The fall season rolls onward to the Butterfield Bermuda Championship this week with a field filled with names from yesteryear.
Good morning Shaun Micheel, how are ya? Well hello there Mr. Ted Purdy. Ricky Barnes, John Rollins, Andres Romero. They’re all there too.
Still, it’s a full-fledged FedExCup points tournament with the 132 players competing for $6.5 million.
Port Royal, a classic Robert Trent Jones layout, is the worthy host. The par 71 is the second shortest course on the circuit (6,828 yards) and features three difficult par 3s that can play longer than 200 yards and six par 4s between 350-400 yards. This is the third edition of the tournament. Brendon Todd prevailed at 24 under in 2019 while crafty veteran Brian Gay nipped Wyndham Clark in a playoff last year after they finished regulation tied at 15 under.
There is no Strokes Gained data for this tournament, unfortunately, but it’s worth noting that 11 of the top 15 finishers last year were top 30 in fairways hit and greens in regulation.
Last year several contenders praised the condition of the greens (don’t they always!). But putts can be made.
On any island, wind plays a significant part in the story. Last year gusts exceeded 30 mph. This week’s forecast calls for more typical breezes in the 15-20 mph range. But be certain to check the weather before setting your lineup.
Caddying in a strong wind is challenging. Players are trying to match shape and trajectory to hit the ball the proper distance. If either is off, a poor result likely awaits. Caddying in the wind out of the rough can feel impossible. Trying to determine the amount of spin out of a certain lie, whether a ball will knuckle through it or be beaten down by it confirms a week on this island is no vacation for the men on the bag.
The pros will also opt for fairway metals, hybrids or long irons on the shorter holes and making the proper selection is crucial.
Doc Redman summarized the value of hitting the fairways last year, when he contended for the title: “Really with this wind, being in the fairway is really nice. You know, you never really want to be in the rough, so I think being in the fairway’s really nice because you can control your ball flight a lot better, and your distance. So I think on some holes it definitely helps, but for me I just want to be in the fairway.”
Our forecast this week favors players who have performed well at places like Waialae, Harbour Town, Sedgefield, Sea Island and Innisbrook in recent years. Plodders can thrive here, so fairway finders and greens in regulation leaders rose in the rankings as did players who arrive in Bermuda on a warm streak.
- Max McGreevy, Cam Percy, Adam Svensson, Dawie Van der Walt, Camilo Villegas
As always, good luck.
Golfer power rankings
25. Taylor Pendrith – Needs to find the groove with his irons but has the length to overpower Port Royal like Wyndham Clark did a year ago. Played the weekend in each of his three starts during the 2021-22 season.
24. Mark Hubbard – Made 11 of the last 12 cuts due to extremely consistent ballstriking and solid putting. Bermuda isn’t his favorite surface but his weekend reliability makes him a sharp play this week.
23. Kramer Hickok – The Travelers runner up has a pair of top 20s in his two trips to Bermuda. Top 12 in fairways gained, GIRs gained and sand saves gained over the last 24 rounds. The putter holds him back most weeks but Bermuda is his favorite surface.
22. Hank Lebioda – A balky driver has contributed to his poor performance since three consecutive top 10s last summer, however he’s an excellent wind player with a pair of top-20 finishes in this tournament.
21. Alex Smalley – Has made four of the last five cuts on the PGA Tour despite below average putting in three of those events. Bermuda is his best surface though and he was better than the field average in SG: Approach in his last two starts.
20. Denny McCarthy – Elite putter performs his best on Bermuda greens and a T-17 and 1.3 shots gained on approach at Shriners are signs his game is in good shape. Has thrived at Port Royal with a pair of top-20 results.
19. Austin Cook – He gained 8.3 fairways and 3.9 greens last time out in a T-67 at Sanderson Farms and opened the season with a T-11 at Fortinet. He missed 10 consecutive cuts during one stretch last season but has played well in the fall historically, finishing runner up at the Shriners a year ago. Strong numbers on comp courses like Waialae, Sea Island and Innisbrook.
18. Luke Donald – The former World No. 1 sounded rejuvenated toward the end of last season, encouraged by promising top 20s at the Byron Nelson and 3M Open. His iron game remains stellar, gaining shots in seven of his last eight starts. No stranger to the wind, he can thrive on a course of this length if a few more drives find the fairway.
17. Scott Stallings – Missed consecutive cuts after a T-6 at Fortinet but he’s collected FedExCup points during his career on similar courses such as Sea Island and Sedgefield. Departed this island with his share of cash as well (T-26, T-18) the last two years.
16. Matthew NeSmith – Has fared well on comparable courses like Sea Island and Harbour Town in the past. Finished 14th at the Shriners and 48th at Zozo and his ballstriking is trending upward, led by strong iron play.
15. Jason Dufner – Enjoying a quiet resurgence with five consecutive finishes of 42nd or better, including four top 30s in the span. Has averaged 2.3 shots gained on approach and 5.8 Tee-to-Green in those events. Bermuda is his best surface.
14. Mito Pereira – Leads the field in SG: Approach, SG: Ballstriking and SG: Tee-to-Green over the last 24 rounds. Not a good putter on Bermuda greens, however, and lost four shots on the greens in the last two tournaments.
13. Chad Ramey – Top 20 in SG: Approach and SG: Tee-to-Green over the last 24 rounds. Putter started to heat up at the Shriners in a tie for 14th. Finished last season with four consecutive top 20s on the Korn Ferry Tour.
12. Nick Watney – Another rejuvenated golfer playing on a career money exemption this season, he vaulted toward gaining full status again last month with a runner up (on Bermuda greens) in Jackson. Altogether, has made six of the last seven cuts and been steady tee-to-green throughout the run. Ideal field and good course for him to continue his resurgence.
11. Danny Willett – On the verge of re-entering the top 100 in the world after winning the Dunhill Links and finishing T-21 at the Shriners.
10. Austin Eckroat – Top 10 in the field in SG: Approach and SG: Ballstriking over the last 24 rounds and the former Oklahoma State star spent many afternoons playing in the wind in Stillwater. Will be surprised if he doesn’t earn enough points to earn full exempt status during the 2021-22 season.
9. Aaron Rai – He’s third in the field in fairways gained and fifth in GIRs gained over the last 24 rounds. Won the Scottish Open in late 2020 and finished T-25 at the recent Andalucia Masters. Has missed his first three cuts as a full member of the PGA Tour.
8. Russell Knox – Former PGA Tour player Will Wilcox is on the bag this week for Knox, one of the game’s best wind players who has gained shots on approach in seven of his last eight events. Tied for 16th and tied for 11th at Port Royal the past two years. A T-29 at Sanderson Farms is his best finish in three starts in the 2021-22 campaign.
7. Ryan Armour – He’s 26 under here the last two years, tying for eighth each time. Said this last year when he entered the weekend in contention: “You know, what I really love about this place is it’s unique. Every day could be different, it depends on where the wind’s coming from. You’ve got to hit so many different shots off the tee, so many different shapes off the tee. You can’t just go over everything like, I hate to say it, like kind of we’re playing every day on the PGA Tour.” Top 10 in field in SG: Ballstriking over last 24 rounds.
6. Nick Hardy – Has gained at least four shots Tee-to-Green in three of his four PGA Tour starts in 2021. Making his Bermuda debut and first start anywhere since a T-26 at the Shriners. He’s second in the field in GIRs gained over the last 24 rounds.
5. Hayden Buckley – One of the best ballstrikers on the PGA Tour so far in the 2021-22 season and gained five shots on the Bermuda greens at the CC of Jackson in a T-4 at the Sanderson Farms.
4. Christian Bezeuidenhout – Big fan of the South African’s dependable game. Settled in on the PGA Tour last season, playing the major championships and elite invitationals, enters on a streak of 11 consecutive cuts made. Posted a pair of top 10s in Korn Ferry Tour finals and a T-5 at BMW PGA Championship. Best putter in the field over the last 24 rounds on Bermuda.
3. Adam Hadwin – History of success in the fall tournaments continued at the Shriners, where he gained 5.7 shots on approach, his best iron play on the PGA Tour in two years. Game has been trending upward for the last six months.
2. Patrick Rodgers – Over the last 36 rounds, he’s third in the field in SG: Tee-to-Green and been a scoring machine in fantasy formats. Missed two of the last three cuts but prior to that he made seven in a row and sprinkled in a T-6 at the Shriners.
1. Matt Fitzpatrick – The recent champion at Valderrama is still seeking his first PGA Tour title. Without those results still topped a model combining SG: Total in the wind and on shorter courses, SG: Putting on Bermuda, Fairways Gained and GIRs Gained. Good track record at Harbour Town, another short course where the wind can blow.