Course Spotlight: Vegas edge comes around the greens
3 Min Read
Written by Keith Stewart @KJStewartpga
LAS VEGAS – If you are looking for an edge at TPC Summerlin, you will find it around the greens. The host venue for the Shriners Children’s Openranked 10th most difficult on the PGA TOUR for Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green. That’s ironic because in 2022, the field made nearly 2,000 par breakers (1,956 birdies and 41 eagles), and winner Tom Kim tied the tournament scoring record (-24).
Yet there is a direct correlation between SG: Around-the-Green and success at TPC Summerlin. The course was even tougher to get up and down just a short time ago. If you include the last nine years, TPC Summerlin landed in the top five (on average) most difficult courses close to the green. After walking the layout, my first impression is players would not need their short game. The average green size is 7,400 square feet. That is above average by TOUR standards.
Players hit 73% of their Greens in Regulation at TPC Summerlin, well above the PGA TOUR average of 66%. So why is around-the-green acumen so important?
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Upon closer inspection and getting down to the grass level, you start to see the challenge these players face. The firm fast turf conditions of the arid Las Vegas region combined with advanced agronomy practices, and the Bermudagrass present some of the tightest lies into and against the grain you will see on the PGA TOUR. In 2022, TPC Summerlin ranked ninth toughest from the fairway cut around the green out of 42 courses.
Fans on property can tell you the green complexes are varied in texture and terrain. Crucially, 17 of the 18 holes have greenside sand. There are plenty of severe slopes and desert near the putting surfaces. In comparison, the fairway pitches are easy. Miss the closely mowed areas and end up in the rough or desert, and TPC Summerlin ranked second toughest on TOUR last year!
In selecting a successful card for TPC Summerlin, it's easy to check recent form and measure Birdie or Better Percentage (BoB%). Combine those two analytics and Luke List, Ludvig Åberg, Eric Cole and J.T. Poston jump off the page over the past 24 rounds. Their recent play makes them favorites to win. How can you pick just one? Getting to 20+ under takes a hot putter. In the same time sample, Poston, Chesson Hadley, Nick Hardy and Harry Hall are the best putters.
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Now let’s look inside the around-the-green numbers and see if we can separate the contenders. Adam Long, Cam Davis, Åberg and Troy Merritt top the list. I like to combine putting and short game statistics, and together the best in Vegas are Poston, Peter Malnati, Alex Noren and Åberg. If we based our decision on ball striking alone, Åberg (+1200 Bet MGM) makes sense, but now with a deeper dive into the course skills required, he also is great around the green.
In that middle tier, Poston (+3000 Bet MGM) has hit the ball well with four top-25 finishes in a row. Turns out his short game is equal to his aptitude with the putter. Las Vegas is also known for long shots. Five of the last 10 winners at the Shriners have started the week with odds over +7000. Four of those winners had pre-tourney values over +22500! Looking through the analytics and adding in short game Merritt (+9000 bet MGM) and Hall (+12500 BetMGM) also catch your eye.
Over the last 24 rounds, Merritt is ranked first in the field in SG: Tee-to-Green, and his short game is great. Hall has two starts at TPC Summerlin and has finished 15th and eighth, respectively. Hall is a member at TPC Summerlin and played his college golf at UNLV.
I know ball striking will be the separating factor when it comes to making the cut on Friday. When the competition gets close Sunday afternoon, one or two of these guys will be faced with an into-the-grain, difficult Bermudagrass short-game situation. When that happens, the players who can get up and down have proven themselves to be the ones who take home the trophy in Las Vegas.
Keith Stewart is a five-time award winning PGA Professional who covers the PGA TOUR and LPGA from a betting perspective. Founder of Read The Line, he is also published by Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News. Follow Keith Stewart on Twitter.