This is just the third edition of the Bermuda Championship, an event that began life as an opposite field event but with the WGC-HSBC Champions cancelled for a second year-in-a-row because of the pandemic, the Bermuda Championship is again elevated to full FedEx Cup point event status, as it was last year.
The inaugural edition, played in the same week as the WGC-HSBC Champions had a prize fund of 'only' US$3 million but this year's edition has a chunky US$6.5 million on offer and the winner will earn a spot in the US Masters in April so although the line-up isn't great, there's plenty up for grabs.
Port Royal Golf Course, Southampton, Bermuda.
Par 71, 6828 yards
Scoring Average in 2020 71.18
Port Royal is a short, wind exposed Robert Trent Jones Sr. designed course, with a number of holes perched right on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.
Port Royal's signature hole, the 235-yard par three 16th, with nothing but the Atlantic Ocean between the tee and the pin, is widely regarded as one of the greatest par threes in golf but it's a tough one. It was the toughest on the course last year, averaging 3.34.
In addition to the first two editions of this event, Port Royal was also the host course for the now defunct Grand Slam of Golf for six years from 2009. The tournament, which was eventually ditched in 2014, was staged to showcase the four major winners over two rounds. Here are the results at Port Royal.
2009 - Lucas Glover - 11
2010 - Ernie Els -5
2011 - Keegan Bradley -4
2012 - Padraig Harrington -9
2013 - Adam Scott -8
2014 - Martin Kaymer -6
For more on the venue, here's the PGA Tour's course guide.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 19:00 on Thursday.
First Two Winners with Pre-event Exchange Price
2019 - Brendon Todd -24 150.0149/1
2020 - Brian Gay -15 330.0329/1 (playoff)
What Will it Take to Win the Bermuda Championship?
Driving accuracy appears more important than distance here. Both the first two winners ranked fourth for Driving Accuracy and when Brendon Todd won the inaugural edition, six of the top-ten ranked inside the top-ten for Driving Accuracy. Gay was one of four players inside the top-ten to rank inside the top-ten for DA 12 months ago.
Bermuda rough (the grass type and not just any type of rough in Bermuda!) is notoriously tricky to play from, which is why the more accurate types flourish, although the two players to finish second here, Harry Higgs in 2019 and Wyndham Clark in 2020, ranked fourth and second for DD.
Todd ranked 10th for Greens In Regulation and Gay only 15th but six of the first seven in 2019 ranked 18th or better and five of the top-ten last year ranked ninth or better for GIR.
Todd and Higgs ranked fourth and first for Scrambling but the playoff protagonists last year only ranked 16th and 37th. The first two home two years ago ranked third and 12th for Putting Average and the front three 12 months ago ranked sixth, fourth and ninth.
There was a difference of nine strokes between the two winning scores and that was all down to the strength of the wind, and we look set for another blustery week this time around.
Is There an Angle In?
There are a number of events staged at courses similar to Port Royal. The Sony Open, the RBC Heritage and the RSM Classic are all held on coastal, wind-affected courses and the host venues, Waialae Country Club, Harbour Town Golf Links and Sea Island Resort are all Bermuda.
Gay certainly boosted the links between Port Royal and those three tracks. He has three top-tens at Waialae (home of the Sony), he won the RBC at Harbour Town by a record ten strokes in 2009, and he has a fourth and a third in the RSM Classic at Sea Island.
Although the course used is entirely laid to Paspalum and not Bermuda, the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic is a tournament to consider as well. That too is staged on a windy, exposed, coastal layout away from the United States but it's another overseas tournament, the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico, that's surely the best guide given the first two winners of this event have also won at El Camaleon Golf Club.
Brian Gay won the Mayakoba in 2008 and Todd took the title in 2019, two weeks after he'd won here.
Wily old pros set to shine in the wind again
Todd was 34 when he won here two years ago and a year after finishing third behind Todd, Gay won last year at the age of 48.
The shortness of the course certainly helps the older players but the main reason they've prospered is the conditions. You can't beat experience when the wind starts howling and according to the early forecasts, the field are going to encounter blustery conditions again this year. As they did 12 months ago.
Winner's Position and Exchange Price Pre-Round Four
2019 - Brendon Todd - solo second, trailing by two 6.611/2
2020 - Brian Gay - tied fifth, trailing by three 27.026/1
Windy conditions often result in changeable leaderboards and both winners have started slowly. Todd trailed by six in a tie for 25th after round one, before a 63 in round two saw him tied for the lead at halfway, and Gay came from even further back.
Matched in-running at a high of 840.0839/1, Gay trailed by seven in a tie for 64th after the opening round and he was still four adrift and tied for 12th at halfway.
It's worth keeping a close eye on the forecast this week. It's been changing over the last couple of days and at the time of writing there doesn't appear to be much of a draw bias but that could change dramatically by Thursday and one side of the draw could be advantaged considerably.
The PM-AM starters scored marginally better than the AM-PM starters last year (0.66 strokes) but the differential was more acute in 2019 when the AM-PM side of the draw averaged 2.76 strokes better than those that began the event on Thursday afternoon.
The current third favourite, Patrick Reed, is bordering on a price too big to ignore given his obvious class but he's going to have to improve on his current poor form. His 17th in the 30-man Tour Championship is his only top-20 since he finished nicely at the US Open to tie for 19th back in June and like the two market leaders, Matt Fitzpatrick and Christiaan Bezuidenhout, he's playing Port Royal for the first time.
The hugely promising Mito Pereira is also making his debut in the event this week and he has the accurate game needed to prosper at Port Royal. If he putts well, he'll contend but that's a sizable if and I'm happy to swerve him too.
I'll be back tomorrow with the Find Me a 100 Winner picks but I have backed a couple of players trading at less than 100/1.
Denny McCarthy went off favourite two years ago when finishing tied 15th and he backed that up 12 months ago with a tied fourth, despite a disappointing third round. Best known for his putting, McCarthy is also pretty straight off the tee so it's no surprise to see this place suit him and he's in fair form given he's finished 15th at the Wyndham Championship and 17th in the Sanderson Farms in two of his last five starts.
The case for Ryan Armour is a simple one to make. The accurate veteran has a pair off top-eight finishes here and both were achieved in very different fashions. He came from off the pace after a slow start on debut but finished poorly last year having led at halfway and having sat second and just one off the lead with a round to go.
Armour missed the cut last time out in the Sanderson Farms Championship, an event he won by five strokes back in 2017, so he can't be described as in form but he's shown glimpses throughout the season with top-eight finishes at the Palmetto Championship, the Barbasol and the 3M Open. He sandwiched his fifth in the Barbasol and sixth in the 3M in consecutive weeks with a pair of missed cuts either side so he can suddenly find form and I thought 70.069/1 was fair.
Denny McCarthy @ 55.054/1
Ryan Armour @ 70.069/1
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter