Steve takes a detailed look at this week's PGA Tour action in Las Vegas where he fancies local lad, Scott Piercy, to go well. Read The Punter's in-depth preview here...
“With such strong in-running trends, getting involved before the off to any sort of extent seems a bit daft but I quite like local lad, Scott Piercy, who won the Barbasol Championship in July.”
First staged in 1983, the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open used to be a pro-am staged over five rounds, played out on multiple courses but 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 2014 - 69.66
Designed in 1992 by Bobby Weed (and aided by Fuzzy Zoeller) TPC Summerlin is a very easy track. There's plenty of room off the tee, the bentgrass greens are large and receptive, running at around 11 on the stimpmeter, and it's consistently the easiest par 71 encountered on the PGA Tour.
After Ryan Moore had won with a score of -24 three years ago, a few changes were made to the course ahead of the 2013 renewal. Bunkering was tweaked on three holes (12th, 13th and 18th) but it didn't make any difference as the winner, Webb Simpson, matched Moore's score.
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.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting on Thursday.
Last Five Winners
2015- Ben Martin -20
2013 - Webb Simpson -24
2012 - Ryan Moore -24
2011 - Kevin Na -23
2010 - Jonathan Byrd -21 (playoff)
What Will it Take to Win The Shriners Hospitals for Children Open?
With very little rough to speak off Driving Accuracy has historically been as irrelevant as Driving Distance but the last six winners have ranked inside the top-18 for DA, so that's something worth considering now. The five previous winners averaged a ranking of 43rd for DA.
Kevin Na is the only winner in the last 12 years to rank outside the top-20 for Greens In Regulation and the first two home last year ranked fourth and first for that stat.
Last year's winner, Ben Martin, ranked 71st for Scrambling and first for putting and the three winners before Martin ranked inside the top-five for both Putting and Scrambling, so it's all about hitting greens and setting up lots and lots of chances to break par.
And you need to take your chances - the last three winners (since the stat began) have ranked first of second for Strokes Gained Putting and eight of the last nine winners have ranked first or second for birdies made. The odd man out was Martin Laird in 2009 but he only ranked fourth and last year's first three ranked first and joint second for birdies made.
Is There an Angle In?
Locals have done very well here and two of the last four winners, Na and Moore, have been Nevada residents who play at the course regularly. Given it's at altitude, knowing the course well is a big advantage when it comes to clubbing, with approach shots in particular.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
The profile of the winners here has changed considerably since the event changed format. 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. Having shot rounds of 78 and 79 at the Frys.com Open the week before, Martin was hard to fancy and was matched at 250.0249/1 before the off last year but the three winners before him were all well-fancied.
Na was well-backed in 2011, Webb Simpson was the second favourite in 2012 and Moore went off favourite a year later so it's going to be interesting to see what price the winner is this time around. Did Martin's victory mark a return to this being an outsiders' event or was his victory a one-off?
It's never easy to make up ground on the leaders in low scoring events on easy courses and a fast start at Summerlin is absolutely essential. No winner this century has been any further back than five strokes behind after round one and five of the last eight winners were in front at halfway - two of the three that weren't in front trailed by a solitary stroke and Martin, in comparison, was somewhat adrift at halfway 12 months ago. He was tied for fifth and two off the lead through 36 holes.
Martin was in front with a round to go though and it looks a complete waste of time looking beyond the leaders after round three - seven of the last nine winners have been leading or co-leading with a round to go and the two that weren't, trailed by just a single stroke.
If you're planning to trade in-running, the par four 11th was the second hardest hole on the course for the second year in-a row last year and the 12th hole average over-par but after that the players have an easy run of four holes.
The par five 13th averaged 4.7 last year, the 14th is a straight forward par three, the drivable par four 15th averaged just 3.63 12 months ago and Martin took command at the par five 16th (the easiest hole on the course) with an eagle. The 17th is a tough par three and the par four 18th is no cakewalk either.
Classy world number five, Rickie Fowler, is most definitely the worthy favourite in what isn't an especially strong field. He held a chance to win here on debut, back in 2009, before eventually finishing seventh and he was 22nd 12 months later but this is his first appearance at TPC Summerlin since.
He was in fine fettle in the FedEx Cup series, winning the Deutsche Bank Championship and finishing fourth in the BMW Championship but after a substantial break, I'm not at all interested in him at a single-figure price.
Brooks Koepka finished fourth last year after missing the cut on debut 12 months earlier but he couldn't crack the top-40 last week and I'm happy to dismiss him at a short price too. And the same can be said of Sunday's play-off protagonists.
As detailed in this morning's De-Brief, I thought Emiliano Grillo was slightly fortunate to win the Frys.com Open, after contender after contender fell tamely away and if he putts like he did at Silverado he won't win this birdie-fest.
Na is a winner here but that's still his only victory in more than 300 PGA Tour starts so he's very easy to pass over - especially given he has to raise himself after making a bit of a mess of Sunday's play-off.
With such strong in-running trends, getting involved before the off to any sort of extent seems a bit daft but I quite like local lad, Scott Piercy, who won the Barbasol Championship in July.
That was his third victory in five years and he did it in fine style from the front - something many a winner here has to do. His recent form figures on his home course are decent enough - reading 10-6-MC-7 and anything around the 38.037/1 mark looks more than fair.
He contended quite well at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last time out, finishing 27th, after making it all the way to East Lake in the FedEx Cup series, thanks mainly to a third place finish at the BMW Championship.
It's just possible that Piercy is playing some of the best golf of his career in 2015 and this might just be the year he gets a much sought-after hometown victory.
Scott Piercy @ 38.037/1
I'll be back tomorrow with my Hong Kong Open preview.
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