Next stop TPC Summerlin and the Shriners Open where birdies are on the menu in the Nevada desert. A 144 strong field filled to the brim with rookies makes it's way to the strip and many big names, including Tiger Woods, have grabbed their maiden wins in this part of the season. Ben Martin - 101.0 - destroyed the par breaker stat enroute to his first PGA Tour Victory here last year. Martin carded 23 birdies and an eagle, showing a GIR clip of 81.5%.
Rookies may indeed be a theme over the weekend but it's local connections that could prove key with no less than six Las Vegas residents in the field. Rickie Fowler isn't one of them but he is the marquee name in the lineup, leading the market at 11.00. Big hitting birdie maker Brooks Koepka - 15.00 - looks a horse for the TPC Summerlin course and Brooks recorded a T4 finish here in 2014. Former winner Webb Simpson owns a fine record at the Shriners Open and comes in at 31.00 in the betting.
The course - TPC Summerlin
TPC Summerlin plays to a par of 71 circa 7,250 yards in length. It winds it's way through the valleys and 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. There is a firm premium on distance control from approaches with the ball flying that bit extra and those with course and tournament experience will have the edge. There's ample room from the tees so players can let loose from the tips. Greens are spacious and protected by bunkers, while some surfaces are equipped with run offs, making proximity to the hole a vital stat. The flat stick must be working at TPC Summerlin to keep up with the leaders - it will ultimately come down to par breakers. 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. Some holes were remodelled since 2012/13 but it hasn't seemingly affected the low totals at TPC Summerlin.
Four from the pack
Ryan Moore - 26.00 or 6.00 - attended the University of Nevada and currently resides in Las Vegas. Moore shot the then tournament low 4 round total (260) en route to victory in the 2012 Shriners Open. The American opened the season strongly at the Frys with a top 10 at Silverado North, competent in every stat and circling 12 blue numbers over the weekend to finish with rounds of 67-68. Moore seems to excel at this time of year, grabbing back to back CIMB Classic wins in 2013/14. Ryan has two other recent top 10s at TPC Summerlin, excluding his win.
Kevin Na - 26.00 or 6.00 - showcased his local knowledge with one of the best putting displays I've seen when winning here back in 2011. Na later declared he had a big advantage knowing the nuances of the green, and Kevin Na on greens he likes is extremely dangerous. Add to that a ball striking performance incorporating a T9 in Greens in reg and a T3 in driving accuracy last week at Silverado North where he just missed out in a playoff to our man Emilaino Grillo, and all the ingredients look to make Na a great bet here.
Another local resident Scott Piercy - 31.00 or 7.00 - has found his best form the last few months following an injury lay off. Winner at the Barbasol Championship a few months back, Piercy contended strongly at the BMW Championship in The Playoffs, notching a 3rd place finish. He made it all the way to East Lake. Scott then traveled to ST. Andrews for the Dunhill Links where he put in a top 30 performance. Piercy ranked 39th in total birdies last season and has an outstanding record here with his local knowledge and he owns three top 10s in his last 4 starts at TPC Summerlin. The American hit 19 birdies here in 2014 enroute to a T7.
Another local favourite Charley Hoffman - 41.00 or 9.00 - is a regular host of charity events here at TPC Summerlin and perhaps knows the gaff more than most. The big man has been close on three occasions, despite other commitments during prep, including a 4th place finish in 2013. Charley was on top form in the Playoffs where he rallied to a top 3 finish at the Deutsche Bank Championship despite back problems in round 3. Hoffman has three recent top 6 finishes at TPC Summerlin. The Hoff was 30th in par breakers last season. The Nevada resident's game looks a perfect fit for his home event at TPC Summerlin.