After a big week to open the season at the Fortinet Championship we came back down to earth at the Sanderson Farms Championship.
Now with two tournaments worth of statistics to go off of, we have a bit more of an understanding of some of the Korn Ferry Tour graduates.
The tour turns its attention to Las Vegas, Nevada for this week’s Shriners Hospital for Children Open at TPC Summerlin.
TPC Summerlin has been a part of the Tour for many years and annually plays as one of the easiest tracks year-in-and-year-out, just as many of these fall-swing courses do.
Not only does TPC Summerlin play short at 7,255 yards for a par 71, golfers are helped by elevation and the thinner air. The thinner air helps the ball travel longer in the air, which is evident as this course offers a well above-average driving distance.
It also helps that there are very few penalty areas and the rough is on the thinner side. Water is in play in just four of the holes.
As long as golfers aren’t too reckless with their drivers, they shouldn’t be tested by hazards all that much.
Approach shots are really where the tournament is won. Three-of-the-last-four winners of the event gained at least four strokes on the field via approach shots and placed within the top ten of the statistic for the tournament.
Proximity to the hole from 175 out too will be a major factor this week. Placing the ball in favorable spots on these pure bentgrass greens will go a long way.
Catching a hot flat-stick too will be very important as it’s proven in years past that if a golfer can get hot on the greens, they’ll look to dominate these greens and ultimately the tournament.
In all, this will most likely be a birdie-fest with the only hazard deterring golfers being the winds at times. Simply put, opportunities can not be wasted this week in looking for a win.
As for the weather this week, everything looks clear. Highs will be in the low 90’s all four days with no precipitation in the forecast. There will be some slight cloud cover over the weekend. The wind does not look to be a factor either.
Important statistics to consider this week include Strokes Gained: Tee to Green (SG: TTG,) Greens in Regulation Percentage, Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: APP,) Proximity to Hole from 150-175 Yards, Birdie or Better Percentage and Strokes Gained: Putting (SG: PUTT.)
My favorite this week is also Vegas’ (no pun intended) favorite in Patrick Cantlay ($11,100.) Cantaly won this event in 2020 and 2017, placed T8th in 2019 and second in 2018. He simply knows his way around this course and his record proves that. Last year he finished fifth on Tour in birdie or better percentage, 14th in SG: TTG, 18th in greens in regulation percentage, 28th in SG: PUTT, 32nd in proximity to hole 150-175 yards and 38th in SG: APP. He’s at +700 right now to win, which is one of the lowest odds we’ll see for any winner this season. If that doesn’t tell you the story about Cantlay and his success here at TPC Summerlin, I don’t know what will. Also consider Sungjae Im ($10,400.) Im won this event a year ago and had a very impressive middle-of-the-round run during the final round to separate him from the field. Like Cantlay, this will be his first PGA Tour event of the season. Last year he finished eighth in both SG: TTG and greens in regulation percentage. He was also 24th in birdie or better percentage, 37th in SG: PUTT, 45th in SG: APP and 64th in proximity to hole from 150-175 yards. Like Cantlay, Im’s results at this event are proven and you can’t go wrong with either of these two in your lineups.
If you’re playing Cantlay this week, you have to find some lineup flexibility and that’s where Tom Hoge ($9,000) comes into play. Hoge is a guy that statistically measures up to a lot of courses and here he is yet again, making an appearance in our series. Thus far this season he’s tenth in greens in regulation percentage, 12th in SG: APP, 25th in SG: TTG, 27th in proximity to hole from 150-175 yards and 30th in both birdie or better percentage and SG: PUTT. Hoge is an elite ball striker and has an elite approach game. With both approach and proximity statistics being the keys this week, the value of Hoge at just $9,000 is too much to pass up. Also consider Aaron Wise ($9,900.) On the complete opposite side of the price range, you’ll find Wise. This will be his debut for the current season like both Cantlay and Im. Last season he finished 21st in both greens in regulation percentage and SG: APP. Ball striking and elite iron play is the key to the South African’s game. He also finished 22nd in birdie or better percentage, 25th in SG: TTG, 54th in proximity to the hole from 150-175 yards and 81st in SG: PUTT. It’s been four years since Wise won on Tour, this could be his week to get back on top.
As I routinely say, this is the toughest price range to gauge week-in-and-week-out. I’m not in love with this price range yet again but the two options we have are still quality. First off we have Davis Riley ($8,800.) The one fault to Riley’s game to start the season is his below average ranking in SG: PUTT. He’ll need to catch a hot putter and improve on his current 145th tour ranking to make some noise this week. Besides that however he is 16th in SG: APP, 17th in greens in regulation percentage, 25th in proximity to the hole 150-175 yards and 48th in birdie or better percentage. Also consider Dean Burmester ($8,500.) Burmester is the opposite of Riley as he’s been lights out on the greens to start the season. He currently ranks fifth on tour in SG: PUTT. On top of that, he’s third in birdie or better percentage. We saw Kevin Na a few years back absolutely dominate the greens where he gained over 14 strokes on the field on the greens. That’s the exception to the rule however but we saw what elite putting can do at this tournament. On top of that he’s 19th in SG: TTG, 36th in proximity to the hole from 150-175 yards and 71st in greens in regulation percentage. The fault of his game is SG: APP which is a red flag here at TPC Summerlin but with an elite flat stick, I think Burmester can compete into the weekend.
Both suggestions in this price range actually rank rather high in our module Leading off we have Nick Taylor ($7,300.) In the two tournaments thus far this season, Taylor has gone T6th at the Fortinet Championship and T19th at the Sanderson Farms Championship. A lot of success in this fall stretch can be attributed to golfers who hit their stride and get on a run early. Taylor seems to be doing just that. He’s currently sixth on tour in birdie or better percentage, eight in SG: TTG, 15th in greens in regulation percentage, 22nd in SG: APP, 46th in proximity to hole from 150-175 yards and 71st in SG: PUTT. Also consider Mark Hubbard ($7,400.) Hubbard too has played both events thus far this season and has found some early season success. He went T21st at the Fortinet and T5th at the Sanderson Farms. He’s 14th on tour in SG: APP, 23rd in SG: PUTT, 24th in SG: TTG, 28th in birdie or better percentage, 40th in proximity to the hole from 150-175 yards and 47th in greens in regulation percentage. A very well rounded game for someone in this penultimate price range.
Now onto the price range that sets you apart from the rest and wins you the big bucks. First off we have Beau Hossler ($6,900) who actually ranks third in our module this week of all qualifying golfers. Hossler is currently third on tour in SG: APP and seventh in greens in regulation percentage. He’s also 27th in proximity to the hole 150-175 yards, 30th in birdie or better percentage, 36th in SG: TTG and 51st in SG: PUTT. Hossler played at the Fortinet Championship a few weeks back and placed T25th. Also consider Jimmy Walker ($6,200.) Walker is a six time winner on Tour, so he has proven he can win at the highest level at one point of his career. He missed the cut at the Sanderson Farms but placed T25th at the Fortinet a few weeks ago. He currently ranks 13th on tour in birdie or better percentage, 18th in SG: APP, 21st in proximity to the hole, 23rd in SG: TTG and 31st in greens in regulation percentage. He has been one of the worst on the tour in SG” PUTT to start the season. It’ll take a hot putter this week for Walker to make the cut, but as a six time tour winner, he has it in him.