It's the second stop of the new PGA Tour season as we hit the Nevada Desert for the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. TPC Summerlin is the venue in question and it's a local haunt for a number of players towards the top of the market.
Ryan Moore - 23.00 - attended the University of Nevada and shot the tournament low record en route to victory in 2012 - a feat which was matched by last year's winner and defending champion Webb Simpson - 26.00. Kevin Na - 36.00 - showcased his local knowledge with one of the best putting displays I've seen when winning in 2011. Na later declared he had a big advantage knowing the nuances of the greens.
Nick Watney - 31.00 - is another that resides in the vicinity and four recent top 10s here would suggest he has a handle on the ball flight at altitude and elevation changes at TPC Summerlin. Perhaps it's local favourite Charley Hoffman - 41.00 - that will relish the tournament the most though. Charley is a regular host of charity events here, and the big man has been close on three occasions including a 4th place finish in 2013.
The course - TPC Summerlin
One of the easier stops on Tour, TPC Summerlin plays to a par of 71 circa 7,250 yards in length. It winds it's way through the canyons of the Nevada desert terrain. An elevation change from top to bottom of the course exceeds 150 feet and the ball flies further due to altitude. This places the emphasis firmly on distance control from approaches, with the course being largely forgiving from the tee. Greens are spacious and protected by bunkers and some surfaces are equipped with run offs. The flat stick must be working at TPC Summerlin to keep up with the leaders. The final four risk/ reward, hazard infested holes will make or break a players round so there will be no counting chickens down the stretch come Sunday.
Three from the pack
Continuing with the graduates theme from the Frys, it's Tony Finau - 67.00 or 14.00 - most prominent on my radar here after an impressive 12th place finish. The Athletic Finau had a number of top 10s on the second tour last year but really got the attention when winning the low scoring Stonebrae event. Birdies are the brief at TPC Summerlin and the 25 year old ranked 2nd in birdie average and total birdies last season. He gets it out there off the tee averaging 305 yards last week at Silverado and looks set to contend again.
Hudson Swafford - 81.00 or 17.00 - posted a sneaky top 30 on his debut at this event last year. The American carded a Sunday 67 to boost himself into the top 10 in Napa and had a few notable finishes on the main tour last year including a T11 at the Quicken Loans. Swafford regained his 2015 card at the Web Tour finals and will be looking to push on and emulate best buddy and doppelganger Harris English. Swafford ranked 4th in total driving, 11th in GIR and 3rd in ball striking on the PGA Tour in 2014 so it's all about the short stick for the big man.
5 solid round froms his last six at TPC Summerlin were not enough to see Scott Brown make the cut here in 2013. A 65 followed by a 77 have birdie maker Brown firmly under the radar this week despite rallying for a T12 at Silverado. Brown posted two top 4 finishes in the Fall Series last year and also recorded his maiden PGA Tour title in Puerto Rico in October 2013 so clearly excels this time of year and in the low scoring events. This is hardly surprising given he ranked 12th for birdies in 2014, and Scott could contend at 101.0 for the win or 19.00 the place.
Chad Campbell was showing signs of his old self in 2014 and with a vast knowledge of TPC Summerlin which has led to a 2nd and 3rd place in the history books, he's worth a look but it's Jon Curran that may surprise. Also a winner of a low scoring event in Brazil on the Webdotcom Tour last year, Curran - 176.0 or 31.0 - led the field in greens in regulation last week. Curran is the best friend of Keegan Bradley who at one stage last year went to him for help and advice with the flat stick. Jon should prove one to watch this year.