Stat attack!: Shriners Hospitals for Children Open preview

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Welcome to the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas, where the desert is hot and the golfers are hotter. In the 10 years that the Las Vegas event has been a four-round tournament, only once has the winner shot less than 20 under par.

Last year, Webb Simpson posted 24 under, en route to a tournament-record, six-stroke victory over Jason Bohn and Ryo Ishikawa. Simpson didn’t shoot higher than 67 in any round last year. In the last five years no champion has shot higher than 68, and no winner at Las Vegas has had a round in the 70s since Jim Furyk in 1999.

The field average has been in the 60s every year since the TPC Summerlin became a par-71 course in 2009. Four times in the last five years more than half of the rounds were in the 60s. The Shriners was one of four Tour events last season where players were in the 60s in more than half their rounds. Expect the low scoring to continue this week.

Going low at TPC Summerlin: 2009-2013

 Year Winner Score Field avg. Rounds in 60s 65s or better
 2013 Webb Simpson -24 69.55 208 of 405 (51.36%) 36
 2012 Ryan Moore -24 69.71 203 of 408 (49.75) 24
 2011 Kevin Na -23 68.82 249 of 418 (59.57) 37
 2010 Jonathan Byrd -21 68.96 260 of 409 (63.57) 37
 2009 Martin Laird -19 69.15 238 of 408 (58.33) 41

Tournaments with the highest percentage of rounds in the 60s in 2014

 Tournament Percent of rounds in 60s Par
 Humana Challenge 58.11% 72
 Wyndham Championship 56.77 70
 Sony Open 56.52 70
 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open 51.36 71
John Deere Classic 49.57 71

Casting his Webb

During his victory, Simpson finished in the top five in the field in Las Vegas in greens in regulation (T-2), proximity to the hole (fourth), scrambling (T-3), strokes gained/putting (first) and putting from more than 10 feet (first). Simpson made 15 putts from more than 10 feet in 2013, no other player in the field made more than 12 from that distance.

Shriners Hospitals for Children Open leaders in putting from more than 10 feet in 2013

 Player Putts made/total Percentage Tournament finish
 Webb Simpson 15 for 49 30.61% Won
 Will Mackenzie 12 for 40 30.00 T-15
 John Huh 12 for 43 27.91 T-30
 Stephen Ames 12 for 46 26.09 T-48
 Jason Bohn 11 for 45 24.44 T-2

Home cookin’

Simpson’s victory a year ago ended a streak of Shriners winners who live in Las Vegas, as Kevin Na in 2011 and Ryan Moore in 2012 didn’t have to commute far to get to TPC Summerlin. Charley Hoffman came close to making it three straight home winners a year ago, finishing fourth. In addition, Las Vegas resident Nick Watney finished second in 2011 and former UNLV player Chad Campbell was T-2 in 2009.

Can a player with ties to the host city win again this week? Eleven players in the 2014 Shriners field went to school in Las Vegas or live in the city. Seven of them have finished in the top 10.

How players with Las Vegas ties have fared in the Shriners

 Player Shriners starts Cuts made Top 10s Best finish
 Chad Campbell 11 10 2 T-2 in 2009
 Alex Cejka 8 4 0 T-24 in 2009
 Derek Ernst 1 0 0  
 Andres Gonzales 4 2 0 T-63 in 2006
 Charley Hoffman 10 6 3 Fourth in 2013
 Bill Lunde 7 4 1 Fifth in 2012
 Ryan Moore 8 7 3 Won in 2012
 Kevin Na 8 6 1 Won in 2011
 Scott Piercy 8 6 2 T-6 in 2012
 Alex Prugh 3 2 0 T-29 in 2011
 Nick Watney 9 7 4 Second in 2011

Moore than enough

Ryan Moore is the only player to shoot four rounds in the 60s at the Shriners in each of the last two years. Moore won in 2012, shooting 24-under 260, including an opening 61. It was quite an October for Moore, whose wife, Nichole, gave birth to baby Tucker two weeks later.

Last fall, Moore shot 69-63-69-68—269 to finish T-9, nine strokes back of Webb Simpson.

Simpson, by the way, has shot nine consecutive rounds in the 60s at TPC Summerlin, including four in 2010 and one in 2009. Simpson did not play the tournament in 2011 or 2012.  Carl Pettersson also has nine straight rounds in the 60s at Summerlin, having played every other year since 2009.

Here’s the list of players in this year’s field who had four rounds in the 60s in 2013. 

Four rounds in the 60s at TPC Summerlin in 2013

 Player Rounds in 2013 Finish Consecutive 60s at TPC Summerlin
 Webb Simpson 64-63-67-66 Won 9
 Jason Bohn 67-64-69-66 T-2 4
 Ryo Ishikawa 67-66-68-65 T-2 4
 Charles Howell III 67-69-67-65 T-5 5
 Ryan Moore 69-63-69-68 T-9 8
 Carl Pettersson 68-67-69-66 T-12 9
 Andrew Svoboda 68-67-67-69 T-15 4

Picking up where he left off

Billy Horschel, the 2014 FedEx Cup champion, makes his 2015 season debut at the Shriners. He took a short, one-month break to enjoy his windfall for winning the BMW Championship, the Tour Championship and the $10 million annuity that goes with the Cup – not to mention the birth of his first child, daughter Skylar, two days after the Tour Championship ended. Now he returns, hoping to extend his winning streak to three straight events. 

Since 2000, two players have ended one year with a win and began the next season the same way.  Tiger Woods has done it three times and Jonathan Byrd did it once. We’re not talking about a season-ending/season-opening tournament, but the last and first start by a particular player in the given years.

Players who won their last start of one season and first start the next since 2000

 Player Last start First start
 Tiger Woods 1999 WGC-American Express 2000 Mercedes Championship
 Tiger Woods 2006 WGC-American Express 2007 Buick Invitational
 Tiger Woods 2007 Tour Championship 2008 Buick Invitational
 Jonathan Byrd 2010 Shriners Las Vegas 2011 Hyundai T of C

One final thought: Martin Laird, T-3 last week at the Frys.com Open, has a strong resume in Las Vegas. The Scotsman made the Las Vegas stop his first PGA Tour win in 2009 and he was second a year later. In 2010 Laird lost a playoff to Jonathan Byrd, who became the first player to win a playoff with a hole-in-one, ending Laird’s hopes of a repeat victory with an ace on the fourth extra hole.

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