Veterans fare well at Port Royal
Will another Bubble Boy claim the spoils?
This is just the fifth edition of the Bermuda Championship - an event that began life as an opposite field event when the WGC HSBC Champions in China was still on the schedule.
The Bermuda Championship is the sixth of seven events on the new FedEx Cup Fall Series so there's plenty at stake for those bobbing around the 125 mark on the standings, looking to keep their playing privileges for next season.
Port Royal Golf Course, Southampton, Bermuda
Par 71, 6828 yards
Scoring Average in 2022 69.16
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 second hardest on the course last year, having been the toughest on the track for the two previous renewals.
The Bermuda/Zoysia mixed rough is only two inches high but it's still tricky to navigate from and the average sized Bermuda greens only run at around 10 on the stimpmeter because of the almost ever-present wind.
In addition to the first four 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 six winners 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
Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 18:00 on Thursday
First four Winners with Pre-event Prices
- 2019 - Brendon Todd -24 150.0149/1
- 2020 - Brian Gay -15 330.0329/1 (playoff)
- 2021 - Lucas Herbert -15 65.064/1
- 2022 - Seamus Power -19 27.026/1
What Will it Take to Win?
The driving stats are limited and according to Rob Bolton last year, who writes for the PGA Tour website, only two holes in opposite directions are used to measure distance off the tee here - the par five second and the par four 12th.
Looking back, 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. And the 2020 winner, Brian Gay, was one of four players inside the top-ten to rank inside the top-ten for DA three years ago but that stat hasn't been so key over the last two years.
The 2021 winner, Lucas Herbert, ranked seventh for Driving Distance and 53rd for Driving Accuracy, and the first and second 12 months ago, Seamus Power and Thomas Detry, ranked 22nd and second for DD and only tied 43rd for DA.
Starting in 2019, the four winners to date have ranked 10th, 15th, 58th and ninth for Greens in Regulation, fourth, 16th 14th, and 46th for Scrambling, and third, sixth, 10th and third for Putting Average.
Power is something of an anomaly as he only ranked 46th for Scrambling but Detry, in second, ranked first so a great short game and a hot putter have been the keys to success here so far.
There was a difference of nine strokes between the first winning score and the next two and that was all down to the strength of the wind.
The wind gusted up to 40mph during round one in 2021 and Matt Fitzpatrick described the conditions as "Brutal. The hardest wind I've ever played in." And Scotland's Russell Knox concurred, saying, "I've never experienced wind that strong."
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, last week's World Wide Technology Championship that's surely the best guide given the first two winners of this event have also won at the WWTC's former host course - El Camaleon Golf Club.
Erik Van Rooyen won at the new venue, El Cardonal Golf Course, last week, but the first 16 editions were staged at El Camaleon Golf Club.
Brian Gay won at El Camaleon Golf Club in 2008 and Todd won there in 2019, two weeks after he'd won here.
The link was boosted again in 2021 when Danny Lee finished second here, as he was third at El Camaleon in 2014, second in 2018, and seventh last year. And Power's victory boosted the links with all the aforementioned tracks very well too.
He was third in the Sony Open on his only appearance and sixth at Harbour Town on his sole visit. He finished fourth and fifth in the RSM Classic on the only two times he's played in that event and on the two occasions he's played at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship, he's finished seventh and fifth.
A chance for the oldies
Although Herbert was only 25, concentrating on the older pros looks like the way to go here.
Todd was 34 when he won the inaugural event, Gay won in 2020 at the age of 48 and Power was 35 when he took the title last year.
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.
According to the early forecasts, the field are going to encounter less blustery conditions this year but it's still going to be a factor.
Could there be a draw bias again?
It's worth keeping a close eye on the forecast this week as one side of the draw could be advantaged considerably.
The PM-AM starters scored only marginally better than the AM-PM starters in 2020 (0.66 strokes), but the differential was more acute last year and in 2021.
The latter starters on day one enjoyed an advantage of 1.07 strokes last year and the afternoon starters on Thursday in 2021 averaged 2.88 strokes less than the day one early starters over the first two days.
And in 2019, the AM-PM side of the draw averaged 2.76 strokes better than those that began the event on Thursday afternoon.
At this very early stage, the PM-AM side may get the better of it again this year but that can all change before Thursday.
Where do we look on the list?
We've had five FedEx Cup Fall Series events so far and we've seen three winners that were safely inside the top-50 on the FedEx Cup standings and two that were flirting around the crucial 125 mark in the standings.
Luke List moved up from 119 to 61st in the standings when he won the Sanderson Farms Championship and Van Rooyen sat on 125 prior to his victory in Mexico last week. He's now up to number 63.
There were only seven players inside the top-50 in the standings in the field last week and Andrew Putnam, who finished tied fifth, was the only one of the seven to finish inside the top-40. However, Fall Series winners - Sahith Theegala (Fortinet Championship), Tom Kim (Shriners Children's Open) and Collin Morikawa (ZOZO Championship) - all finished inside the top-50 in the standings after the Tour Championship.
That's a fairly strong record for the top-50 players given they haven't been well represented in any of the five events staged so far.
In addition to the seven in the field last week, there were only six inside the top-50 in the Fortinet and the Sanderson Farms, 13 in the Shriners, and 17 players inside the top-50 made the trip to Japan for the ZOZO Championship three weeks ago.
If the first five events are any sort of guide, we need to be concentrating on the players that are safe and inside the top-50, or those somewhere around the 125 mark.
Winner's Position and 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
- 2021 - Lucas Herbert - solo third, trailing by four 8.07/1
- 2022 - Seamus Power - tied for the lead 2.466/4
Windy conditions often result in changeable leaderboards and the first three winners all started slowly.
Herbert sat tied for 26th and five off the lead after day one in 2021, 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.
Power sat tied for 16th and only two back last year and was only two adrift at halfway and tied for the lead through 54 holes but we still witnessed a bit of in-play drama when the man he was tied with through three rounds, Ben Griffin, was matched at just 1.364/11 when he led by two with seven to play but the wheels fell off after that.
Having hit the front, Griffin bogeyed the next four holes before double-bogeying the tough par three 16th!
This is a very weak field and by some distance the weakest of the FedEx Fall Series events staged so far.
Last week's winner Erik Van Rooyen and Mackenzie Hughes are among those who have withdrawn since the weekend. We're left with only two players - the 2019 winner, Brendon Todd, and Lucas Glover - who finished inside the top-50 of the FedEx Cup standings after the Tour Championship.
Given three of the first five Fall Series events went the way of someone inside the top-50, and that both men have won here previously, both have to be respected, but Australia's Adam Scott heads the market at 20/121.00.
Scott is playing here for the first time but the globetrotting Aussie, who's last four starts have been in Ireland, England, and Japan, should take to the track.
Scott isn't in the best of form though and, with just one win to his name in the last seven years (the 2020 Genesis Invitational), others are preferred.
Last year's runner-up, Thomas Detry, is next up but after 181 starts on the DP World and PGA Tours, the Belgian is still yet to win and in seven starts since the Open Championship, where he finished 13th. He's yet to record a top-20 finish.
Coastal specialist, Akshay Bhatia, who finished 17th on debut last year, finished inside the top-10 in Mexico last week but he's fairly priced at 25/126.00 so the only one I'm happy to chance towards the head of the market is the aforementioned Todd...
Having not missed a cut since June, Todd has been in fair form of late.
He really should have won the John Deere Classic in July, where it has to be said, nerves got the better of him, but he's since finished seventh at the Wyndham Championship and sixth in the Fortinet, last time out, and a bold showing here looks likely.
I've got three more fancies at triple-figure prices so they'll feature in the Find Me a 100 Winner column later.