Koepka and Other Ryder Cup Stars Try for Shriners Children Open Victory

Shriners Children Open: Ryder Cup Stars Try for Victory

The third event of the 2021-22 PGA Tour season takes place this weekend in Las Vegas, and it will be the highest-quality field of the new FedEx Cup campaign at the Shriners Children Open from TPC at Summerlin in Nevada.

Martin Laird is the defending champion, having won for the second time here last year after doing so in 2009. Defending FedEx Cup champion Patrick Cantlay has been the hottest golf here in recent years (a win and two runner-ups in the last four years), but he’s not in the field this year. The event has also gone to a playoff in three of the last four years. Laird defeated Matthew Wolff and Austin Cook in a three-way playoff in the 2020 event.

In all, 27 of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings are in the event this year, including Ryder Cup participants Brooks Koepka, Viktor Hovland, Scottie Scheffler, and Harris English.

The event began in 1983 and had the highest purse of any tournament at the time at $750,000. The first event—the Panasonic Las Vegas Pro-Celebrity Classic—was won by Fuzzy Zoeller. Shriners became involved with the event in 2007. From 2008-12, the event was known as the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, and Timberlake’s association was dropped in 2013 to the current name the tournament uses. Timberlake is an avid golfer and would participate in the pro-am for the event and also perform a benefit concert during the week of the tournament.

Curtis Strange, Greg Norman, and Paul Azinger were among the early winners of the event, but perhaps the most famous was in 1996, as Tiger Woods won his first-ever PGA Tour event by defeating Davis Love III in a playoff.

Jim Furyk holds the record as a three-time winner here, doing so in 1995 and in ’98-99. Kevin Na and Laire are the only other multiple-time winners of the event. Na won here in 2011 and ’19 but withdrew from the event this week.

The purse, a record-$750,000 nearly 40 years ago, sits at $7 million this year, with the winner’s share standing at around $1.2 million.

The Course

TPC at Summerlin was created in 1991 as part of the Summerlin planned community on the western side of Las Vegas, Nevada. The course is par-71, clocking in at just over 7,200 yards. Missing the fairways here is a bit unforgiving, as shots can be hit into the desert landscape. A strong approach and putting game is also essential here, but plenty of golfers have been able to figure things out. Hole No. 15 is a drivable par 4, and then players will have to deal with a par 5, par 3, and par 4 finish in the final three holes. No. 16 is a par-5 that is reachable in two with a great shot off the tee, but golfers that are short on that second shot are punished by a lake that guards the front of the green.

Holes 17 and 18 each have water in play and can ruin a nice round in a hurry. No. 17 is a downhill par 3 that has the green protected by water to the front and the left. There’s also a bunker to the right of the green, so this is an unforgiving par 3. No. 18 finishes at 447 yards for par 4. The hole goes uphill and players have to get over desert terrain on the tee shot. The green has some water to the left. It’s a perfect hole to be No. 18 because it gives players a chance to be aggressive for a birdie if they need it, but they can settle in for a par as well if that’s what their score calls for.

The tournament used to be a five-day, 90-hole event until it was changed to 72 holes in 2004. It was also played over multiple courses back then. The winning score is routinely below 20-under par for the tournament, with the 72-hole record being a 25-under by Marc Turnesa in 2008, with the Summerlin record being a 24-under 260 by Ryan Moore and Webb Simpson in 2012 and 13, respectively.

The Leaderboard Favorites

Brooks Koepka, coming off his strong Ryder Cup performance two weeks ago, is the co-favorite here at +1500, along with European Ryder Cup representative Viktor Hovland. Koepka showed that he is back to full health with a full Ryder Cup weekend, and he’s had some nice rounds here in the past, placing as runner-up in 2017 in his best of his six times playing here.  This is Koepka’s first event of the 2021-22 season, and he did score a win last year at the Waste Management Open plus tied for second place at the PGA Championship. He hopes that wrist and knee injuries are behind him as he starts the new season.

“There are some things where you’ve got to keep improving year after year,” Koepka said. “You look at it, traditionally, 30 or 35 [years old] is when guys have their prime out here, and I’m just kind of starting that prime at 31. So hopefully, that holds true, but you got to find a way [to improve].”

Hovland had a disappointing 0-3-2 debut in the Ryder Cup as Norway’s first-ever representative in that event, so look for Hovland to try and rebound here in what will prove to be not as stressful of an environment as he had at Whistling Straits. He had an incredible run from last December through February, winning the Mayakoba Golf Classic and finishing in the top five in three other tournaments in that stretch. He also had back-to-back third-place finishes in May and was also fifth at the Tour Championship last month.

Next at +2000 are Abraham Ancer and Sam Burns. Burns won the Sanderson Farms Championship last week in Mississippi against a much younger field than what he will face here. But it can’t be ignored that in the last seven months, he’s had the first two wins of his career, two runner-ups, and a third-place as a part of seven top 10s in 2021. He finished tied for 34th here last year but was at -9 after the first 36 holes before slowing down a bit over the weekend. Ancer has a pair of fourth-place finishes here in his last three events at Summerlin. He had four other top-five finishes after that before winning the WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational in August. Ancer also ended his season with two ninth-place finishes at the BMW Championship and the Tour Championship. This is his first event since finishing ninth at East Lake just over a month ago.

Players to keep an eye on

Ryder Cup participant Scottie Scheffler and Louis Oosthuizen open at +2200 at Summerlin. Scheffler’s confidence has to be sky high after going 2-0-1 in his first Ryder Cup, including singles win over Jon Rahm, the world’s top-ranked golfer. Scheffler had eight top-10 finishes last year, including a runner-up at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, a third at The Memorial, and a fifth at the WGC-Workday Championship at The Concession. He missed the cut here last year, but it’s not like he played poorly, as he just missed the line at -6. It feels like his first PGA Tour victory is coming sooner than later and given that his play after the tee shot is where he shines, if he can stay out of trouble with his driver, victory could be coming at any moment.

Oosthuizen appears to be healthy after an injury took him out of the first part of the FedEx Cup playoffs. The South African did everything but win last year, leading the PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting and was third in adjusted scoring. He finished 17th in his debut at this event last year. He had an incredible run through the three final majors, finishing second at the PGA Championship and the US Open, and then set a tournament record after 36 holes at The Open Championship before settling for a third-place finish. He was also second at the 3M Open before he dropped off a bit with the injury. His last tournament was a 14th-place finish at East Lake in the Tour Championship.

Webb Simpson, the course co-record-holder from his win in 2013, is also at +2200. Simpson has made the cut eight straight times here, and besides the win has logged two more top-10s, three top-20s, and his scoring average is 67.75. He finished 30th at the Fortinet Championship three weeks ago and has struggled a bit with just two top-10 finishes since March, but his history here can’t be ignored.

Rounding out the players at +2200 is Will Zalatoris. The reigning Rookie of the Year on the PGA Tour is off to a solid start in 2021-22, finishing 11th at the Fortinet Championship and 14th at the Sanderson Farms Championship. The 25-year-old was not exempt on the PGA Tour last season but otherwise would’ve made the FedEx Cup playoffs if he were. He had eight top-10s but needed to win an event in order to be eligible for the playoffs. He made a name for himself by finishing runner-up at the Masters, eighth at the PGA Championship, and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open in 2020. He placed eighth at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational and then wrapped his season up with a 29th place finish at the Wyndham Championship.

At +2500 is Hideki Matsuyama, the reigning Masters champion. He’s played twice here at Summerlin, logging a 10th in 2014 and a 16th in 2019. He struggled down the stretch of the 2021 season, but he opened the new season with a sixth-place finish at Silverado in the Fortinet Championship, so he may be rounding back into form following a short break after the FedEx Cup playoffs.

Sungjae Im (+2500) has two top-15 finishes here at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and was under par in all four rounds last week but finished 30th at the Sanderson Farms Championship. Im is looking for his second win on the tour following his victory at the 2020 Honda Classic. He is also a birdie machine, as he’s led the PGA Tour in birdies for three-straight seasons, carding 498 last year, which is the most in the history of the tour since those records started being kept in 1980. He finished tied for second at the 2020 Masters and became the first person from Asia to come in the top-two at Augusta (before Hideki Matsuyama won the event in 2021). Im also represented South Korea at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, finishing tied for 22nd. He had a rough middle part of 2021 but finished strong with top-20 finishes in all three FedEx Cup playoff events, including third at the BMW Championship.

Fresh off the Ryder Cup two weeks ago, Harris English is also at +2500. English won twice on the PGA Tour last season and nearly had a third, as he led the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational after each of the first three rounds before finishing fourth. He finished his season with an 18th-place finish at the Tour Championship before playing in the Ryder Cup and then starting his 2021-22 season this week.

Looking at longshots, Marc Leishman is a good place to start at +6600. His approach and putting games were solid at the Fortinet Championship, where he finished fourth, and those attributes will help him at Summerlin as well. Defending champion Martin Laird is at +3600, as two of his four PGA Tour titles have come here. Patrick Reed (+3300) is also playing in his first event since recovering from a lung infection to finish 27th at the Tour Championship and was then snubbed by Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker, as “Captain America” stayed home while the U.S. team won in Wisconsin.

Brian Harman (+5000) had played well at TPC Summerlin in six events here, had five top-10 finishes in 2021, and was in the top 20 at all four majors. Cameron Tringale (+3500) played very well through three rounds at the Sanderson Farms Championship last week but faltered in the final 18 to finish tied for 11th. But he’s beginning to gain consistency, as he was in the top 30 in four of the final events of last season, and coupling that with a 19th-place finish here a year ago, he could be a factor.

Ian Poulter (+6000) is a Ryder Cup veteran who has remained in the United States to play in this event. His steady putter can always be counted on (finishing third on tour last year in Shots Gained: Putting). Veterans like Poulter have a good chance here because accuracy and putting are valued more at Summerlin than power off the tee.

Shriners Children Open Victory Charities

Each PGA Tour event has a host organization and benefits other nonprofits. Along with being the title sponsor, Shriners Hospitals for Children is the benefactor of the tournament as well. The international pediatric health care system has 22 locations in North America. Proceeds from the tournament support this health care system and its mission to improve the lives of children as a whole.

As a part of the tournament, the Shriners system’s national patient ambassadors and 22 representatives from each hospital or clinic location are in attendance to enjoy a weekend of golf at a beautiful venue. You will see them all weekend walking alongside golfers and carrying scoreboards.

Shriners Children Open Odds

Jazz Sports latest odds for the PGA Tour’s Shriners Children Open.

Brooks Koepka+1500
Viktor Hovland+1500
Abraham Ancer+2000
Sam Burns+2000
Scottie Scheffler+2200
Louis Oosthuizen+2200
Webb Simpson+2200
Will Zalatoris+2200
Hideki Matsuyama+2500
Harris English / Sungjae Im+2800

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