Shriners Hospitals for Children Open Preview, Picks & Analysis
HOW unpredictable has the PGA Tour become? Who would ever have expected that the first two events in the 2019-20 schedule would have been won by Joaquiin Niemann and Sebastian Munoz? And that Cameron Champ would win the third? Not this particular correspondent, that’s for sure.
And so we turn our attention to the Shriners Hospitals for Children tournament, won last year by Bryson Dechambeau, a man who is currently struggling to find his best form but who can never be written off.
This is a special tournament. Shriners Hospitals for Children is a health care system of 22 hospitals that provides specialty paediatric care, innovative research and outstanding medical teaching programs, and was founded in 1922 by the Shriners fraternity, Shriners International. Today, Shriners Hospitals for Children is the largest paediatric sub-specialty health care system in the world, with the largest full-time staff of paediatric orthopaedic surgeons in the United States. In addition, the Shriners Hospitals for Children specialising in burn care are the only freestanding hospitals dedicated to the treatment of paediatric burns, and the health care system's spinal cord injury rehabilitation program is recognised worldwide.
Every year, Shriners Hospitals for Children provides care for thousands of youngster with orthopaedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate, in a family-centred environment without financial obligation to patients or their families. The health care system also provides medical educational opportunities and conducts research to improve the lives of children. This golf tournament helps to both raise awareness and raise tens of thousands of dollars for the organisation.
When DeChambeau won last year he was enjoying an incredible run of form. It was his fourth victory in just 12 starts on the PGA Tour and his fifth overall. He secured it by holing a monstrous eagle putt at the 16th that helped him on his way to a five-under-par 66 and a one-shot success over Patrick Cantlay.
He came through a rollercoaster back nine at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas in which four players had a share of the lead at some point. Cantlay, trying to become the first player to win back-to-back in Las Vegas in nearly 20 years, made a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-five 16th hole to take a one-shot lead. But from a bunker right of the green on the par-3 17th, Cantlay was fooled by the amount of sand under his ball and flubbed the shot.
One hole behind him, DeChambeau rolled in his long eagle putt from just off the green and celebrated with a big uppercut. Cantlay missed his long par putt, giving DeChambeau control of the tournament. Cantlay birdied the 18th for a 65, but it wasn't enough when DeChambeau played the final two holes conservatively for pars to finish at 21-under 263.
DeChambeau won for the third straight season, and fifth time overall on the PGA Tour. The 26-year-old American began his big run with a playoff victory at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide, and then won consecutive FedExCup Playoff events in New Jersey and Boston. He said he was playing Las Vegas to shake off a little rust, and it turned into another victory.
"I was able to play some great golf," DeChambeau said. "I'm happy to get it done.” Not since Jim Furyk in 1998-99 had anyone successfully defended his title in Las Vegas, and Cantlay looked as if he might get it done when he drove the green on the par-4 15th for a two-putt birdie, and then rolled in another good birdie after having to lay up on the 16th. His tee shot into the 17th was a fraction away from catching a slope and feeding toward the hole. Instead, it tumbled into the bunker to set up what appeared to be a relatively simple shot.
"When I dug my left foot in, it didn't have a bunch of sand," Cantlay said. "I hit the shot and there was more sand under the ball. I didn't anticipate it.” Former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover had a four-foot birdie putt on the 15th hole that would have given him a share of the lead with three holes to play. Glover missed the putt, and then missed a 30-inch par putt. One hole later, he was three shots behind. Glover finished with a triple bogey for a 71 and tied for seventh.
Peter Uihlein, who shared the 54-hole lead with DeChambeau, didn't make a birdie until the 11th hole, finished bogey-bogey for a 75 and tied for 23rd. Sam Ryder was one shot behind when his second shot to the par-5 16th bounced off a knob and back into the water. He managed to save par and birdied the last hole with a 15-foot putt for a 62 to finish alone in third. Rickie Fowler (63), Abraham Ancer (66) and Robert Streb (68) were another shot behind.
DeChambeau won for the fifth time in just his 68th start as a pro on the PGA TOUR, dating to his victory in the John Deere Classic in 2017. But he hasn’t had a great time of it since then, missing the cut at both the US PGA Championship and at The Open. And he began his 2019-20 campaign by missing the cut at The Greenbrier. He led after 36 holes of the Safeway Open before a bitterly disappointing third round. He refuses to panic, however. Any golfer with a technique as idionsyncratic as DeChambeau’s is going to have plenty of highs and lows. And he has also found himself at the centre of plenty of conversations about his funereal pace of play. He shrugs off the criticism, but it has clearly hurt him to hear so many of his peers attacking him - Brooks Koepka has been especially outspoken.
DeChambeau is his own man and will continue to play the game his way, and that means he is unlikely to change things anytime soon. You can also be certain that he will turn things around, and it could well happen this week.
Patrick Cantlay. A class act
Brooks Koepka. Still smarting from failing to win Player of the Year honours
Ben An. Showing some decent form
Patrick Cantlay. Due another win
Brooks Koepka. Best in the world. Period
Ben An. Ready to start enjoying some consistent success on the PGA Tour
Bryson DeChambeau. Looking for return to form
Branden Grace. Hugely underrated
Scottie Scheffler. The next big thing
Louis Oosthuizen. Serial underachiever
Adam Scott. On the way back
Webb Simpson. Gutsy competitor
Matthew Wolff. Hits the ball a mile
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