The Butterfield Bermuda Championship came onto the PGA Tour in 2019 as an alternate event to the WGC-HSBC Champions event in China, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced that prestigious tournament to be canceled in 2020 and again this year, so the Bermuda Championship has been upgraded to a full FedEx Cup points-paying event for the second-straight year, giving a full 500 points to the winner—the same amount as Rory McIlroy earned two weeks ago at the CJ Cup @ Summit in a far more star-studded field.
This event comes a week after the PGA Tour competed in Japan for the ZOZO Championship, so travel is definitely an issue. In normal years, this would be the third week of an Asian swing, as the CJ Cup is traditionally held in South Korea. But due to COVID-19 considerations, the schedule called for players to be in Las Vegas, then Japan, and now Bermuda if someone were to play in all three events.
In addition, the country of Bermuda has strict COVID-19 considerations, requiring golfers participating in the tournament to either be vaccinated or quarantine for 14 days before traveling to the island. The combination of factors resulted in several withdrawals earlier in the week, giving players who are competing a golden opportunity to earn 500 FedEx Cup points along with an invitation to the Masters with a win—another perk that would not be associated with this event if it were being played opposite the WGC-HSBC Champions.
The prize fund has gone up from $3 million in 2019 to $6.5 million this year since it is a full-field tournament. This year’s winner will take home $1.17 million. The money was also increased due to Butterfield Bank joining the Bermuda Tourism Board as co-title sponsors. Brendon Todd won the inaugural event at 24-under, defeating Harry Higgs by four strokes. Last year, Brian Gay was victorious with a 15-under 269, emerging in a playoff over Wyndham Clark.
Port Royal Golf Course in Southampton, Bermuda, is one of the most picturesque locations for a PGA Tour event. The club was founded in 1965, and the course was created by world-renown golf architect Robert Trent Jones and completed in 1970. It underwent a $14.5 million renovation in 2009 prior to hosting the PGA Grand Slam of Golf that year.
The 16th hole is one of the most stunning holes in golf, as the tee box and green are perched on cliffs that overlook the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a par-3, 235-yard hole that has the ocean to the left and features a narrow green, offering a great challenge to golfers towards the end of their round.
The course overall is not long, sitting at 6,828 yards and is a par 71. But after the challenge of the 16th hole, golfers face the only par-5 hole on the back nine at No. 17. It’s a 507-yarder but plays longer due to a prevailing wind, and the ocean still looms on the left of the fairway. The 18th is a par-4, 410-yard hole that is uphill and features a raised green that slopes from front to back, so the final three holes will test the field.
With the European Tour being off this week and Bermuda being a shorter flight than most other PGA Tour events, there are several stars from across the pond participating this week in order to try and improve their FedEx Cup rank in the standings as well as attempt to qualify for majors and other big tournaments in 2022. Matthew Fitzpatrick (+1000) is the betting favorite here, two weeks after winning the European Tour’s Andalucia Masters as Valderrama, the historic Spanish course that hosted the 1997 Ryder Cup. Fitzpatrick, who has not won on the PGA Tour itself, was surprised to see that he’s the favorite.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been a favorite for a tournament before,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s always nice, but for me what was also a big draw as well was that it’s gone to the standard 500 points for a win. It gives me obviously a great chance to get my season up and running and get off to a great start to try and make Tour Championship next year.”
Fitzpatrick’s last trip across the Atlantic was not memorable, as he was winless in three matches at the Ryder Cup in Wisconsin, but he got back on track quickly with the win at Valderrama. He recorded 15-straight pars and birdied two of the last three holes, taking advantage of a Sebastian Soderberg double-bogey on No. 17 to win his seventh European Tour title.
“To play my first week back and win kind of proved that to myself and gave me some confidence going into the end of the year,” Fitzpatrick added.
He is playing here for the first time and recorded five top-10s on the PGA Tour last year in 20 starts, finishing 73rd in the FedEx Cup standings after qualifying for the playoffs. He finished fourth at the RBC Heritage and has had other close brushes with victory but hasn’t sealed the deal yet.
“I would say on the whole, the chances I’ve had to win, I’ve not really lost, I’ve just been beaten,” Fitzpatrick explained. “A couple years ago, [Francisco] Molinari ends up shooting 64 or whatever silly score it was at Bay Hill to pip me by one. And Riviera, same deal; I played well over the weekend, but Max (Homa) came through [and] shot a great Sunday round this year.”
Christian Bezuidenhout is next at +1400 and is making his season debut in his first year on the PGA Tour. He comes in at No. 43 in the Official World Golf Rankings and finished fifth at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth last month, which is one of the European Tour’s most prestigious events. Bezuidenhout made the cut at all four majors last year and had a top finish of seventh on the PGA Tour at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Bezuidenhout received a full exemption to the PGA Tour this year based on his top-50 finish in the Korn Ferry Tour standings. Recent victories on the European Tour include the 2019 Andalucia Masters and the 2020 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
Patrick Reed, an American on the PGA Tour but who is also in the top 10 in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai standings, is the top-ranked golfer in the field at No. 24 in the Official World Golf Rankings and it at +1500. This is Reed’s third event since the season-ending Tour Championship, as he suffered a bout of pneumonia in August that left him hospitalized. Reed missed the cut at the Shriner’s Children’s Open and finished tied for 68th at the CJ Cup @ Summit with a 7-under 281.
Reed, however, has been a consistent presence at the top of the leaderboard in recent years, starting with a win at the 2018 Masters, then capturing 2019’s The Northern Trust as part of the FedEx Cup playoffs. He won twice in 2020-21, claiming victory at the WGC-Mexico Championship and at the Farmers Insurance Open. He also lost a playoff in 2020 at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Despite his struggles, Port Royal calls more for accuracy off the tee and a strong putting game over distance, and Reed has those attributes.
Mito Pereira comes in at +1600 having made the cut at all three events he’s competed in this year, including a career-best third-place finish at the Fortinet Championship in September. He then tied for 31st at the Sanderson Farms Championship and was 40th at the Shriner’s Children’s Open. His worst round this season has been a 71. Pereira comes into the tournament No. 1 in the field this season in Shots Gained: approach and Shots Gained: total.
Hayden Buckley and Seamus Power open the tournament at +2500 odds. Buckley has quietly posted two top-10 finishes in a row, tying for fourth at the Sanderson Farms Championship and tying for eighth at the Shriner’s Children’s Open after missing the cut at the Fortinet Championship. His last competitive round was a 63 at the Shriner’s in Las Vegas. Power, who won the Barbasol Championship last year for his first PGA Tour win, was 21st at the Shriner’s in his last start and has made the cut in both attempts here in Bermuda. His win at the Barbasol Championship in July was part of a hot summer run that saw him finish in the top 10 in four of six starts from the AT&T Byron Nelson in May to the Barbasol.
Adam Hadwin (+3000) struggled with his iron game last year but his accuracy off the tee and on the green has remained solid. The iron play also came around in his last tournament, paying off with a sixth-place finish at the Shriner’s Children’s Open. Hadwin hasn’t won since the Valspar Championship in 2017, but he is one of the better bets if all three phases of his game are on point.
Matthias Schwab (+3000) and Danny Willett (+3500) are two other European Tour regulars making the trip to Bermuda. Schwab, an Austrian, qualified for the PGA Tour with a top-50 finish in the Korn Ferry Tour standings but missed the cut in his only PGA Tour event this season—the Sanderson Farms Championship. He, however, has solid results in his last two events on the European Tour: a 12th at the BMW PGA Championship and a 15th at the Andalucia Masters.
Willett, a former Masters and DP World Tour Championship, Dubai winner, won the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland at the beginning of the month and then came to the U.S. and finished tied for 21st at the Shriner’s Children’s Open. He didn’t play here last year but was eighth at the Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic a season ago. In 2019, he opened with a 67 in this even before settling for a 55th-place finish.
Guido Migliozzi and Sahith Theegala also open things up at +3500 on Thursday. The two-time winner on the European Tour finished fourth at the U.S. Open last year in his debut on the PGA Tour. He then finished 13th at the Travelers Championship before missing the cut at The Open Championship. Migliozzi has missed the cut in three of his last four events on the European Tour, but he did have a 17th at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship four weeks ago.
Theegala is in his first fully exempt season on the PGA Tour and made some noise at the Sanderson Farms Championship four weeks ago, holding at least a share of the lead after each of the first three rounds in Mississippi before a 1-under 71 in the final round relegated him to an eighth-place finish. It was his first-career top-10 on the PGA Tour in his 15th start, but he followed that up by missing the cut at the Shriner’s Children’s Open.
Denny McCarthy (+4000) is one of the best putters in the field and finished fourth here last year after a 15th-place effort in the inaugural version of this event. He also has two top-20 finishes in his last five starts overall, so his game is in a good place coming back to a familiar course.
Scott Stallings (+4500) also has good experience here, with 18th and 26th place finishes in the first two years of this event. He also started the 2021-22 season with a sixth-place finish at the Fortinet Championship at Silverado in California.
Defending champion Brian Gay is an extreme longshot, coming in at +10000 at some books and is currently part of a field bet (+400) here. But he came in third here in 2019 and won in 2020 (his first victory since 2013), and the shorter course plays well into his game, as he’s been one of the most accurate drivers off the tee throughout the course of his PGA Tour career.
Last year, Gay birdied six of the final 10 holes but bogeyed No. 17, which sent him into a playoff with Wyndham Clark. Gay then birdied No. 18 as the first playoff hole, and Clark’s putt to tie missed. Gay, 48 at the time, became the oldest winner on the PGA Tour since Davis Love III was 51 when he won the 2015 Wyndham Championship.
“I was looking forward to coming back to Bermuda. Tied for third here last year, so I had good feelings and thoughts coming back,” Gay said following his playoff win in 2020. “It’s a crazy game—you never know what’s going to happen. I feel like, though, when I get in position, I actually sometimes perform better. I’m more maybe hyper-focused, a little bit more locked in even though the nerves are there [because] I know that I’ve done it before.”
So even though he struggled mightily on the PGA Tour last year (making the cut in only nine of 27 events), his history here makes it worth backing him.
Gay will be facing some adversity this year, as he wasn’t able to make the flight in to Bermuda on Monday due to his plane being overweight. He came in on Tuesday but wasn’t able to practice due to rain, and the pro-am on Wednesday was also canceled due to rain and heavy wind gusts on the island. He will have to draw on his experience at Port Royal in order to start strong in the event.
The tournament’s primary beneficiaries are the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS) and junior golf, in order to raise awareness of the game on the island country. In addition, the Butterfield Bermuda Championship Birdies for Charity program is a matching fund program that benefits several charities on the island. The tournament matches up to 10% of a donation and there are no administrative expenses, meaning that charities keep 100% of the money raised.
It feels like a younger player will break through this weekend, given the opportunity they have for a full points-paying event with a field that’s not as strong as usual events. Pereira, Bezuidenhout, Power, and Theegala are four younger names to look at who have showed potential and could become stars in the not-too-distant future. A win here could propel any of them to a great season with multiple victories.
At the same time, the strength of Fitzpatrick’s game can’t be ignored, and winning at Valderrama showed that he has the patience necessary to get his long-awaited first win on the PGA Tour. Willett has also proven in recent weeks that he can rise to the occasion and claim victory.
Here are the latest odds from Jazz Sports for the PGA Tour’s Butterfield Bermuda Championship.
|GOLFER||ODDS TO WIN THE 2021 BUTTERFIELD BERMUDA CHAMPIONSHIP|
|Guido Migliozzi / Chad Ramey / Sahith Theegala||+3500|
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