Straight tee game key at TPC Summerlin
Course form holds up well
Frontrunners fare well in benign conditions
First staged in 1983, the Shriners Children's Open used to be a pro-am staged over five rounds, played out on multiple courses. In 2004 they reduced the event to just 72-holes and since 2008, TPC Summerlin has hosted the event alone.
TPC Summerlin, Las Vegas, Nevada.
Par 71, 7.255 yards
Stroke index in 2022 - 69.00
Designed in 1992 by Bobby Weed (aided by Fuzzy Zoeller), TPC Summerlin is a very easy track. There's plenty of room off the tee (although fairways do need to be found), the bentgrass greens are large, receptive, and usually set to run at around 11 ½ on the Stimpmeter.
TPC Summerlin is consistently the easiest par 71 encountered on the PGA Tour although last year's field average of 69.00 was a four year high.
The 2019 scoring average of 68.86 was a record low since its debuted in 1992 and the 2020 average of just 68.34 was the lowest of all par 71s on the PGA Tour in 16 completed seasons.
Changes were made to the course before the 2018 renewal, with all 102 bunkers redone. The sand was replaced and in many cases they were moved to fit better with the strategy of today's game but it made no difference to the scoring.
TPC Summerlin is at altitude, so it doesn't play anywhere near as far as the yardage suggests and it's a very easy track for the world's best players. As an indication of how easy the course is, Smylie Kaufman shot a 10-under-par 61 to come from off the pace to win eight years ago and J.J. Henry in 2013, Rod Pampling in 2016, and Patrick Cantlay last year, have all fired an 11-under-par 60.
In benign conditions, it's a very easy course indeed and given the rough is cut to as short as two and half inches most years, there's a decent chance that we see a round in the 50s.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 18:00 on Thursday.
Last Eight Winners with Pre-event Prices
- 2022 - Tom Kim -24 28.027/1
- 2021 - Sungjae Im -24 44.043/1
- 2020 - Martin Laird -23 (playoff) 250.0249/1
- 2019 - Kevin Na -23 120.0119/1 (playoff)
- 2018 - Bryson DeChambeau -21 16.5
- 2017 - Patrick Cantlay -9 22.021/1 (playoff)
- 2016 - Rod Pampling -20 550.0549/1
- 2015 - Smylie Kaufman -16 300.0299/1
What Will it Take to Win?
It's probably best to largely disregard the 2017 result, when extremely windy weather kept a lid on the scoring. Patrick Cantlay's winning score of nine-under-par was far from typical. The eventual 10th, JJ Spaun, was on 11-under at the halfway stage and the highest winning score prior to 2017, since the event became a 72-hole event in 2008, was 16-under-par seven years ago. And the last four winners have all got to at least 23-under-par!
The Shriners is a low scoring birdie-fest and if we take out the 2017 result, the average winning score for the other 18 editions (since it became a 72-hole event) is 22-under-par and on average; the winners have made 24 birdies on route to victory.
The last two winners have ranked third and first for Greens In Regulation and first Scrambling but a good angle in is to concentrate on the fairly straight hitters as finding fairways appears key to going low here.
Driving Accuracy used to be a completely irrelevant stat here but that's all changed of late. The fairways are wide, some of the easiest on tour, and the rough is minimal so it's hard to figure out why accuracy is so important now, but it clearly is.
When Bryson DeChambeau ranked fourth for DA in 2018, he was the tenth winner in-a-row to rank inside the top-18 for that stat. The five winners prior to 2009 had an average DA ranking of 43rd so something's changed and it looks like something to be wary off. Even though it's a resort course with minimal rough, indiscriminately bombing it off the tee with a disregard for accuracy hasn't got the job done here recently.
As many as three of the last six winners have ranked inside the to five for Driving Accuracy and the last seven victors have all ranked better for accuracy than they have for distance. The last winner to rank higher for length than accuracy was Kaufman in 2005, who ranked fifth for DD, but he still ranked as high as seventh for accuracy.
Kim ranked only 70th for DD last year and although he only ranked 14th for DA, the runner-up, Cantlay, ranked third.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
We've seen a few well-fancied winners of late but lots of big outsiders have prospered.
In the old five-round, multiple-course format, outsiders went in year after year and between 2004 and 2010 every winner went off at a triple-figure price. The likes of Phil Tataurangi, Andre Stolz and Wes Short Jr, to name but three, were almost impossible to spot before the off.
The 2020 winner, Martin Laird, was matched at a high of 400.0399/1 before the off and the three winners before Cantlay in 2017 were huge outsiders too.
Ben Martin went off at 250.0249/1 nine years ago, Smylie Kaufman was a 300.0299/1 chance eight years ago and very few people could have picked out Rod Pampling in 2016, who was matched at a high of 670.0669/1.
In-between 2011 and 2013 there was a three-year blip where the winners were quite well-fancied. Kevin Na was well-backed in 2011, Webb Simpson was the second favourite in 2012 and Ryan Moore went off favourite a year later. Na went off at a triple-figure price in 2019, when winning for a second time but the two winners before him, and the last two winners, been easy enough to pick.
PGA Tour rookies and first-time winners are commonplace at Summerlin too. The last five winners had all won previously but Cantlay was the seventh first time PGA Tour winner to take the title in 11 years and its 27 years since a certain Tiger Woods broke his duck here. Previous course form is a big plus though...
Kim was playing here for the first time when winning 12 months ago but the runner-up, Cantlay, is something of an event specialist and he now has course form reading 1-2-2-8-2.
The 2021 winner, Im, had been 15th and 13th on his two previous visits, Laird was winning for the first time in seven years in 2020, but he was winning his second Shriners title, having won the 2009 edition in extra time, and he was the second two-time winner in-a-row. Na had won the title for a first time back in 2011 before doubling up in 2019 and both men have also finished second at TPC Summerlin.
It's a tricky event, that often goes the way of an outsider, so backing previous winners at triple figure prices is not a bad tactic given two of the last four results.
Winner's Position and Price Pre-Round Four
- 2022 - Tom Kim - tied for the lead 3.1511/5
- 2021 - Sungjae Im - solo 6th - trailing by three 11.521/2
- 2020 - Martin Laird - tied for the lead 6.611/2
- 2019 - Kevin Na - led by two strokes 2.3211/8
- 2018 - Bryson DeChambeau - tied for the lead 2.588/5
- 2017 - Patrick Cantlay T4 - trailing by four 13.5
- 2016 - Rod Pampling - trailing by one stroke 14.5
- 2015 - Smylie Kaufman T28 - trailing by seven 1000.0999/1
The 2017 finish was very odd, but it can be explained by the conditions. Alex Cejka lost in a playoff, having been matched at 1000.0999/1 and having trailed by eight with a round to go and the other two playoff protagonists had trailed by four and five strokes through 54 holes, but Cejka got lucky. He played in benign conditions before the wind buffeted the leaders and caused havoc and with the exception of another strange result, in 2015, up with the pace is where you have needed to be here.
Smylie Kaufman was also matched at 1000.0999/1 eight years ago but his final round 61 form seven adrift and tied 28th was enough to see him win by one over a bunch of six players that included Patton Kizzire, who himself shot 62!
The 2015 and 2017 results show it's definitely possible to win from off the pace, especially if the weather has it's say, but the vast majority of winners are up with the pace throughout and even the two off the pace winners had started the tournament well.
Na trailed by five in a tie for 43rd after round one in 2019 and that's the furthest any winner has trailed after the opening round in as far back as I've checked (1996). And that's including the old five round editions, so a decent start is imperative.
Kim was inside the top-four all week and never more than two adrift last year, Im sat second after round one and he led at halfway before he slipped back in round three to sit sixth in 2021, Laird was inside the front four places all week three years ago and Na was never headed after a 62 in round two in 2019. As many as nine of the last 16 winners have been in front after 36 holes.
Kim was tied for the lead with a round to go last year and the three winners before Im were all in front after 54 holes. As many as 11 of the last 17 winners have been leading or co-leading with a round to go.
In calm conditions, it's very hard to make up ground late on here but a tight finish isn't uncommon and three of the last six renewals have gone to extra time. And had Cantlay not hit an horrendous drive on 18 12 months ago, that would have read four of the last six. Cantlay lost by three but the two were tied on the 72nd tee!
Having backed Tom Kim when he won on debut 12 months ago, he was always going to be considered carefully this time around but having been well backed over the last 24 hours or so, he's fractionally too short for my liking now at less than half the price he went off at last year.
Having won the Wyndham Championship three starts and two months prior to this event, he was clearly in fine fettle last year and while he lines up on the back of some very reasonable form this time around, having finished inside the top-20 in each of his last four starts, I'm happy to swerve him.
Given he was leading after round one, Kim was a bit disappointing last time out when finishing sixth at the Open de France and others are preferred at the prices.
Swedish sensation, Ludvig Aberg, is making his event debut but having won on the DP World Tour last month, it's only a matter of time before he gets off the mark on the PGA Tour.
Just one week after starring for the European Ryder Cup team in Rome he made the playoff at the Sanderson Farms Championship on Sunday so his current form figures now reading an incredible 14-4-1-10-2 but I just wonder whether he's due a poor performance.
It's bee quite a month for Aberg and he's been riding a wave of momentum since winning the European Masters in Switzerland, but a flat week can be expected sooner or later and he too looks short enough.
Kim value to make it three in-a-row for Korea
The last two editions have gone the way of a Korean and the two-time winner, Kevin Na, was born in Seoul, so three of the last four have been Korean born. I fancy an ebullient Si Woo Kim can make it four of the last five.
Kim signed off September in the most fabulous fashion by winning gold at the Asian Games alongside the 2021 winner of this event, Sungjae Im. That victory earned the Korean pair exemption from military service in their homeland, so the 27-year-old is bound to pitch up in Vegas on a high.
Given one of Kim's biggest strengths is his straight driving and that his third PGA Tour title was won in the desert, at the low-scoring American Express two years ago, it's not entirely surprising that he has a respectable set of course numbers here reading 25-15-55-8-MC-8. He commands the utmost respect this week.
Kim won his fourth PGA Tour title in Hawaii in January and at an industry-wide best of 25/126.00 on the Sportsbook, with eight places on offer, he looks a very fair bet to gain his fifth this week.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter