There might be a lot to distract them off course this week but most of the players in Las Vegas for the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospital For Children Open will be firmly focused on the opportunity at hand.
It’s hard to imagine that there could be a more exciting finish than what took place just a few days ago at the FRYS.COM Open but if there is a place capable of the spectacular, Vegas is it. It has few rivals in that department.
Scotsman Martin Laird picked up the win here last year, providing a kick-off to his career that took a player wallowing in a sea of missed cuts all the way to being the 58th ranked player in the world. It took three extra holes for him to win his first PGA Tour title in a playoff with George McNeill and Chad Campbell. Campbell was eliminated on the 2nd extra hole. The last player to defend in Las Vegas was Jim Furyk who won in 1998/1999.
Many in the 132-player field will be looking for a similar boost but in order to do so they will have to get past a wealth of quality players including more than a few who already have 2010 PGA Tour wins on their resumes. The winner picks up a $774,000 share of the $4.3 million purse. They will also receive the usual spoils for winners including a two-year PGA Tour exemption and a spot in the winners-only SBS Championship in January. For some players teetering on the edge of losing their playing privileges, Las Vegas, of all places, could provide their salvation.
It will be hard to look past a trio of Las Vegas residents when looking for a potential winner. Rickie Fowler, Charley Hoffman, and Nick Watney have all had solid seasons and the comfort of home cooking just might enhance their chances at the TPC Summerlin. They are among 12 Nevada residents in the field while UNLV Alum Ryan Moore and Chad Campbell also have local ties.
Hoffman had the biggest win of his career at the Deutsche Bank Championship during the FedEx Cup Playoffs and he would surely like to rack up a 2nd 2010 win on another TPC layout. Summerlin suits him well as he has posted numerous strong scores on the Bobby Weed/Fuzzy Zoeller design in past years.
Nick Watney is coming off a 4th place finish at The Tour Championship and with seven Top-10’s in 2010 he is ripe for a win.
Making his professional debut here last year, 21 year-old Rickie Fowler has gone on to be the leading candidate for the PGA Tour Rookie of The Year in 2010. He knocked on the door last week in California; a home game might just be what he needs to put him in the top spot at the end of the day Sunday.
Other players to watch for will be Hunter Mahan, Ryan Palmer, and a resurgent David Duval who has won in the desert before.
Now almost 20 years old the TPC Summerlin is a run & gun style course where scoring is always low. The cooler than normal weather with the possibility of some showers could soften up the greens more than normal and give everybody a chance to go “Lights Out” in a place used to having them shine 24 hours a day.