By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
LAS VEGAS -- They handed out more than $6 million in prize money on Sunday, but 6-year-old Matthew Houston might have been the happiest person leaving the golf course. He has battled cerebral palsy and for the last three years received treatment at the Shriners Hospital in Los Angeles.
Following his round, Las Vegas resident Nick Watney potted young Matthew on a hill behind the 18th green. Without prompting, Watney walked up that hill to say hello to Matthew and give him a souvenir ball and glove. The glow from Matthew’s smile produced enough energy to light every neon sign on the Vegas Strip.
The PGA TOUR donates millions of dollars to charity every year, and Shriners Hospitals for Children is one that is special. And thanks to Watney, Matthew is smiling tonight.
Champion: There is no doubt Webb Simpson played the best golf this week. Every metric worked in his favor. Simpson led the tournament in strokes gained-putting, was T2 hitting greens in regulation and was even 2 for 2 in bunker saves. He made a total of four bogeys and followed those mistakes with three bounce-back birdies. Simpson’s lead was never seriously threatened in the final round because he birdied two of the first three holes. Simpson began the day with a four-shot lead, then extended it with early birdies so he could just concentrate on hitting fairways and greens over the final 15 holes.
Coulda, shoulda: Jason Bohn has a good week with a T2 finish at 18 under, but he had a strange scoring split. He played hole Nos. 13-18 -- the most scoreable portion of the golf course with a pair of par 5s and a drivable par 4 -- in even par. Bohn was 18 under on the rest of the course but never solved that last stretch of holes. By contrast, Simpson was 11 under during that same stretch of holes.
Altitude: The mountains surrounding Las Vegas reach 10,000 feet and TPC Summerlin sits 2,500 feet above sea level. That altitude, combined with dry desert air, made it difficult to pick clubs. As a general rule, 5,000 feet adds about 10 percent distance to clubs, so distances played about 5 percent shorter than usual in Las Vegas. Players had a hard time dialing in their number this week, particularly with wedges.
Birdie runs: TPC Summerlin lends itself to birdie runs, and we saw several sprints in the final round. Charley Hoffman twice put together a trio of birdies in a row, but nobody strung together a run like Troy Matteson. He parred the first eight holes and then ran home birdies from No. 9 through No. 15. That string of seven in a row was stopped by a flagstick at the 16th. Matteson’s approach was a little too precise as it rattled off the flagstick, rebounding 24 feet away from the cup and leading to his first par since No. 8.
Happy Birthday: It was a good week for Ryan Moore. He defended his title with T9 finish that included a chip-in eagle at the 16th. As he came out of the scoring trailer, tournament officials had a birthday cake ready for Moore’s son. Tucker celebrated his first birthday on Saturday and reveled in the sweet pastry, chewing chunks off the top and putting his tiny fists into the icing.
Fred Albers is a correspondent for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.
By: Fred Albers, PGA TOUR.COM Correspondent
LAS VEGAS -- PGA TOUR Rookie Chesson Hadley birdied his final hole of the second round to shoot 66 and did some arithmetic as he studied the leaderboard. With some quick calculations Hadley announced, “With a good round on Saturday, I could play with Webb on Sunday.”
Webb, of course, is Webb Simpson. The three-time PGA TOUR winner is two years older than Hadley but the two grew up playing junior golf together in Raleigh, N.C. To continue their AJGA competition on the PGA TOUR is just another sign that Hadley has arrived.
The Web.com Tour Championship winner showed no rookie nerves in just his second PGA TOUR event of the 2013-14 season. Looking at a very tight hole location on the 198-yard seventh hole, Hadley took a dangerous route but carved a draw 10 feet below the cup and converted the first of three birdies in a row.
With those kinds of nerves and that kind of shot making, Hadley just might get that Sunday pairing with Simpson.
Defending Champion: Ryan Moore plays and practices at TPC Summerlin, so the Las Vegas resident knows the course very well. That local knowledge came into play on Friday when Moore shot 63 to get back in contention at 10 under. There are several confusing reads at TPC Summerlin because the prominent break is toward Las Vegas but there are certain greens where the slope will send the ball away from the valley. Moore understands those subtle breaks and used just 26 putts while hitting 16 greens on Friday. It also helped that Moore’s approaches averaged 23 feet, 11 inches from the cup.
Family night: Daniel Summerhays frequently travels with his wife Emily along with sons Jack, Patton and William. The fivesome has developed a tradition: Friday is “Family Night.” That usually means pizza and a movie but Dad had something special planned this week. There is a lighted nine-hole course not far from TPC Summerlin so the boys brought their junior clubs up from Utah and after a day of golf on the PGA TOUR, Daniel is going to watch his kids whack it around some more in the evening.
Clutch: You don’t win 20 PGA TOUR events without the ability to perform under pressure and Davis Love III responded on Friday. He did not have his best stuff but straddled the cut line at two under on the 18th hole. Davis answered the challenge with a 200-yard drive followed by a 126-yard wedge to within seven feet of the cup and then rolled home the birdie putt to qualify for weekend play. He has fought neck and back issues for the last year and had to withdraw from Wednesday’s Pro-Am with a toe injury. Love reasons every round of PGA TOUR golf brings him closer to victory number 21.
Bad day: Everyone has the occasional bad day at the office and Andres Romero had a tough one on Friday. After shooting 61 on Thursday, he carded 81 in the second round. That’s a 20-shot differential to miss the cut. After making six birdies and two eagles in the opening round, Romero had six bogeys, a double and a triple with just a single birdie on Friday.
SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.
By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
LAS VEGAS -- Some players fall into the “comfort zone” trap while playing on the PGA TOUR. A golfer gets 5 under and tends to go into a four-corner offense trying to protect that number. That strategy will not work this week. If you are comfortable with your number, you are not in contention. When players get 5 under at TPC Summerlin they must consider their work only half done. J.J. Henry shot 4 under on his first nine holes and came home with a 28 to shoot a personal-best 60. This is a great week for players to set a goal of posting a personal best score. That’s what it usually takes to win in Las Vegas.
Wedge play: Bryce Molder stood in the 16th fairway cursing his luck. He had hit what he thought was a good drive, only to have it take a bad bounce into a bad lie. Molder could not go for the 525-yard par 5 in two and was faced with a bad number for his wedge. Molder was 126 yards from the flagstick, just at the far end for his wedge, but the strike was pure and the shot was on line as Molder looked up to steal his first glance on the follow through. He started to shout, “Go in” or “Get close,” but did not want to jinx the shot. So Molder watched in silence as the 126-yard wedge went into the cup for an eagle. He followed up with birdies at Nos. 17 and 18 and went on to shoot a 6-under 65. If not for that bad bounce on the drive, Molder may not have eagled the 16th hole.
Eagles: It did not take long for the assault on the 15th hole to begin. The par 4 measured 301 yards in the opening round and Sean O’Hair, who teed off on the 10th hole at 8:01 a.m., scored the first eagle, hitting his drive to 5 feet, 9 inches. The 15th gave up a record 10 eagles in 2012 and surrendered three on Thursday.
Surgery: Oct. 29 will mark the one-year anniversary of Jonathan Byrd’s wrist surgery. He’s playing on a major medical exemption and is off to a good start in Vegas with an 8-under 63. Byrd is a former champion who scored a hole-in-one in the 2010 playoff to win. He says he recalls that shot often, but the round tends to unroll in his mind in the order of his shots played, with Byrd remembering critical par putts and birdies that got him into the playoff. The hole-in-one is a nice memory, but it’s always the last thing he recalls of that special week.
Happy birthday: Davis Love III turns 50 in April of 2014 but says it will make little difference with his schedule. The 20-time champion intends to put all his effort into the PGA TOUR with intentions of making both the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola and the Ryder Cup team. Love still possesses plenty of length to win on TOUR; he averaged 311.0 yards per drive in the first round. Putting is what holds Love back. He hit 16 greens on Thursday, but took 35 putts. Love said he was actually encouraged with his stroke, saying he did not give himself many makeable putts, hitting it to an average of 35 feet from the hole.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
Regular entrants at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open will find quite literally a smaller margin for error this week when they come to TPC Summerlin’s drivable par-4 15th.
A swath of perhaps 20 yards of greenery left of the 15th green was torn up and returned to the desert during renovations this summer. The change removed more than half of the cushion for drives that miss in that direction.
“Previously, you could miss it as far as 30 yards left and be in grass or a bunker,” said Dale Hahn, TPC Summerlin’s superintendent. “Now you only have a 10- to 15-yard buffer zone. Some people are going to find themselves in the desert [after missing] left, I’m sure of that.”
Measuring 341 yards, No. 15 is in driving range for a majority of players in the field. Missing the green, though, does not leave a routine up-and-down for birdie.
The long, narrow green is elevated, with drastic undulations that leave the possibility of steering chip attempts away from certain pin positions. Five bunkers also guard the putting surface, finding plenty of activity.
The hole has ranked as TPC Summerlin’s third-easiest in recent years, behind two of the course’s par-5s. But it’s worth noting that No. 15’s eagle total has risen in recent years, going from five in both 2009 and 2010 to last year’s total of 10 eagles.
Most of last year’s eagle came in the early rounds, including one each from winner Ryan Moore and runner-up Brendon de Jonge. Just one final-round eagle has been recorded in the past three years, and Graham DeLaet was well off the pace when he did it in 2010.
The best performance at No. 15 in recent editions has come from Martin Laird in 2010, when he used three birdies and an eagle to help reserve a spot in a three-way playoff. That was the year Jonathan Byrd took the crown with a walkoff ace at No. 17.
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
It simply might have been some bad Las Vegas luck when an inch of rain washed down on TPC Summerlin hours after crews had aerated greens in preparation for the PGA TOUR’s annual visit.
When rain and drizzle continued for the rest of August, though, superintendent Dale Hahn realized he had a serious test on his hands.
“It was one of our more challenging years, that’s for sure,” said Hahn, who oversaw the replacement of several small sections that didn’t survive the additional moisture for which it wasn’t accustomed.
Three weeks of plugging and sodding, though, turned out to be just enough time to bring the putting surfaces back up to standards for this week’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
“With lots of fertilizer, lots of TLC – and lots of overtime – we got [the greens] where they needed to be,” said Hahn, in his 12th year as TPC Summerlin’s superintendent. “The player comments I’ve heard have been real good.”
Rain is rarely a prevailing issue in Las Vegas, where the desert climate averages just 4.2 inches of precipitation for an entire year. August typically sees just one or two days of moisture.
That’s why getting an entire inch – nearly 25 percent of Las Vegas’ annual rainfall – in a single day is an unusual situation. And it turned out that was just the beginning.
“It was cloudy, overcast and drizzly for almost three weeks – and no real relief in temperatures,” Hahn said. “High temperatures and high humidity is something our staff and our grasses aren’t used to seeing.”
TPC Summerlin’s greens are of the bentgrass variety, a strain designed to thrive in hot, dry summers.
“But not in high temperatures when it’s humid,” Hahn said. “We had almost a Georgia-type August.”
Bentgrass doesn’t thrive in the Southeast. And as the humid, drizzly days continued, Hahn could see he was losing sections. Replacement work began right after Labor Day, with extra sessions of rolling and fertilizer to smooth over the seams.
“A few players came in real early for practice rounds, and we still were a little rough,” Hahn acknowledged. “We’re just now at a comfort level with where we are.”
The superintendent also praised the work of PGA TOUR agronomist Collier Miller, who came in three weeks earlier than usual to help oversee the recovery.
Zach Johnson, who used a late surge to finish fifth in last season’s FedExCup race, gave TPC Summerlin a thumbs-up after his Tuesday practice round.
“I think the golf course is very good,” the BMW Championship winner said. “And the forecast looks great for the week, and I'm excited about that.”
Forecasts call for temperatures in the low 70s all week, with no rain and moderate winds. After a 2013 season full of weather delays, the new wraparound schedule couldn’t ask for a better start.