The second event of the PGA season gets underway Thursday morning from Las Vegas. The Shriners Hospital for Children Open will be held at TPC Summerlin again this year, a course that has yielded very low scores over the years, including a higher-than usual 69.659 scoring average for the field last year. Players will need to take full advantage of every scoring chance to contend – here are a few players at every price range who might be able to do just that. Good luck.
Jimmy Walker ($9,900) – He hasn’t exactly been tearing it up recently, but he never lost his putting stroke, finishing 2015 ranked second in Strokes Gained: Putting, a skill he’ll need to place well here. But that’s no surprise, because it’s served him well here in the past – he has finished in the top-15 here each of the past three years, including a T4 here last year (highlighted by a 62 on Saturday).
Scott Piercy ($9,700) – Piercy started off last season slowly, but only missed one cut from the beginning of July to the end of the season, playing all the way through to the Tour Championship after a solo-3rd at the BMW that simultaneously propelled him forward another week and proved he belonged there (he finished 25th at East Lake). He finished T7 here last year, his fourth time ending up in the top-15 in the last six years.
Jason Bohn ($9,500) – He finished T3 last weekend by virtue of leading the field in GIR %, a stat I think could easily translate to success on this course (more on that below). He has finished inside the top-20 here in four of his last five tries, with a high of T2 just two years ago, in the 2013 edition.
Charley Hoffman ($9,300) – It’s a big week for Hoffman, who is the official host of the ProAm that took place here on Monday for the benefit of several charities supporting children around the country. He will look to take all of that potential distraction and channel it into his own performance once the real deal tees off Thursday morning. He is a talented enough golfer to card 21 birdies at the Deutsche Bank last month, so the potential is definitely there for a big performance.
Russell Knox ($8,700) – He has played TPC Summerlin three times, or twelve total rounds (made the cut all three times, including a solo third last year). In those twelve rounds, his scoring average is just over 67, which is enough to keep him in contention even without the one low round he would need to win it. He didn’t quite make it to East Lake last season, but he still closed strong, with a T20, T12 and T45 in the first three playoff events.
Will Wilcox ($8,200) – With four top tens, nine top 25s and twelve made cuts in only 17 starts last year, this is a player who is primed to break through this season. I recommended him last week as well, and he repaid me with a T10 performance on the strength of his par-4 scoring (finished second in the field). That’s a trait that will certainly help on this course, which had a scoring average of 3.98 on par-4s last year. For this price, I plan on continuing to recommend him until he starts to make me look foolish.
Russell Henley ($8,100) – If you looked at my PGA Insights article this week, you saw that I suggested GIR and Strokes Gained: Putting as two stats you could focus on to try to identify good plays this weekend. For a mid-priced talent, Henley ranks relatively high in both categories (9th in putting and 69th in GIR over 2015 season), so this is me putting my money where my mouth is.
Daniel Summerhays ($8,000) – Third on the tour in Strokes Gained: Putting last season, if he is controlling his irons this weekend he could find himself pretty high up on this leaderboard. Last year it was a 72 on Sunday that pushed him down to -6 and T54 here, but he carded enough birdies to compete – or at least contribute a fair amount of fantasy points – so you have to hope he just keeps putting himself in a position to succeed with consistent ball striking off the tee and on his approaches.
Kevin Streelman ($7,900) – He has played here five times and made five cuts, with a solo second last year. In those 20 rounds, he hasn’t had a single one over par. I am somewhat surprised he isn’t a few hundred dollars cheaper, but he is still in a price range that makes him very affordable and allows you to build a lineup that doesn’t require you to venture too deep into the depth charts for your last roster spot.
Ben Martin ($7,500) – Last year’s winner here, clearly something about this course suits him – you don’t shoot -20 at a course you don’t like. His last great finish was a T25 at the Deutsche Bank, but you don’t need him to win to be a value at this price, you need him to make the cut. He always manages to score – his issue is rarely too few birdies but rather too many bogeys, and four rounds of that can still mean very helpful production.
Hudson Swafford ($7,400) – Another golfer who fits into my metric for success this weekend better than you might expect based on his price, Swafford was 26th in putting and 39th in GIR % for the 14-15 season, and finished off last season with decent performances at The Barclays and the Deutsche Bank. And by “last season,” of course, I mean “a few weeks ago.”
Cameron Tringale ($7,300) – When you’re picking golfers at this price level, you’re not always going to be supremely confident. But Tringale finished off the 2015 season with his best golf of the year in September, with a T30, T44 and T7 at The Barclays, the Deutsche Bank and the BMW Championship, respectively. That is very valuable upside at this price.