The Sin City Swing kicks off this week at TPC Summerlin.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, next week’s CJ CUP has been moved to Shadow Creek in Las Vegas, so this will be a two-week trip for many in the field.
Shadow Creek will be a wildcard in terms of how they set it up for tournament play but this week’s course has plenty of history.
We will dive into that history, look at the weather, and highlight of few names from the list of 144 golfers that may be worth watching this week.
TPC Summerlin has played a role in this event since 1992 and it’s been the solo host venue since 2008.
This Bobby Weed design has been kind to shorter hitters with some winners over the last 10 years being Kevin Na (x2), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Rod Pampling, and Ben Martin. Don’t cross off heavy hitters, though, because Patrick Cantlay and Bryson DeChambeau have won two of the last three editions played here in the desert.
The scorecard reads 7,255 yards and plays as a par 71, pretty long when you look at raw yardage. However, you need to remeber there is a touch of altitude in Vegas and the fairways are usually firm. If you are finding fairways then the course really shortens up quickly. Like I mentioned with the list of winners above, distance is not required here.
On approach, golfers will typically see tucked pins that are tough to land close to. No bother as scores are still very low here on a year-to-year basis. It helps to have so many approach shots with short irons or wedges. Winners have eclipsed the 20-under mark in 8 of the last 10 editions. Last year, Kevin Na even passed that mark with a round to play.
The rough is bermudagrass so comfort on that turf can be crucial if you need to glue your rounds together and avoid the big numbers. The rough is not super penalizing, though, so that comfort would likely come in handy more around-the-greens when you are trying to get up-and-down.
Speaking of big numbers, they can be found here with OB or water. The course stats in that regard are around TOUR average but the ease of the course comes from the amount of “birdie holes.” In terms of Birdie or Better Rate, TPC Summerlin is right up there with courses like Kapalua, TPC Deere Run, and PGA WEST as easiest to score. Golfers who play all four rounds are likely going to average around 17 or more birdies this week so you need to keep your foot on the gas to keep up.
When golfers reach the greens they’ll see a flip to bentgrass turf and the greens typically run in the 11.5 to 12 feet range on the stimpmeter. Pretty standard speed for the PGA TOUR.
Sifting through some past quotes, let’s try to break down the course to see how it will play.
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.”
Patrick Cantlay: “Hit a lot of tee balls in play and far down there, which leaves you a lot of wedges into this golf course, or around this golf course, a lot of wedges. That’s what it takes to play well here. If I keep driving it well, should have a lot of opportunities.”
Brian Harman “the greens in the afternoon get firm and they get really tricky, so that’s the hardest part of the afternoon. You get the advantage of the ball going much further. Tomorrow morning be a challenge. Ball won’t go quite as far, so that will be an adjustment. We’ll get it figured out and do the best we can.”
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. ”
Rod Pampling: “You don’t have to be the bomber to do it all. Playing with Brooks today, he hits it a long way, but he was hitting a lot of irons off the tee, so it’s still a positional golf course, and that’s what you need to do is position yourself properly and give yourself the chances.”
Overview: The comments from Simpson and Cantlay show the differences you may see in tee-ball strategy this week. Some will go aggressive with lots of drivers while others feel more comfortable laying back. Both have got the job done here in the past.
What Harman brings up reminds us a lot of TPC Scottsdale becasue we often see cool morning and hot afternoons, giving golfers more things to adjust for, in this case weather.
Spieth discusses the comfort factor with the various grasses here at TPC Summerlin.
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 Scottsdale (Phoenix Open)
PGA WEST Rota
Quail Hollow (Wells Fargo)
It’s easy to see why Scottsdale would show up (desert course with lots of similarities) and PGA WEST (easy scoring). As for Quail Hollow? That code is harder to track but there is a fair bit of crossover success when you look at the top course horses at TPC Summerlin, so there must be something to it. Maybe something with the shape of the holes or the tee-to-green bermuda.
Thursday: Mostly Cloudy with a high of 86 degrees. Winds at 5 to 16 MPH.
Friday: Sunny with a high of 84 degrees. Winds at 7 to 17 MPH.
This course is going to yield really low scores unless the wind howls. The current forecast doesn’t call for any extreme wind so look for birdies to be racked up in bunches out of the gate.
Golfers to Watch
Making his first start since becoming a major champion. It’s a good event for his return, too, as he’s crushed it here in the past with a WIN and two other top 10s in four tries. In typical Bryson fashion, when he talks about why he likes the course he discussess the climate and other environmental factors, “I love it. It’s dry air. It’s kind of what I grew up. Fresno, California is not really humid. Kind of the same vibe and feel and conditions. There is a little elevation; that’s just a change.”
We know Bryson likes to attack but Cantlay also talks about his aggressive strategy paying off here at TPC Summerlin. “I think that’s a big part of playing this golf course well, is hitting driver a lot. I hit driver a lot out here when other guys might lay up.” That strategy has definitely worked for him with finishes of WIN-2nd-2nd in three tries.
The big hitter arrives on the heels of four straight top 20s but he’ll be put to the test when it comes to overcoming course-history demons. Kokrak has finished outside of the top 60 in 6-of-8 starts here and the other two were nothing to text home about with T38 and T20 finishes. An easy avoid for me but if you want to ride the hot hand then Kokrak will likely be overlooked this week due to that history.
Las Vegas has become a hot spot for recent golf grads. It makes sense with the Pac 12 being loaded in recent years. If a golfer went to school out West, graduated in the last five years, and are playing this week then there is a strong chance they are now based in Las Vegas. Names like Collin Morikawa, Mav McNealy, Wyndham Clark, Aaron Wise, and Justin Suh all fit the bill. When you look at the course horses at this event you see Vegas staples like Kevin Na, Scott Piercy, and Ryan Moore near the top. Don’t be surprised if some of these younger guys take the baton and run with it over the next 10 editions of the Shriners.
Impressed last week by remembering how to putt. With his eyes closes, at that! Now he’ll flip back to bentgrass directly off a victory. Does he stay hot or have a letdown week? He’s the first man off my top 20 rankings board so I’m leaning toward him having a ho-hum week after the big win. His only experience at this event was a missed cut in 2003 when it was a 54-hole cut played across three different courses.
If Garcia popped back into form last week, could others follow suit soon? With the Masters quickly approaching, it’s time to shine. For Fowler, it’s been a while since he did that. His last top 10 came at The American Express in January. That was right after a T5 at Kapalua. Both events with extremely easy scoring conditions. That’s what he’ll see again this week. Not a safe play, but certainly one with lots of upside.
Hit the wall last week after back-to-back top 10s. He’s still fighting for PGA TOUR status so don’t expect him to pack it in after one bad week. It will be interesting to see if he bounces back in a big way this week.
Speaking of bouncebacks, Scheffler showed plenty of rust in his return from the COVID-19 layoff. Was that enough to get it out of his system or does he need to burp up a few more big numbers before getting back on track? The Texan finished T74 here last year in his tournament debut. He opened 67-67 but fading on the weekend with rounds of 74 and 75.
Ranking the Field
1. Bryson DeChambeau
2. Webb Simpson
3. Collin Morikawa
4. Patrick Cantlay
5. Tony Finau
6. Hideki Matsuyama
7. Harris English
8. Matthew Wolff
9. Scottie Scheffler
10. Louis Oosthuizen
11. Will Zalatoris
12. Paul Casey
13. Zach Johnson
14. Abraham Ancer
15. Doc Redman
16. Russell Henley
17. Cameron Davis
18. Jason Day
19. Brendan Steele
20. Sungjae Im