“They're gonna give daddy the Rainman suite, you dig that? We're going to Vegas”
I’m not sure that’s what Phil Mickelson said to Adam Scott on Monday, but it is that week again—the week where we can dig up old Swingers quotes because the PGA Tour heads to Sin City for the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
Bryson Dechambeau returns to TPC Summerlin as the defending champion after holding off Patrick Cantlay by one stroke a year ago. This year Shriners Shriner’s field features a few other marquee names as world No. 1 Brooks Koepka will make his season debut and Phil Mickelson returns to the event for the first time in nearly 15 years.
Scoring is generally very low at the Shriners, as the Nevada winds are usually the only birdie deterrent. We saw that in 2017 when the winning score was 9 under par during a blustery week. Those winds are not forecasted this wee,k so the traditional shootout that produces scores in the neighborhood of 20 under can be expected.
Driving Distance, greens in regulation percentage and birddie average should be key stats this week. Last year, Dechambeau averaged 312 yards off the tee and hit a stunning 83% of his greens enroute to victory.
Nuts and bolts
Course: TPC Summerlin (7,255 yards, Par 71)
Defending champion: Bryson Dechambeau (-21, 263)
Weather forecast: Mostly sunny, temperatures in the mid 80s.
Patrick Cantlay (11/1, $11,800)
After an ordinary T40 at the Safeway to begin his season, Cantlay heads to Vegas, the site of his first career victory back in 2017. The world No. 7 is coming off a very productive season where he compiled a win, two seconds and two third-place finishes. In two starts at TPC Summerlin, Cantlay has a win and a runner-up finish and has a scoring average of 67.3 over eight rounds. He ranked in the top 30 in all of the important strokes gained categories last season, including second in strokes gained total.
Tony Finau (20/1, $11,200)
Fresh off a T10 at the Dunhill Links in Scotland, Finau is back stateside and ready to make his 2019-20 season debut. Finau has had consistent success at the Shriners where he’s never missed the cut in five starts and has three finishes inside the Top 16. Finau brings the length (ninth in driving distance) needed to attack TPC Summerlin and the scoring chops (15 in birdie average) required to keep up with a shootout.
Gary Woodland (35/1, $10,800)
The U.S. Open champion faded a bit during the second half of last season. A lot of that was due to Woodland taking a good chunk of time off after the birth of his twins. Gary admitted that it was “tough to play” the latter half of last season, and it showed, as he managed just one top 15 in six starts post-U.S. Open. The new season should give Woodland a fresh start, and a chance to continue his ascent to one of the top all around players in the world. He’s finished T-10 and T-18 in two previous starts at the Shriners, including a final-round 63 last year.
Chesson Hadley (110/1, $8,600)
One of golf’s mystery men, Hadley has just one career win (2014 Puerto Rico Open) in over five full seasons on Tour, yet he continues to occasionally pop up on leaderboards. He tallied three top 10s last season including a T2 at the CIMB in the fall. Chesson is long and accurate enough to get around TPC Summerlin, where he has three top 10s in five career starts including a T-7 in 2018 and a T-4 in 2017. His game seems to be in good form as well as he’s coming off a solid T-23 at the Safeway
Phil Mickelson (100/1, $8,900)
By the looks of the odds, even Vegas knows that the only thing in form for Mickelson right now are his calves. Fresh off a season-opening MC at the Safeway, Phil returns to the Vegas strip where he won “The Match” over Tiger Woods last November. Outside of that, Phil really doesn’t have much recent history on the golf course in Sin City as he hasn’t played the Shriners since 2005. He did compile four Top 10’s from 1992-2005 but his lack of starts over the past 15 years leads you to believe this may not be his favorite golf course. Most concerning? Lefty hit just 17% of his fairways over two rounds in Napa last week.