This week we are in Las Vegas, Nevada for what promises to be an exciting week, with an extremely low score required to win. The winning score is always around the -20 mark, and last year -20 was only enough to come third, with Ryan Moore beating the field with a score of -24. This is the type of golf, where streaky play, and a hot putter is rewarded, and it’s not a course where the type of winner is so predictable.
One thing that is for sure is that you will need to able to make birdies, plenty of them. The last four winning scores have been, -24, -23, -21 and -19 all very low and there’s no reason for it to be any different this time around. Although the winning score would suggest the course plays easy, you do still have to be at the top of your game, or risk the possibility of getting left behind. It’s important to look at how low a player has gone to get to their position, for example last year, Nick Watney finished T10 with both Jimmy Walker and Tim Herron at -12. Whilst the top-10 looks good in the form sheets, in reality they were 12 shots behind the winner, therefore never being in contention. You cannot afford to par round this course in even one round, as proven in the last four editions of this event. Only one player in the last four years has finished in the top-5 with a +70 18-hole score, that being Jim Furyk back in 09′, who shot a 73 in the 3rd round, only to back it up with a final round 62.
In 2011 Kevin Na recorded a victory, and in 2012 Ryan Moore followed, both being residents of Las Vegas. Other than those two, both Nick Watney and Charley Hoffman also reside in Vegas, with Watney coming in near the head of the betting at 18/1 (General) and Charley Hoffman coming in at a slightly more attractive price of 55/1 (StanJames). Both players have a decent record in this event, with Watney coming 2nd to Kevin Na in 2011 and Charley Hoffman posting his best 6th place finish in 2009, just two shots behind eventual winner Martin Laird.
The Shriners Hospitals for Children Open has, just like last week’s Frys.com Open taken a step forward as an event on Tour this year, as full FedEx Cup points are on offer, and once again a place in the 2014 Masters field is up for grabs. The prize money on offer has also increased this year from a $4.5m purse, to $6m and that will once again be a further incentive, if the former reasons given weren’t enough. We are still waiting for a full strength PGA Tour field in this new season, but with Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson and Nick Watney all getting in on the action, there are some proven winners on show. Add these players to the guys who we expect to be winning in the coming months and you have, once again an exciting field. One of the players who fits that description, nearly earned himself a PGA Tour card last week and that was three-time Challenge Tour winner this year Brooks Koepka, a player you would of read a lot about if you’ve been following these tips for the last few months. Koepka’s rise in world golf this year has been nothing short of superb, and had he of capped it off last week with a win, after receiving a Sponsor’s Exemption it would of been the perfect year. After finishing in a tie for 3rd last week, he’s managed to get himself in the field again here in Vegas and he’ll be keen to put the disappointment of last week behind him and impress again this week.
TPC Summerlin is the course that hosts this event and stretching over 7,243 yards, this par-71 provides players with the chance to shoot low, and therefore becomes somewhat of a shoot-out style tournament. The course’s final four holes offer are all risk/reward with the drivable par-4 15th, the par-5 16th, the water-lined par-3 17th and a strong par-4 No. 18. This is where the drama will unfold on Sunday evening, and the players in contention will be looking to take full advantage of the opportunities provided. Bunkers have been added this year to the 18th hole, as well as three others, something players will have to be aware of. Much like last week a players performance on the greens will come under scrutiny as holing more putts than the players around you will be the key to success. You can play fantastically well, but not make the putts required to shoot super low scores, and if you don’t someone else will, and you will therefore see a good round of golf seem rather average as you look above you on the leaderboard. A combination of course form, good putting and the ability to make plenty of birdies equals the perfect recipe for a winner this week, but there will often be a surprise package in these events, as they succeed in one of the mentioned categories.
Bearing this all in mind, I’ve gone with players, that although may seem a short price, to me offer the best value in the field and I’m hoping the prove me to be right come Sunday. Here are my selections for this week’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
Brendon De Jonge 28/1 (Bet365, Coral, StanJames) 2.5pts e/w: De Jonge will look to many punters as a short price, but the birdie machine fits the bill perfectly this week, and I’m really keen to see him go on this week and get his first PGA Tour win, one that’s becoming more and more overdue. The Zimbabwean will take great confidence from being picked for the Internationals’ Presidents Cup team, by fellow countryman and team captain Nick Price. Price picked De Jonge to represent his team at Muirfield Village earlier this month, and he showed some really good signs over the week, the highlight being when he teamed up with Ernie Els, like he had all week and defeated the hot U.S pairing of Matt Kuchar and Tiger Woods. So why am I picking him this week? Well De Jonge as mentioned previously does not shy away from making birdies, in fact he’s led the PGA Tour in Total Birdies in 2010, 2012 and 2013, whilst coming 4th in 2011, so he definitely knows how to make them. He made plenty at this very event last year, en-route to his -23 score, putting him in sole 2nd behind Ryan Moore (-24), and although he’s missed the cut in his other two appearances at the event, I’m confident he can go well once again. I really like De Jonge’s golf game, and after seeing Jimmy Walker get his first win last week after so long out on Tour, his confidence should once again grow, and he should believe he can make this title his. At 28/1 I thought he represented good value considering his good, solid 2013 campaign and he’s one of those players you’re just waiting to win.
Brooks Koepka 35/1 (Bet365, BoyleSports) 2pts e/w: This is not just based on his playing last week at the Frys.com, but that did nothing to put me off either. Yes he did ultimately give away the victory last week , after leading for a good period of the tournament, but things didn’t go his way and that must of been frustrating. He failed to convert on a couple of short putts, which did cost him, but he can also feel hard done by after hitting a great second shot into the par-5 15th green in the final round. His second shot was close to the flag all the way, and unfortunately for him nestle just in the fringe, leading to an awkward chip. Again he could of made that putt, made birdie and carried on with his business, but he didn’t and that wouldn’t of annoyed anyone more than him. What he has shown is that he’s happy to be right in the mix, and should be find himself in contention again this week I have no doubts that he could prove just what a great talent he is. He will need to make plenty of putts, which a rule he does and with his length off the tee he’ll have the chance to attack the par 5s as well as the driveable par-4 on the closing stretch, and you can bet he’ll go right at it given half a chance. He clearly has the winning mentality, and couple with the determination he shows not only to get a win but secure playing rights on the PGA Tour should be enough to see him feature again this time around. He’s slightly shorter than last week, and for good reason and I’m happy enough, whilst the field is still fairly limited to back him at this sort of price.
Martin Laird 60/1 (StanJames) 2pts e/w: Not only is Martin Laird a former winner of this event, but he’s also an incredibly streaky player, and when he gets on a roll he can shoot some great rounds, and very low scores. He done it this year, when picking up his 3rd PGA Tour win at the Valero Texas Open as he shot a 63/-9 round on day 4 to secure the win. He followed his win here in 2009 up with a T2 in 2010 losing out to Jonathan Byrd in a play-off and he’ll be keen to get himself in a similar situation again this week. He;s struggled for form since coming T5 in the Players’ Championship back in May, but returning to this course may just be enough to get the juices flowing again and see him get his 2014 campaign off to a great start. Laird has proved he can get over the line, and shoot low and although he came T40 in 2011 and didn’t play in 2012 he does still have positive memories of the event and he looks a good price at a stand out price of 60/1. Now a three-time winner the belief is there, and he just needs to get on the right course in the right situation to prove just how talented he is. This is a case of hoping he can return to form, drawing confidence from past experience, whereas my other two picks are also in good current form, and I hope he does just that, given us a run for our money at what I consider a more than reasonable price.
Total Points Staked this week: 13
Profit/Loss for 2013: +82.25
It looked for a long while last week that we were going to get a nice return on the European Tour, with both Alvaro Quiros and Scott Jamieson bang in contention, but both flattered to deceive when it really mattered, whilst the picks on the PGA Tour never really got going. I’ve decided against previewing the Perth International (this week’s European Tour event) as I’m not a big fan of the field and the market is very top heavy. I may post a selection on my Twitter on Wednesday but there wasn’t enough interest to preview and find multiple selections. This week’s picks were posted in a slightly shorter format, so any feedback you may have on that would be welcomed on my new Twitter @TJacobsGolf. Good luck this week!