Shootouts like the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open have a way of sending us into our respective corners rich with comfort zones and conservative philosophies.
Getting right to it, our approach embraces an inverse relationship with reality this week. Because eagles and birdies will be dropping in from everywhere at TPC Summerlin, one of the easiest par 71s on the PGA TOUR, if you connect with a stalwart, it’ll be because you remembered to submit a selection more than its projection for fortune. There are going to be gamers who are going to get lucky, so you might as well be one of them. But what’s the proper strategy in the absence of the proverbial horses?
Consider the top 10 at last year’s edition of the Shriners. Three were rookies and another two were non-winners. Champion Smylie Kaufman checked both boxes. Even if you’d been given a choice of any in advance, you’d have abstained. Of the other half, it’s arguable that only Kevin Na (T2) would have generated attention then and now. So that’s one. Among the remainder, Jason Bohn (T2) hasn’t been the same since his heart attack, Alex Cejka (T2) is always an injury risk, Chad Campbell (T8) warrants consideration only in two-man formats, and Russell Henley (10th) is streaky and struggled for most of 2016.
See the problem? The default is to retreat into familiar climes and assess before tiptoeing back into the fire.
If it helps, Na (No. 6), William McGirt (No. 8) and Henley (No. 12) are in my Power Rankings this week, but I’m going to ride one of the hottest hands on the planet instead. Keeping with that theme, I’d say that I’d burn him, but he’s already on fire. It’s Ryo Ishikawa. Even has a co-runner-up here three years ago. He’s No. 2 in my Power Rankings (behind Ryan Moore, who I’d advise holstering for any of the stops listed below). Ishikawa also fulfills a convenient objective; that is, I’m unlikely to miss him.
Plug these variables into your formula this week and see who emerges. Two-man gamers should do the same with their primary, but complement with a rank-and-filer who’s illustrated a proclivity to survive this cut. Campbell, Scott Piercy (my alternate), Kevin Streelman, Martin Laird and Spencer Levin fit the bill.
NOTE: Golfers are sorted alphabetically. Future possibilities are sorted chronologically and reflect previous success on the courses on which the tournaments will be held in 2016-17. All are pending golfer commitment.
Russell Henley … RSM; Houston
Charley Hoffman … CareerBuilder; Heritage; Valero; New Orleans; Byron Nelson; DEAN & DELUCA; Travelers; Canadian
Billy Horschel … Valero; Memorial; St. Jude; TOUR Championship
Charles Howell III … Shriners; Mayakoba; RSM; Sony; Farmers; Valspar; Houston; Byron Nelson
Chris Kirk … RSM; Valero; New Orleans; DEAN & DELUCA
Brooks Koepka … Hyundai; Byron Nelson; St. Jude; U.S. Open; PGA Championship
Martin Laird … CareerBuilder; Farmers; Waste Management; Barracuda
William McGirt … Shriners; Genesis; Honda; Heritage; Memorial (defending); Wyndham
Bryce Molder … Waste Management; Heritage; New Orleans; DEAN & DELUCA; Greenbrier
Ryan Moore … Waste Management; Genesis; Valspar; Travelers; John Deere (defending); TOUR Championship
Francesco Molinari … Arnold Palmer; PLAYERS
Kevin Na … Shriners; Valspar; Arnold Palmer; Heritage; Memorial; John Deere; Wyndham
Scott Piercy … Sony; Houston; John Deere; BMW
Webb Simpson … Shriners; RSM; Hyundai; Sony; CareerBuilder; Waste Management; Greenbrier; Wyndham
Scott Stallings … RSM; Farmers; New Orleans
Brendan Steele … Waste Management; Honda; Valero; Travelers; Barracuda
Kevin Streelman … Shriners; CareerBuilder; Memorial
Jimmy Walker … Hyundai; Sony; Farmers; Pebble Beach; Valero; Greenbrier; PGA Championship (defending); Deutsche Bank
Boo Weekley … RSM; Puerto Rico; Heritage; New Orleans; St. Jude; Barbasol
Rob’s previous picks
Safeway Open … Justin Thomas (T8); 75.000 FedExCup points; $162,000.00
CIMB Classic … Kevin Na (T29); 27.250 FedExCup points; $46,550.00
WGC-HSBC Champions … Rafa Cabrera Bello (T19); 51.500 FedExCup points; $93,000.00
Sanderson Farms … Patton Kizzire (MC); 0.000 FedExCup points; $0.00
Shriners Hospitals for Children Open … Ryo Ishikawa
153.750 FedExCup points