This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
SHRINERS HOSPITALS FOR CHILDREN OPEN
Winner's Share: $1.26M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: Las Vegas
Course: TPC Summerlin
2019 champion: Kevin Na
After navigating some terribly weak fields at the start of the 2020-21 season, things are about to get interesting. The Masters is only six weeks away and the big names are starting to begin their preparation for Augusta. The next two weeks constitute what we could call the Las Vegas Swing, if for only this year. The Shriners Hospitals For Children Open is annually played there, but the golfers will stay in town for next week's relocated-from-Korea-because-of-the-pandemic CJ Cup. Then comes the relocated-from-Japan-to-Los Angeles ZOZO Championship. Those two tournaments will be loaded with big purses awaiting the select, 78-man fields. We'll see Tiger Woods defending his ZOZO title at a track he's very familiar track with, Sherwood Country Club.
But for now, it's the Shriners event, and we'll see a steep jump in class this week. U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau heads the 144-man contingent that features three top-10 golfers in the OWGR, 11 of the top 25 and 22 of the top 50. Some of the bold-face names are Collin Morikawa, Webb Simpson, Matthew Wolff, Tony Finau and Patrick Cantlay. And there's also a surprise entrant: Francesco Molinari. The Italian is the only player of consequence who has not played since the pandemic hit, with his last start coming at the WGC-Mexico in February. He has fallen from 18th to 67th in the world rankings and also has done some relocating of his own, moving his family to California.
Beginning in its inaugural year of 1983, the Last Vegas Tour stop used to be a very big deal, with the first $1 million purse in golf. In the 1980s and 1990s, the list of champions was impressive: Woods, Greg Norman, Paul Azinger, Fuzzy Zoeller, Davis Love III, Curtis Strange and three-time champion Jim Furyk. Even NBC's Gary Koch won there, beating TV colleague Peter Jacobsen in a playoff in 1988. Then the tournament got as dry as the desert: More recent champions have included Rod Pampling, Smylie Kaufman, Ben Martin, Marc Turnesa and George McNeill. But the tournament has found its way back, with Cantlay winning in 2017, DeChambeau in 2018 and now Kevin Na back to defend his second Shriners title.
This annually is one of the biggest birdie-fests on Tour – maybe the biggest, when you consider that the winning score is usually at least 20-under-par despite there being only three par-5s. Last year, Na's putter was unconscious, and he won with a 23-under score that featured not only a second-round 9-under 62 but also a third-round 61. The track is at altitude and plays shorter than the 7,255 yards listed on the scorecard. This event annually yields some of the most birdies and eagles on Tour – but does so without the max 156-man field, making that feat even harder. The only scoring aberration was two years ago when Cantlay won it at 9-under-par. What? What the heck happened? Well, the wind happened. It was howling most of the week. After the second round, Aaron Baddeley said it was "like a two- or three-club wind." Things returned to normal the next year when DeChambeau won at 21-under, besting Cantlay, who also finished runner-up yet again to Na.
There's plenty of opportunity for drama and wild swings late on Sunday. No. 15 is a drivable 341 yards that plays among the easiest holes on the track. No. 16 is a 560-yarder that's reachable by most of the field. The 17th is a dicey par-3 of nearly 200 yards guarded by water, and the par-4 18th is 444 yards uphill and with more water. The last two holes both tend to play over par.
Weather-wise, what else? It will be hot and dry in the desert, especially the first two days before the 90-degree heat abates. There is no rain in the forecast, but it does call for some very windy conditions throughout the week.
Fun Shriners Fact I: Tiger Woods earned his first PGA Tour victory in this event in 1996, then called the Las Vegas International. He shot 27-under-par over 90 holes and still needed a playoff to defeat a still-young-at-the-time Davis Love III. Woods won a second tournament two weeks later and, legend has it, went on to have a successful career.
Fun Shriners Fact II: The only PGA Tour playoff to end with a hole-in-one took place at Summerlin in 2010, when Jonathan Byrd aced the fourth extra hole to stun 2008 champ Martin Laird and Cameron Percy. Of course, playoffs have been won with eagles from the fairway, famously Robert Gamez at Bay Hill in 1990 and Craig Parry at Doral in 2004, but never via an ace until 2010.
Key Stats to Winning at TPC Summerlin
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.
• Greens in Regulation/Strokes Gained: Approach
• Putting Average/Strokes Gained: Putting
• Birdie Average
You don't have to be a long hitter to win at TPC Summerlin. Martin was 64th in the field in driving distance, Pampling was 38th and DeChambeau was 30th (yes, 30th) before Na ranked 28th last year. But when you putt the way Na did, nothing much else matters. He made a whopping 558 feet of putts on the large Bentgrass greens to easily lead the field in SG: Putting. In other years, GIR and putting numbers have been mixed, with a fair share of mediocrity from champions and close contenders. But to get to 20-under, you have to make some putts and get birdies, and lots of them. This course has a history of low numbers so be prepared for more. J.J. Henry shot a 60 here in 2013, and that was matched by eventual champion Pampling three years later. But no one had gone 62-61 like Na did a year ago.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Bryson DeChambeau - $11,800 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 7-1)
We're about to find out how human DeChambeau is. You'd think there would be a hangover period after winning your first major, even though it's been almost three weeks since the U.S. Open. But DeChambeau is a different breed, so we suspect he'll be raring to go. And he usually is at TPC Summerlin, having finished fourth last year, first the year before and seventh in 2017.
Webb Simpson - $11,000 (12-1)
Another former champion, Simpson won back in 2014. He comes back every year and has had four top-20s in the ensuing six tournaments, including a tie for seventh last year. Simpson has been idle since tying for eighth at the U.S. Open, which came on the heels of some strong play after the restart highlighted by a win at the RBC Heritage. He led the Tour in birdie average last season.
Patrick Cantlay - $10,400 (16-1)
Cantlay has done about as well as you can do at Summerlin, winning three years ago and finishing runner-up the past two years. He's been so-so since the restart, making seven of eight cuts with three top-15s, but only one was a top-10, at the mediocre Workday Charity Open.
Tony Finau - $10,200 (20-1)
Finau tested positive for COVID-19 and will not participate in this week's event.
Can't recall ever picking the top-4 guys on the DraftKings board, but we're doing it now. In his past eight starts, Finau has three top-5s and two more top-10s – yet he's done so very quietly because he never wins. Four times he's finished in the top-16 in his six Vegas trips, including a tie for ninth last year. As we've noted before, Finau is coming off one of his better putting seasons, ranking 69th on Tour.
Tier 2 Values
Scottie Scheffler - $9,400 (30-1)
The only thing that has been able to slow down Scheffler is the coronavirus. He was dealt a terrible blow by testing positive right before the U.S. Open. He returned last week at the Sanderson to mediocre albeit expected results. Scheffler is not a great putter, but he still ranked T7 on Tour last season in birdie average, making him a strong consideration this week, and at a significantly lower price than the top names.
Louis Oosthuizen - $8,800 (35-1)
In his last five events – which included two majors, two playoff events and a WGC – Oosthuizen has four top-25s, two doubling as top-10s, highlighted by his tie for third a the U.S. Open. This will be his Las Vegas debut, but the recent form is too strong to avoid.
Kevin Na - $8,600 (50-1)
The Las Vegas resident and defending champion also won in 2011 and in between was runner-up in 2016. Na has had some clunkers mixed in, but the upside is too great, even amid his so-so play after the restart. We've seen guys get well in a hurry at TPC Summerlin.
Joaquin Niemann $8,100 (60-1)
Niemann tied for 10th in his Vegas debut two years ago and missed the cut last year, hence his price dropping $1300 since then – no small amount. Niemann has played well of late, contending at the BMW Championship before tying for third and then adding a top-25 at the U.S. Open. He'll have to putt better than he normally does, but he did so at Winged Foot.
Tier 3 Values
Sebastian Munoz - $7,900 (80-1)
Munoz has been playing very well of late, and he's a whopping $2000 cheaper than he was last week at the Sanderson Farms Championship, where he tied for 23rd. He excelled in the playoff events, with one top-20 and two top-10s. He doesn't have a great Summerlin track record, tying for 41st in his debut and missing the cut last year, but that MC came immediately after his maiden win at the Sanderson.
Cameron Smith - $7,800 (80-1)
Smith opened the restart with three straight missed cuts but since then has made seven straight, including top-20s at the first two playoff events (two of the other tournaments were no-cut events). Smith tied for 13th here a year ago and for 10th in 2017.
Harold Varner III - $7,500 (80-1)
Candidly, we'd like Varner better with a few hundred dollars shaved off his price. But after he's made four straight Shriners cuts, with a tie for 15th two years ago, we get it. Varner opened this season with a tie for 29th at the Safeway, an event at which he putted very well.
Kristoffer Ventura- $7,100 (100-1)
Ventura already has two top-10s on the young season, including a career-best T6 last week in Mississippi. He finished fourth on Tour last season in SG: Putting and 11th in birdie average, and he's continued on that path so far this season. Ventura tied for 18th at Summerlin last year.
Kevin Streelman - $7,000 (100-1)
You don't see a top-50 golfer down around this price too often, but Streelman is ranked 45th in the world. He's not a good putter – still, he managed to rank fifth on Tour last season in birdie average. He had made nine straight Vegas cuts, including a runner-up in 2015, before MCing last year.
Maverick McNealy - $6,900 (150-1)
The Las Vegas local led the Sanderson field in birdies last week, 23, en route to tying for 17th. He ranked ninth on Tour last season in SG: Putting and 29th in birdie average. McNealy tied for 37th at Summerlin a year ago.
Scott Piercy - $6,500 (200-1)
Another Vegas guy, Piercy has made the cut eight of the past 10 years, with four top-10s and three other top-25s, though he missed the cut last year. He's made three of his past four cuts overall, with a top-30 at the Northern Trust.
Beau Hossler - $6,500 (200-1)
Hossler is one of the better putters around, ranking 24th on Tour last season. He finished 29th at the Shriners last year, following a T23 in 2019 and a tie for seventh in his 2018 debut. Hossler has made five of his past six cuts, including in all three tournaments he's entered so far this season.