Here's something you don't often see, if ever: The FedExCup points leader is in the field at the event contested opposite a World Golf Championship.
Lanto Griffin, who broke through at the Houston Open just three weeks ago and sits No. 1 in the FedExCup standings, headlines the field at the Bermuda Championship. He didn't qualify for the WGC-HSBC Champions in China or the first two events of the Asian Swing, so the inaugural stop in Bermuda presents as an opportunity to stay warm with another rarity to follow – a dark week in early November.
A field of 120 has assembled at Port Royal Golf Course on the western edge of the island in the Atlantic Ocean. For details on the course, the kind of profile expected to be shared among those on the final leaderboard and more, scroll past the projected contenders.
OTHERS TO CONSIDER
• Ryan Armour … He hasn't recorded a top-20 in over seven months, but Port Royal caters to his propensity to play shorter courses well. Finished the 2018-19 season ranked fourth in fairways hit.
• Maverick McNealy … Rested from a career-best T17 at the Houston Open, he's beginning to pick fruit from a dedication and focus aided by his girlfriend, LPGA major champion Danielle Kang.
• Rafael Campos … To be fair, Russell Knox should've been listed instead, but the curiosity is greater with the rookie from Puerto Rico who's played well on his home island and has a win in The Bahamas.
One week after the PGA TOUR debuted in Japan, it does the same in Bermuda. However, while Narashino Country Club was a virtual unknown to all, Port Royal is familiar, just not to any PGA TOUR members in the field. The Robert Trent Jones design hosted the PGA Grand Slam of Golf for six consecutive years until the four-man competition ceased in 2014.
The par 36-35—71 extends to just 6,828 yards. That's only 12 yards longer than Pebble Beach, a par 72 that often averages over par due to its exposure to the elements. Six of the 11 par 4s at Port Royal are shorter than 400 yards. With more than 80 strategically placed bunkers (with fresh sand) beside fairways, framing doglegs and protecting greens, ball-strikers and shot-makers will be enjoying more than just the stunning views of the ocean.
There are five water hazards, but only four are in play. The biggie is the ocean against which – and maybe even over, depending on preferred (albeit extreme) ball flight – the picturesque, par-3 16th is played. It lists at 235 yards on the scorecard, but the prevailing southeasterly wind will be helping. A crescent-shaped bunker around the left and back portions of the elongated green could be a frequent hangout.
Historically, a field size of 120 has been reserved for invitationals, but all five additional events this season have been sliced by 12 to accommodate cozier company. This week's field includes five natives of Bermuda. The co-medalist of the local qualifier that yielded three sponsor exemptions is Kenny Leseur. He's just 15 years of age, but he already looks and sounds the part what with an athletic, six-foot, two-inch frame, low voice and poise for days. He'll be the youngest to compete in a PGA TOUR event since Guan Tianlang was 14 years old at the 2013 Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide.
This is the first of a five-year title sponsorship for the Bermuda Tourism Authority. On cue, it's debuting Chamber of Commerce weather, which isn't easy in the middle of the ocean. Passing clouds will be far and few between as daytimes highs fall just short of 80 degrees. Even the wind may lay down a bit. That'll increase scoring opportunities on greens prepped to run no longer than 10-and-a-feet on the Stimpmeter.
In every sense of the analytical, with conditions leaning toward benign to the island, it's possible that the first edition will be an anomaly in terms of scoring. In the six PGA Grand Slams of Golf, which was a 36-hole event and contested at this time of year, 29 of the 48 rounds were under par. Adam Scott's 64 in 2013 was the lowest.
Bermuda is one hour ahead of the Eastern Time Zone in the United States and it will observe Daylight Savings Time on Sunday.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
TUESDAY*: Sleepers (WGC-HSBC), Power Rankings (Bermuda), Fantasy Insider
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesdays.