his around the green game it means he won’t be in contention. This week is simple for Wise, how many strokes will he gain on approach this week? 5 Strokes Gained on Approach or more and he will be in contention on Sunday and I am more than happy to back a former winner at such a high price when the variables are low.
Cameron Percy Top 20 +400 – This is a pure form play as Percy has finished T7 and T11 in his last two starts. While he has been basically even to the field off the tee, he has been absolutely striking his irons, a whopping 10.7 strokes on approach over those same two tournaments. Looking back over his last 5 outings, Percy has shown he can gain strokes off the tee as well as he has averaged 1.8 gained in the category over his last 5. For a guy who has only missed 1 cut since May and is coming off two straight T20s, I’ll gladly back that form at 4/1.
2u Bud Cauley -1.5 (-120) o Phil Mickelson – While Phil has become an internet phenomenon due to an absolutely outstanding Twitter account, his golf game has gone to shit. Phil’s calves have missed more cuts than they have made since March and, surprisingly, it is entirely due to his inability to hit bombs. Phil absolutely stinks off the tee, losing strokes in the category in each of his last 9 outings. It doesn’t help that Phil’s irons have left him as well, failing to gain strokes in 8 of his last 10 tournaments. Cauley on the other hand is simply a solid pro, making 6 straight cuts by doing nothing spectacular. During that run he has averaged strokes gained in each of the 4 major categories, showing his floor is high enough to warrant a 2 unit wager vs Phil who seems to have reached rock bottom.
That is it for this week’s breakdown! Thank you for reading. My Outright plays are below, look for my full card on Wednesday morning and as always feel free to shoot me any questions on Twitter @jmazzjd!