The TOUR heads to Las Vegas this week for the Shriners. Unlike the recent Asian Swing, we get a full(er) field with ShotLink and a return to reasonable viewing times.
The course is TPC Summerlin which has played the role of solo host since the 2008 edition. Prior to that it shared the host duties, so let’s keep the history to 2008 and in. As you’d expect playing in Vegas, we have desert golf on deck and the course is played in slight altitude, around 2,700 feet above sea level.
The course allows you to pull plenty of drivers but it’s not really a huge advantage to blast bomb after bomb since the course is extremely easy if you are playing from the fairways. Looking at GIR percentage from the fairway, the Shriners is right near the top (easiest) year after year along with courses like Kapalua, Sea Island, and Sedgefield.
That does bring the plodders into play since they can hit fairways, hit greens, and then HIT putts. Big hitters also have the ability to really take it deep here, but that is very dependent on how steady they are off the tee each round. Lastly, we can’t rule out the regional connection. Guys that grew up, live in, or went to school in Vegas or Arizona often show up near the top of the board here.
For correlated courses I honed in on easy-to-hit bentgrass greens, time of the year the tournament is played, the amount of drivers hit, etc. to narrow my search. Not all of these events check every box but these five courses graded out as potential pointers: TPC Scottsdale, Augusta National, Sedgefield CC, Innisbrook Copperhead Course, and TPC Boston.
TPC Scottsdale would be my favorite link of the week since it’s another course in the region. Desert golf in a bit of altitude on a course that allows you to pull drivers if you want.
Check out the Shriners Golfanac for more tournament details and golfer quotes.
Players to Watch
Webb Simpson… He’s a past champ at the course. Had this to say about TPC Summerlin back in 2014, “I love this golf course because it reminds me of the course I grew up playing. You have a lot of options off the tee, and greens are undulating and fast. So I’m just comfortable here, comfortable playing this kind of golf.” Looking at the last two months of action, he’s also gained the 6th-most strokes to the field in that time (looking at this week’s field only). Good form, good course vibes, and good course history… a recipe for success.
Tony Finau… Another golfer in stellar form. I mention the regional Vegas/Arizona connection. Finau should also qualify as he comes from Utah, just next door to Vegas so he should also be very acclimated to this style of golf. Posted a T7 in his 2015 debut here but has returned with fading results (T16 in 2016 edition and T41 last year). I expect him to reverse that trend this week.
Patrick Cantlay… Valspar graded out as a possibly correlated venue, and that’s the site of Cantlay’s best finish on TOUR. He is returning from China which is a bit of a concern since he was so hesitant to play back-to-back weeks last year. Other than that, I think it’s full steam ahead for PC.
Michael Kim … One of the better putters on TOUR and has plenty of West Coast ties. Over the past two seasons he’s gained 4+ strokes putting (in a week) on eight occasions. That includes +7.7 SGP and +6.6 SGP in his two visits to TPC Summerlin. His next best two putting appearances? The Farmers and Shriners… both West Coast events. This week’s course isn’t overly demanding from tee-to-green, so I like Kim to toss himself into contention at some point this week.
Anirban Lahiri… His recent meditation trip has re-unlocked his birdie making skills. He finished last season with a top 10 at the BMW and has opened the new season with a pair of top 10s in Asia. Will be interesting to see if that forms follows him back to the States but I think this week’s course certainly sets up well for him to keep it rolling.
Byeong Hun An… In similar fashion to Uihlein in Asia, An in the Desert is another strong trend that seems to pan out more often than not. If you look at this OWGR page and scroll down to his “Best Performances” then you’ll see that four of his 10 best finishes on the PGA TOUR/Euro Tour have come in the Middle East and one of them came in Phoenix (desert golf). Don’t let Benny slip through the cracks this week.
Aaron Wise… I wanted Wyndham Clark to crack this week’s field so I could play the “All Jeff Smith Core” of Clark, Wise, and Piercy. I’m sure there are even more in his stable but Jeff Smith is the swing coach for guys like Wise, Clark, and Piercy and he sets up his camp at TPC Summerlin. On his YouTube page he claims to have worked with Charles Howell III, Pat Perez, Brian Gay, Scott Piercy, Mike Weir, James Hahn, Erik Compton and Kevin Na. Not sure which ones are still currently with Smith but I know Clark and Wise are two of his prized ponies at the moment. Aaron Wise gets my full attention as he calls TPC Summerlin home, he finished T10 here last year in his debut, and he is just 34th in the Web graduate reshuffle. He could use a few more strong finishes in the fall to guarantee some extra starts when 2018 rolls around.
My Top 25 for the 2018 Shriners
1. Webb Simpson
2. Tony Finau
3. Ryan Moore
4. Anirban Lahiri
5. Byeong Hun An
6. Scott Piercy
7. Martin Laird
8. Kevin Streelman
9. Aaron Wise
10. James Hahn
11. Kevin Chappell
12. Patrick Cantlay
13. Gary Woodland
14. Kevin Na
15. Charley Hoffman
16. Michael Kim
17. William McGirt
18. Bryson DeChambeau
19. Smylie Kaufman
20. Luke List
21. Scott Brown
22. Jamie Lovemark
23. Shawn Stefani
24. Patrick Rodgers
25. Cameron Tringale