This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
SHRINERS CHILDREN'S OPEN
Winner's Share: $1.26M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: Las Vegas
Course: TPC Summerlin
2020 champion: Martin Laird
There will be a second year of the Las Vegas Swing, which means that once again there will not be an Asian Swing.
This week's Shriners Children's Open, which has a slightly modified name from past years, is the annual event in Vegas. Next week's CJ Cup will be played in Nevada for a second year in a row, rather than its regular home in South Korea. The CJ Cup was moved to Vegas last year and the PGA Tour fully expected it to be a one-time shift, but the pandemic had other ideas. Interestingly, the second half of the Asian Swing, the ZOZO Cup, will be played as scheduled in Japan in two weeks. One final quick note for now about the CJ Cup: It is switching courses from Shadow Creek to the Summit Club. More on that next week.
Okay, now that we got those scheduling logistics out the way, let's talk about what is a very strong Shriners field, perhaps even loaded for a fall event. There are 15 of the top-30 in the world rankings on hand and more than half of the top-50. Notably, there are six Ryder Cuppers, three from each side. But more notably, there are two non-Ryder Cuppers in their first action since being snubbed for a U.S. captain's pick. We're taking about Patrick Reed and two-time Shriners winner Kevin Na. Na, for one, has had lot to say about being bypassed – and will get another chance with a pre-tournament media session – but Reed has been silent. The six Ryder Cup players in the 144-man field are Brooks Koepka, Scottie Scheffler, Harris English, Viktor Hovland, Paul Casey and Ian Poulter.
There's also Sam Burns, last week's Sanderson Farms winner and perhaps a Ryder Cup snubbee himself, plus Louis Oosthuizen, Abraham Ancer, Hideki Matsuyama and Webb Simpson. But again, there's perhaps a more notable player: Rickie Fowler, who has tumbled to 125th in the world rankings and will begin a pivotal season on Tour. Can he return to any semblance of his former self? Jordan Spieth didn't fall as far as 125th, but he found his way back. (We're not saying Fowler is as a good as Spieth!)
One more guy we'd like to bring your attention to: Rasmus Hojgaard, the 20-year-old Dane who, with his twin brother Nicolai, could be prominent on future European Ryder Cup teams. Rasmus is ranked 85th OWGR and here on a sponsor's exemption.
Overall, the field features only about 10 Korn Ferry grads, whereas the first two events of the season had almost the full 50.
The Las Vegas Tour stop, around since 1983, 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: Tiger 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 it has found its way back, with Patrick Cantlay winning in 2017, Bryson DeChambeau in 2018 and Na in 2019. Martin Laird won last year for his second Shriners title (also 2009).
This annually has been one of the biggest birdie-fests on Tour – maybe the biggest when you consider that the winning score usually is at least 20-under but with only three par-5s. Two years ago, Na's putter was unconscious, winning with a 23-under score that featured not only a second-round 9-under 62 but a third-round 61. Laird also won lat year at 23-under, beating Matthew Wolff and Austin Cook in a playoff. The track is at altitude and plays shorter than the 7,255 yards listed on the scorecard. Really, everybody can hit it it far. Summerlin annually totals among 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 three years ago when Cantlay won it at ... 9-under. 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 was 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 uphill and with more water. The last two holes both tend to play over par, so the course does stiffen when it counts most. Water comes into play on four holes. The bentgrass greens are large, averaging about 7,400 square feet with the stimpmeter running at 11.5. There are 92 bunkers.
Weather-wise, the conditions should be good for scoring. Temperatures will be in the 70s and 80s, there's not much chance of rain – Friday is the best day right now – and the wind should start out moderate and lighten on the weekend.
Fun Shriners Factoid I: Tiger Woods earned his first PGA Tour victory in this event in 1996 when it was 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 a successful career.
Fun Shriners Factoid 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 defending champ Martin Laird and Cameron Percy. Of course, playoffs have been won with eagles from the fairway, famously by 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.
• Strokes Gained: Approach/Greens in Regulation
• Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green
• Strokes Gained: Putting
• Birdie average/Birdie-or-Better Percentage
It is bombs away at TPC Summerlin. You don't necessarily have to be a long hitter to win this week, largely because just about everyone can hit it far in the Vegas desert. Laird, who averaged 295 yards off the tee last season to rank 104th on Tour, averaged 323 here last year en route to a playoff win over Matthew Wolff and Austin Cook. That was good for only 15th in the field in distance. More than 60 guys averaged at least 300 on their drives, and Bryson DeChambeau came in at a surreal 363. It's not even important to keep your drives in the fairway, because there's little penalty for missing. So as we now see in this birdie-fest, the tournament will be won from the fairway on in. Laird ranked fourth in Strokes Gained: Approach, while Wolff was sixth and Cook eighth, and all three were top-5 in SG: Tee-to-Green. They putted decently – you have to to hit 23-under – but many others did better. There are always some super-low scores. Wolff carded a 61. Two years ago, Na followed a 62 with a 61. J.J. Henry shot a 60 in 2013, and that was matched by Pampling three years later. So you're gonna have to make a bunch of putts to win this track meet. The over/under on the winning score on golfodds.com is 261.5 – 22.5 under par.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Abraham Ancer - $10,400 (Winning odds at the DraftKings Sportsbook: +1800)
On one hand, it's hard to imagine Ancer being ranked 12th in the world ahead of the likes of such superstars as Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. On the other, his results are there, including his breakthrough win at the WGC-FedEx in August. Ranked in the top-30 on Tour last season in every strokes-gained category but one (Around-the-Green), Ancer's game fits nicely on any track. That includes TPC Summerlin, where he finished fourth a year ago.
Webb Simpson - $10,200 (+1800)
This will be Simpson's 11th start at Summerlin, and he's enjoyed great success through the years, including a win in 2013 and top-20s the past four years. But this has not been a great year for Simpson, falling from sixth in the world to 24th and failing to get into the Tour Championship or make the Ryder Cup team. So this week could be viewed as a litmus test for Simpson – do well and maybe it triggers a turnaround, stumble and it raises concerns for what lies ahead.
Will Zalatoris - $10,100 (+2200)
Zalatoris has certainly cooled off from earlier this year, but he's been on the periphery of contending in his past few starts, including top-15s at the first two events of the season. But Summerlin is the type of track where he's able to really shine – let fly of the tee without much fear of trouble. Zalatoris tied for fifth here a year ago in his Shriners debut.
Scottie Scheffler - $9,700 (+2200)
Scheffler has played this tournament twice, missing the cut last year and tying for 74th the year before. That sure doesn't sound like Scheffler. But last year's result came amid a so-so fall season that followed a positive COVID test. He really didn't take off until early in 2021. This price, under $10,000, is too good to pass up.
Tier 2 Values
Hideki Matsuyama - $9,500 (+2800)
We know what you're thinking: Matsuyama can't putt, so how low can he go? Good question. But he has shown the ability to go low thanks to his elite iron play. Matsuyama had a fantastic weekend at the WGC-FedEx by shooting 64-63. He missed the cut here last year but finished 16th and 10th in two prior visits. Matsuyama is coming off a tie for sixth at the season-opening Fortinet.
Sungjae Im - $9,200 (+2800)
Im did not have the best greens-in-regulation or putting numbers last season, but that didn't stop him from going low here last year, reaching 17-under to tie for 13th. And he got to 23-under at the BMW Championship during the playoffs in August. Im ranked 30th in birdie average last season, so clearly he figures out how to score.
Si Woo Kim - $9,000 (+4500)
Kim is ready for a fourth go-round in the Vegas desert, having made the cut every time and last year turning in his best result, a tie for eighth at 18-under. He has two other top-25s. Kim has been a much steadier golfer of late, highlighted by his runner-up at the Wyndham less than two months ago.
Joaquin Niemann $8,300 (+4000)
Niemann is one of the longest hitters on Tour (13th in driving distance last season), fairly accurate with his irons (35th in greens in regulation) and a decent putter (47th in SG: Putting). That's a good combination for a golfer to have, and it added up to ranking of 24th in birdie average. Niemann has already played Summerlin three times, tying for 13th last year and for 10th in his 2018 debut.
Tier 3 Values
Aaron Wise - $7,900 (+5000)
We turned to Wise last week and he just missed his third straight top-25 (T26 at the Sanderson). He's had a weird history at this tournament. He's missed the cut the past two years but before that made three straight with two top-15s. Wise is better than average in every area but putting, and he even was pretty good on the greens last week.
Maverick McNealy - $7,700 (+6000)
McNealy appears to be turning a corner in his career. He's made his past eight cuts, with six of them top-25s, including a runner-up last time out at the Fortinet. This will be his fourth start at Summerlin. He's missed two cuts, but he's a far better golfer now.
Brian Harman - $7,600 (+5500)
Harman has five straight cuts here, and the past three have been top-20s, including last year. The course playing shorter than the yardage surely helps him, but so does one of the best short games on Tour. Harman should be well rested, as he's been idle since the BMW Championship in late August.
Cam Davis - $7,300 (+10000)
Davis had a bad missed cut last week, but that could work to our advantage by deflating his ownership. He had made six straight cuts beginning with his maiden win at the Rocket Mortgage, and had good results in the first two playoff events. Davis is one of the longest hitters and ranked 22nd in birdie average last season. He's made both his Summerlin cuts, with a T28 in 2018 his best result.
Lucas Glover - $7,000 (+10000)
Glover wasn't here last year and the big question was: Why not? Because in his three previous visits he finished top-10 every time. That followed three straight missed cuts, so Glover clearly has figured something out. He's usually been accurate with his irons, and ranked 17th in greens in regulation last season. Glover kick-started his sagging career over the summer by winning the John Deere.
Scott Piercy - $6,700 (+13000)
Piercy is a Vegas guy who plays every year, now his 16th start in this tournament. He's missed only three cuts. He tied for 19th last year and for 10th in 2018. Piercy is now 42 and had fallen well outside the top-200 in the world rankings before getting himself back inside with some strong play of late: third at the Barracuda, 15th at the Wyndham and 11th at the Fortinet.
Matt Jones - $6,700 (+15000)
Jones does not miss many cuts, either here or anywhere, really. He missed only five all last season, and he's made four of his past five at Summerlin. The veteran Aussie is not the most accurate iron player, but he hits it pretty far off the tee and has a better-than-average short game. Jones was 52nd here last year but 29th the year before.
Tom Hoge - $6,500 (+15000)
Hoge has made four of five cuts at Summerlin through the years. Last year resulted in a top-25 and he had a top-10 in 2017. Hoge did not have a great season in 2020-21, but his best finish was recently when he tied for fourth at the Northern Trust.