SHRINERS CHILDRENS OPEN: The PGA Tour’s Fall Series swings into Sin City this week for one of the friendliest events on the schedule, the Shriners Children’s Open, a tournament that not only promotes a great cause but is held at an easy, stress-free track that sits just a few miles outside the world’s largest adult playground. As work trips go, this one sounds pretty decent, which is probably why it’s drawn a stronger field than some of the other Fall Series events, with the likes of Tom Kim and Ludvig Aberg headlining BETDAQ’s Win Market.
The real intrigue this week, however, will not involve those at the top of the market, but those who are on the bubble of the top 125 in the FedEx Cup points list. That’s because this is the first year of the PGA Tour’s new eligibility rules, where the Fall Series events represent the end of a season and therefore a player’s final chance to lock up playing privileges for next season, as opposed to a set of tournaments which kick off a new season (commonly referred to as the “wraparound” season), which is how it was done for the past few years. In other words, this will be high-pressure golf for the journeymen, hangers-on, and the young guys looking to escape the Korn Ferry Tour, while the players who have locked up status will be able to focus more on making birdies and late-night hands of blackjack.
The course, the Bobby Weed-designed TPC Summerlin, has played host to this event for nearly 40 years, so there are no secrets out there. Located about 10 miles outside of Las Vegas proper, it’s a shortish track that tips out at 7,250 yards and plays considerably shorter than that due to the altitude, so length off the tee is not a prerequisite for success. Summerlin features wide Bermuda fairways, perfectly manicured bentgrass greens, and very few stressful shots. This generally results in a straightforward birdie fest– the cut is usually around 5 or 6-under and the winning score will be in the 23 to 25-under range, with Tom Kim posting 24-under last year to take home the trophy.
As mentioned, defending champ Kim (14.0) and European Ryder Cup hero Aberg (14.5) head the market this week, and with few other marquee names in attendance there are only seven players who are currently trading at shorter than 40/1. That means it may be a good week to throw a couple of darts at the long-odds types, especially since this tournament has seen the likes of Martin Laird, Rod Pampling, and Smylie Kaufman hoist the trophy in the past decade. With that in mind, here’s what I’m thinking this week:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Adam Schenk (36.0)- Though Schenk has yet to win on the PGA Tour, he’s been knocking on the door with increasing frequency and has cemented himself as one of the game’s rising stars, breaking into the top-50 of the World Golf Rankings and currently sitting at 9th in the FedEx Cup standings. He’s been playing some great golf over the past couple of months, logging six top-10 finishes in his last 11 starts, and he’s had two runner-up finishes this year, so he’s definitely on the cusp of big things. Given his record at TPC Summerlin, the “big things” might just happen this week– in six career appearances at this event he’s finished 27th or better five times, including a T3 in 2021 and a 12th-place showing last year. Schenk is a blue-chip option this week and is well worth a bet at a price like 36.0.
Andrew Putnam (48.0)- While there are several different factors that go into handicapping a golf tournament, the two main things that everyone should consider are Current Form and Course History. By those two measures, I’m really liking Putnam here at nearly 50/1. He’s been rock solid over the past few months, missing only one cut since May and finishing T10 at the BMW Championship just two starts ago. He’s been close to the winner’s circle a few times this year, logging three top-5s and a runner-up, and he nearly always plays well in Vegas, finding the top-20 here in 3 of the past 4 years, including a T12 last year and a T11 in 2021. Putnam is a combined 32-under in his last 8 rounds at TPC Summerlin, so I’m sure he has plenty of confidence and good vibes heading into this week. I’m happy to take a chance on him at the current price.
Matthew NeSmith (90.0)- As the old expression says, there are horses for courses, and that is certainly true in the sport of golf. Matt NeSmith might not be the first name that comes to mind when rattling off a list of the game’s best young players, but he’s awfully tough to beat at Summerlin, as evidenced by a record which includes top-20 finishes in all four of his appearances here and a runner-up showing last year, when he shot 63-66 over the weekend and nearly chased down Tom Kim. With a record like that he should probably be an auto-bet at 90.0 anytime he tees it up in this tournament, and there are signs that his game is in shape after a T25 at the Sanderson last week, a result that could’ve been even better were it not for a disappointing round on Saturday. If you’re going to chase the long odds this week, you could do a lot worse than NeSmith.