Shriners Hospitals for Children Open: Fantasy picks, power rankings and analysis
Let’s just get this out of the way.
Last week I stunk. The effort was there. The game plan felt solid. I had supreme confidence when I hit the send button. The picks turned out terrible.
But that’s OK. This week, we’re heading to Vegas, where a man is only as good as the next card dealt and there’s no sense lamenting the losses. You’re always one good hand (or tournament) away from a winning streak. And as the PGA Tour returns to the friendly TPC Summerlin for the Shriners Hospital Open, I’m riding high and ready to make it rain.
The pros are playing for $7 million ($1.26 million to the champ) and the all-important two (essentially three) year exemption.
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TPC Summerlin is generally a benign layout, measuring 7,255 yards and playing to a par of 71. The greens are some of the easiest on the Tour to hit in regulation (72 percent) compared to the average tournament (65.5). The fairways are slightly more difficult to find than the average week, but the rough is playable. Putting is always important. This week it’s crucial with a winning score likely to eclipse 20-under par.
Keep an eye on the weather this week. Highs are in the upper 80s and low 90s on Thursday and Friday with moderate (5-10 mph) winds out of the SSE. A cool front arrives in the desert over the weekend. Saturday could be breezy (13 mph) with a high of 81 while Sunday calls for a reversal of wind to the NNW (10-15 mph) as the high reaches only 77. Veteran players and caddies will have an advantage in the final round if the wind blows from an opposite direction. Chances are they’ve seen it before.
As always, good luck. Double down when the opportunities arise. Leave emotion outside the door and follow your head rather than your heart.
Golfer power rankings
25. Scott Piercy – He’s 51 under at TPC Summerlin the last five years, recording a pair of top 10s and two other top 25s. Recent mixed bag of results is troubling – has missed four of nine cuts since the restart. Still, horses for courses, and such.
24. Charley Hoffman – Has a 69.05 career scoring average in 43 rounds at TPC Summerlin with three top 10s. His hard work with instructor Mark Blackburn is taking root. The Thursday King has fared well enough throughout the week to finish top 15 in three of his last four starts.
23. Beau Hossler – Struggled on the Bermuda greens last week in Jackson but bentgrass is easily his favorite surface and he singed the TPC Summerlin surfaces last year to produce his second Vegas top 30 in a row. He’s made four consecutive cuts due to better iron play.
22. Louis Oosthuizen – A late scratch last week but he’s forgiven. Louis hasn’t missed a cut since the Summer Solstice and ranks top 30 in the field in SG: Approach and SG: Putting. Making his first appearance in the Shriners and should be smooth sailing and four rounds in the 60s ahead.
21. Aaron Wise – Another pro who goes low in Vegas (29 under in three starts), gaining strokes on the greens each week. On a course where the field averages 295 yards off the tee (13 yards longer than an average PGA Tour tournament) the Oregon bomber can thrive. Most important, his confidence is blooming after a T-17 in Jackson snapped a streak of five missed cuts.
20. Kevin Chappell – It’s been a long journey back from microdisectomy surgery on his back for the 34-year-old Californian but there are signs his game is returning to form. He’s earned more than $16 million on the PGA Tour and recorded 29 top 10s. A red-hot putter thrust him into contention early last week before he faded to T-23. Still, it was a fourth cut made in five starts and he was T-20 in Vegas in his most recent appearance (2018).
19. Cameron Davis – One of my few sharp picks last week, the young Aussie played his way into the final pairing with Sergio Garcia in Jackson on Sunday but stumbled to a 72 and finished T-6. Consider it a learning experience. He’ll bounce back. The talent is obvious and he’s only going to improve. Finished T-28 here last year.
18. Zach Johnson – He’s hot in all the right places. Among the players in the field over the last 24 rounds, Johnson ranks fourth in SG: Approach and eighth in SG: Putting. The combo has produced two top 10s in his last four tournaments and he appears rejuvenated at age 44, perhaps inspired by his buddy Stewart Cink winning the Safeway last month. Bentgrass is his favorite surface. Making his first Vegas trip since 2014 (T-40).
17. Rickie Fowler – Has played in Vegas sporadically since turning pro (four appearances since 2009) and enjoyed success – two top 10s and a 67.5 stroke average. Fowler has been drawing to an inside straight most of 2020 but the cards could be turning in his favor. He finished T-49 at the U.S. Open despite losing 6.7 strokes on the greens. Bent is his best surface and he was 4.2 SG: Putting in a Shriners T-4 in 2018.
16. Collin Morikawa – The 2020 PGA Champion flopped at Winged Foot but should be rejuvenated after a two-week break and ready to attack the new season. Making his first appearance in Vegas. Should have many birdie putts.
15. Joaquin Niemann – You know our love for Joaquin will not fade away. We’re gonna keep betting on his future, which is more like splitting aces than 8s. Finished T-10 here a year ago. Putts his best on bentgrass and this layout should provide a great opportunity for his strong iron play to return (lost strokes on approach at East Lake and Winged Foot).
14. Hudson Swafford – Purposely omitted him last week, fearing a Punta Cana hangover, and he rewarded our hunch by missing the cut. The focus should return this week as he’s obviously playing well and has a chance to have a special season. He’s 32 under in four starts at Summerlin with a T-20 to show for it.
13. Kristoffer Ventura – Rolls into Vegas with top 10s in two of his last three starts, including a T-6 at Sanderson Farms. Finished T-18 here last year on the strength of sizzling putting (9.7 Strokes Gained). Has six top 25s in his last nine tournaments between the Korn Ferry and PGA Tour.
12. Jason Kokrak – Thrives in calm conditions when scoring is easy and has been one of the pro game’s most consistent performers in the last six weeks, recording four consecutive top-20 finishes. Gained 6.4 strokes on the greens at Winged Foot. Has played the weekend in his last four tries at TPC Summerlin, finishing T-20 in 2018.
11. Jason Day – Over the last 24 rounds among the field, he’s second in SG: Putting and 100th in SG: Approach. Hasn’t played here since 2012, when he finished fourth.
10. Denny McCarthy – Possibly the best putter on the PGA Tour, the former Virginia star has been dialed with his irons of late, gaining an average of 2.2 strokes on approach in his last five tournaments. Chalked up his second top 10 in that span in Jackson and shot 13 under at TPC Summerlin last year to finish T-15.
9. Hideki Matsuyama – He’s 29 under in two Vegas appearances, finishing T-16 last year and has been extremely consistent in 2020, finishing outside the top 30 just once in his last nine starts.
8. Harris English – Since March he’s been as reliable as any golfer on the PGA Tour. He’s the top pick on the Fantasy National stat model and it’s easy to understand with 11 top 25s in 13 starts, including second in the Northern Trust and fourth in the U.S. Open. Finished T-4 in Vegas in 2016 and has played the weekend in five of six starts.
7. Webb Simpson – The 2014 Shriners champion has continued to pad his bank account on each trip to Vegas, earning $1.96 million in nine starts with a 67.85 stroke average. Last four starts all ended in the top 12, including a T-8 at Winged Foot where he gained 7.3! Strokes on the greens.
6. Doc Redman – The glaring weakness in his game is around the greens (131st in the field) but that should be less of a factor on a course where the greens are so easily hit in regulation. Prefers bentgrass, light winds and easy scoring conditions. Putter has been warm for two months and the iron game is sharp.
5. Bryson DeChambeau – After his dominant performance in the U.S. Open, the game’s best player returns to Las Vegas where he won in 2018. What else is there to say that hasn’t been said in recent weeks? He’s crushing drives and making putts and golf is easy from there.
4. Scottie Scheffler – He returned to action last week in Jackson after dealing with COVID-19 and disappointed your trusty advisor, who pegged him as the favorite. That T-37 effort can be attributed to losing 3.6 SG: Approach, his first negative total in six tournaments. He’ll return to form in Las Vegas, a perfect venue for a birdie machine.
3. Tony Finau – 6-for-6 making the cut in Vegas with a quartet of top 25s, two top 10s and a 68.3 stroke average. Prefers bentgrass and has three top 10s in five starts. Will exceed $20 million in career earnings this week if he makes it to the weekend but Vegas is a winners’ town. He needs a trophy, soon.
NOTE: Hours after this story posted, Finau was forced to withdraw due to a positive COVID test.
2. Patrick Cantlay – Loves bentgrass and loves Vegas, finishing first-second-second the last three years, a combined 52 under and $2.7 million in pocket. That’s a lot of chips. He’s only had two top 10s in 2020, which is stunning considering his immense talent.
1. Matthew Wolff – Nerves got the best of him in the final round of the U.S. Open, still even a solid round probably wouldn’t have been enough to overtake DeChambeau. Should murder the three par 5s at TPC Summerlin each day and have chances to convert at the short 16th. With two weeks off to reflect on what went wrong at Winged Foot, don’t be surprised if he bounces all the way back in Vegas.