What's on Tap: The Shriners Children's Open
By Alex Lauzon from the “Course of Life” podcast
All Eyes on Lexi
It’s admittedly far from the meat of the golf season, and it’s understandable that fall PGA Tour stops will want to present storylines and intrigue to bring viewers in. This week in Vegas is no exception to that strategy as they are taking a gamble of their own on a sponsor exemption. For the first time in five years a woman is teeing it up on the PGA Tour, and this week we’ll get to see LPGA Tour pro Lexi Thompson tee it up with the boys and see how she stacks up. The timing as it pertains to Lexi’s current game is debatable, but there’s not many players longer than her on the LPGA Tour so distance won’t be an issue. Nerves will!
At last week’s Sanderson Farms we had birdie fireworks and a five way playoff where we almost grabbed an outright winner with Ben Griffin…but alas we were one putt short. If nothing else the Tour has had some sneaky entertaining fall finishes that can even grab a few eyeballs away from football. This week’s storyline in Vegas is no exception for potential drama.
The Shriners Children’s Open and TPC Summerlin are synonymous with Las Vegas and the fall schedule on the PGA Tour. While most of the nation cools into fall vibes, the Tour heads to warm and sunny Vegas for a week of gambling, birdies and eagles on an extremely gettable TPC track. Summerlin is just a hair over 7200 yards and a par 71 that is your typical flat desert layout with devilish pin placements and long stretches of bunkering. Sightlines aren’t overly difficult so what I’m getting at is: it’s basically a par 67 course and favors high bridie rate players.
The Shriners field is headlined by LPGA Tour Pro Lexi Thompson, who becomes the 7th woman to give it a go against the boys. The buzz is heightened for an event that normally is overlooked by most casual golf fans. Most recently, Brittany Lincicome of the LPGA gave it a go and did shoot an under par round, but missed the cut. Michelle Wie, Annika Sorenstam and others have tried to make it to the weekend, but only Babe Didrikson Zaharias did it in 1945. Lexi certainly possesses the length to not have the course overpower her, but it will all come down to the tidiness of her short game, which has been in question as of late.
Forecasting The Shriners
This week’s winner is likely to come from a player that played last week or takes in good form to Vegas. As for player fit, it would be a poised player that doesn’t let a few missed birdie putts get in the way of confidence, and keeps firing darts. Its opportunities aplenty and recent champs like Tom Kim and Martin Laird show that anyone with a hot putter and wedge can break through and overtake the field.
1. Who’s hot and trending – recent high finishes, top 10 streaks and consistent play are never a bad thing.
2. Horses for courses – players love certain courses and course familiarity and experience are invaluable in a field of the world’s best.
3. What the numbers tell you this week – while I’m far from analytical, there’s always a tournament darling or two scattered across the golf talk stratosphere that stuns on paper.
4. Intangibles – while this allows for theater of the mind, there’s a mysterious optimism surrounding a player that feels “due” or if the price looks just right for buying.
In Mississippi at the Sanderson Farms the picks were decent to start, and as Ben Griffin climbed the board the potential was endless. We got clipped in a massive five man playoff and simply needed one more birdie putt to drop for glory. From a point perspective it was a B on the week for the picks.
The Tier Plays
Tier 1: J.T. Poston - While the herd may go with the defending champion Tom Kim or the Ryder Cup winner in Ludvog Aberg, I like Poston cause he played well here last year and will give himself a bunch of birdie looks all week.
Tier 2: Nicolai Hojgaard - For Tier 2 I do like the other Team Europe Ryder copper that figures to bounce back after taking last week off to cure his likely hangover. I get it.
Tier 3: Adam Hadwin - Top 10 here last year and he always seems to show his best game on the west coast.
Tier 4: Ben Griffin - Back to the well for the second week in a row to a player that’s trending and tasted contention last week.
Get in on this week’s Shriners contest NOW to pick your own team!
Where to watch: The Golf Channel has coverage all week, and there will be an abundance of Las Vegas strip shots to entice to book that next flight out and hit a jackpot…or not like most of us.
Why to watch: For the first time in 5 years, an LPGA pro with length off the tee is trying her luck at competing with the boys - always a fascinating narrative to follow.
What to eat: My Vegas mainstays are TAO, the Front Yard and Grand Lux Cafe.
Purse: $8.9 million
Winner's Share: $1.5 million
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