Best Bets for PGA Bermuda Championship, Portugal Masters

USATSI_18127443

Rory McIlroy became the OWGR No. 1 player for the ninth time in his career by defending his CJ Cup title at Congaree last weekend. Although he bogeyed the final two holes, McIlroy (-17) was able to hold off Kurt Kitayama by one stroke and win the event at 8-1. K.H. Lee finished third while Jon Rahm and Tommy Fleetwood tied for fourth.

McIlroy now has 23 career PGA Tour victories, but 2023 will be about getting back to winning major championships. He has been stuck at four since 2014 and will get yet another chance to win the career Grand Slam in April at Augusta.

Last week's CJ Cup in South Carolina was likely the last time most of the world's top players will come together at one event in the fall season. This week's Butterfield Bermuda Championship will carry the unfortunate distinction of being the weakest field of the PGA Tour’s fall schedule. Seamus Power (25-1) is the lone player ranked in the OWGR Top 50 teeing it up this week in Bermuda. However, this event presents an opportunity for the field as the winner will leave Bermuda with a PGA Tour exemption through 2025 and earn entry into Kapalua, the Players, the Masters and the PGA Championship over the next six-plus months.

Joining Power in attempting to earn these golfing perks will be Denny McCarthy (16-1), who finished fourth here in 2020. Also DP World Tour regulars Thomas Detry (18-1), who earned his PGA Tour card at the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, and Adrian Meronk (20-1), who sits eighth on the DP World Tour standings and is likely to earn his card that way but can eliminate the need for that this week.

Other prices near the top of the board include Mark Hubbard (25-1), Aaron Rai (30-1), Justin Lower (30-1), SH Kim (30-1) and Patrick Rodgers (30-1), who finished fourth here last year.

Brian Gay (150-1), the 2020 Bermuda champion, is the only former event champion in the field this week.

The Event

The Bermuda Championship made its debut on the 2019 PGA Tour schedule as an alternate event to the WGC-HSBC Champions in China. In 2020, the event was elevated to full FedEx Cup point status with 500 points going to the tournament winner. In 2021, it was going to return to alternate event status, but the WGC event in China was canceled because of COVID-19, so it is back to full event status. The Bermuda winner will receive a Masters invitation for 2022 and the full two-year PGA Tour exemption. The total purse began as a $3 million fund in 2019 and was upgraded to $4 million last year. The 2021 event prize pool increased to $6.5 million with Bermuda-based Butterfield Bank and the Bermuda Tourism Board signing on as co-title sponsors.

The Course

The Port Royal Golf Course, originally known as Southampton Golf Club, in Southampton, Bermuda, will host the event for the fourth straight year and has hosted high-level professional golf before as it was the venue for the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, where all four major champions compete, from 2009 to 2014. Robert Trent Jones designed Port Royal in 1970 and Roger Rulewich, an RTJ protégé, renovated it in 2009.

The track, owned and operated by the Bermuda government, is the shortest course on the PGA Tour at a par-71 of 6,828 yards. Half of the holes (1-6, 11-13) are played away from the coast and the other half (7-10, 14-18) are played at the seaside. Port Royal is predominantly constructed of TifEagle Bermudagrass (it is in Bermuda after all) on the fairways (rough only about two inches) and greens (average 6,000 square feet and a slow 10 on the stimpmeter). Players have mentioned El Camaleon (Mayakoba Golf Classic) and the Plantation Course at Kapalua (Sentry TofC) as similar courses mainly for the undulations.

Port Royal also features consistent elevation changes similar to the Plantation Course at Kapalua. And as should be expected by an RTJ design, heavy fairway bunkering is another part of the challenge.

The wind typically keeps the scoring relatively at bay here. This is a course that players could absolutely destroy at barely over 6,800 yards with non-penal rough if it was not for the fact that winds can blow at 30-plus mph. There is also a current threat of a tropical depression forming just southwest of the island, so the weather likely will play a factor this week.

Besides the wind, the par-3s at Port Royal are among the most difficult on tour. Three of the four measure over 213 yards. The par-3 16th is Port Royal’s signature hole. Widely considered one of the toughest par-3s in all of golf, it is a 235-yard crescent-shaped beauty with a carry directly over the Atlantic Ocean.

Eight of the 11 par-4s are less than 415 yards with the longest playing at 458 yards. Overall, Port Royal has the shortest group of par-4s on Tour. Seven of the 11 par-4s have averaged over par in the three years of this event due to the high winds.

The three par-5s measure at only 507, 517 and 553 yards and have a birdie or better rate of 45%. Even in strong winds, players will need to take advantage of these scoring holes.

Correlated courses to Port Royal include El Camaleon, Sea Island GC, Waialae CC, Pebble Beach, PGA National, Corales, Grand Reserve and Coco Beach.

Recent History

2021: Lucas Herbert (-15/269); 80-1

2020: Brian Gay (-15/269); 200-1*

2019: Brendon Todd (-24/260); 100-1

* playoff win over Wyndham Clark

Statistical Angles

Although plotters and shorter hitters like Todd and Gay have won here, last year's event in Bermuda showed that distance definitely matters when playing into the wind. On last year’s leaderboard, the top 10 golfers in distance off the tee all made the cut and had an average finish position of 26th. Lucas Herbert, last year's winner, ranked seventh in the field for Driving Distance.

Driving Distance Gained (Last 24 rounds)

  1. Brandon Matthews 24.2
  2. Kyle Westmoreland 22.7
  3. Joseph Bramlett 20.6
  4. Thomas Detry 16.4
  5. MJ Daffue 16.3
  6. Byeong Hun An 14.9
  7. Yu Chun-an 14.1
  8. Matti Schmid 13.4
  9. Brett Grant 12.9
  10. Augusto Nunez 11.6
  11. Will Gordon 11.6
  12. Patrick Rodgers 11.2
  13. Kevin Chappell 10.8
  14. Callum Tarren 10.3
  15. Ryan Brehm 10

Note: Average Yards Gained Per Drive

While the rough at two inches is not all that penal, the wind can play havoc with tee shots at Port Royal. The driving accuracy is only 53% compared with the PGA Tour average of 61%.

Good Drives Gained (Last 24 rounds)

  1. Will Gordon 21.3
  2. Philip Knowles 19.1
  3. Harrison Endycott 17.5
  4. Aaron Rai 17
  5. Justin Lower 16.8
  6. Doug Ghim 16.2
  7. Ryan Armour 16
  8. Austin Eckroat 15.4
  9. Greyson Sigg 13.6
  10. Carson Young 13.4
  11. Scott Harrington 13.2
  12. Augusto Nunez 12.8
  13. Brett Grant 12.7
  14. Cody Gribble 12.2
  15. Vaughn Taylor 12.1

Strokes Gained: Approach is always an important stat but even more so with a weaker field this week.

Strokes Gained: Approach (Last 24 rounds)

  1. Adam Schenk 19.8
  2. Mark Hubbard 18.4
  3. Chesson Hadley 14.4
  4. Erik Van Rooyen 13.1
  5. Aaron Rai 12.9
  6. Callum Tarren 12.8
  7. Seung-yul Noh 11.6
  8. Ben Griffin 11.4
  9. Russell Knox 9.8
  10. Stephan Jaeger 9.3
  11. Michael Kim 8.4
  12. Vaughn Taylor 8.4
  13. Camilo Villegas 8.3
  14. Hank Lebioda 8

With typically windy conditions, it is prudent to include that in building any model for this event.

Strokes Gained: Total in High Winds (Last 24 rounds)

  1. Robert Streb 27.8
  2. Camilo Villegas 26.5
  3. Seamus Power 26.3
  4. Sean O'Hair 23.4
  5. Adam Long 22.6
  6. Scott Brown 22.1
  7. Chesson Hadley 21.3
  8. Scott Piercy 20.5
  9. Byeong Hun An 20.5
  10. Russell Knox 18
  11. Ben Crane 17.9
  12. Ben Martin 17.4
  13. Kevin Chappell 17.2
  14. Hank Lebioda 16.7
  15. Brice Garnett 16.2

Todd and Herbert each ranked fourth in the field for Scrambling during their respective winning weeks.

Scrambling Gained (Last 24 rounds)

  1. Cameron Percy 12.9
  2. J.J. Henry 9.4
  3. Denny McCarthy 8.9
  4. Ricky Barnes 8.2
  5. Callum Tarren 7.6
  6. Adam Long 7.2
  7. Wesley Bryan 7
  8. Brandon Wu 6.4
  9. Jonathan Byrd 5.3
  10. Greyson Sigg 5.2
  11. William McGirt 4.4
  12. Hank Lebioda 4.3
  13. D.A. Points 4.2
  14. Ben Griffin 4.1

While this event does not necessarily turn into a putting contest, it is the right approach to target players who tend to putt well on Bermuda greens.

Strokes Gained Putting Bermuda Greens (Last 24 rounds)

  1. Martin Trainer 28
  2. Brian Gay 24.6
  3. Ben Taylor 16.3
  4. Adam Long 16.3
  5. Richy Werenski 14.2
  6. Thomas Detry 12.4
  7. Aaron Baddeley 12.1
  8. Cody Gribble 12.1
  9. Scott Brown 12.1
  10. Peter Malnati 11.5
  11. Sung Kang 11.4
  12. Denny McCarthy 11.2

Selections

​Adam Long (45-1, PointsBet)

Long's lone PGA Tour win came at the 2019 Desert Classic, now known as The American Express, in Palm Springs. Former Bermuda Championship winner Brian Gay also won there in 2013. Long has also finished second (2019) and third (2020), respectively, at Mayakoba, where former Bermuda event winners Brendon Todd (2019) and Gay (2008) have also emerged victorious.

He is also one of the best on Bermuda greens and ranks in the top 6 for both Scrambling and SG: Putting on Bermuda greens.

Callum Tarren (50-1, Superbook Sports)

Tarren is one of the longer hitters in this field and can certainly play into the wind off the tee like Herbert did last year in his victory. He finished fifth earlier this year in Puerto Rico at Grand Reserve, so he is comfortable in coastal conditions.

He is also sixth for SG: Approach and fifth for Scrambling Gained over his last 24 rounds.

Will Gordon (60-1, Circa Sports)

Gordon regained his PGA Tour card in August with a victory at the Boise Open.

A big hitter off the tee, Gordon ranks first in this field for Good Drives Gained over the last 24 rounds.

He has also shown well on coastal courses dating to his college days at Vanderbilt. In 2018, Will was fifth in the Carmel Cup at Pebble Beach and was third in the 2019 Southeastern Conference (SEC) tournament played at Sea Island.

Byeong Hun An (60-1, Circa Sports)

After regaining his tour card on the Korn Ferry Tour, Benny An finished fourth at the Fortinet Championship in his first event back as a full-time PGA Tour player.

Benny is one of the longer hitters in this field and has a long history of playing in the wind from his days on the DP World Tour.

Harry Hall (70-1, DraftKings)

The Englishman earned his way to the PGA Tour courtesy of being a two-time winner on the Korn Ferry Tour last season, helping him achieve a ranking of 12th on the KFT Points List.

He finished third at the KFT Championship and then 15th at the Shriners in Vegas on his third PGA Tour start.

His short game is excellent as evidenced by what we saw on the KFT last season as he ranked 12th in putting and 20th in scrambling.

Matti Schmid (110-1, FanDuel)

German Matti Schmid has posted top-10 finishes on four tours (PGA Tour, DP World Tour, Korn Ferry Tour, Sunshine Tour) in 2022.

The overall form does not jump off the page, but he is a high-level talent at a big price this week.

Aaron Baddeley (250-1, Caesars Sportsbook)

"Badds" is now on the other side of 40 (41) and has not won in more than six years (2016 Barbasol Championship) and is playing without full tour status, so he needs to take advantage in an event such as this.

He has finished second in Puerto Rico and seventh at the Corales in more recent years and was always a really strong performer earlier in his career on shorter coastal tracks, including Pebble Beach.

Brady Kannon’s selections

Adam Long (49-1)

Port Royal Golf Course in Bermuda is a short coastal track where the wind is steady. In the past three editions of this event, accuracy off of the tee, hitting greens in regulation and possessing a strong short game have shown to be the keys to winning.

Long has all of the above as one of the more accurate drivers on tour and one of the very best putters. He also ranked 17th in Scrambling last season. Long has also shown an affinity for these wind-swept coastal courses, notching top-10 finishes at Mayakoba and Corales Puntacana and top-20 finishes at Harbour Town and Sea Island.

Callum Tarren (53-1)

Tarren goes a little against the grain here as he is a bomber with an excellent approach game. Howver, he did put on a good display of putting a few weeks ago at Jackson Country Club for the Sanderson Farms, where he finished 13th. Like Jackson, Port Royal Golf Course also features Bermuda grass greens.

I am favoring accuracy off of the tee over distance this week, but we have seen some bombers flourish here, too — and I don't think tremendous distance off of the tee is a bad thing when battling the high winds we are expecting this week. Tarren also had a fifth-place finish last year at another coastal course, Grand Reserve Golf Club, which is home to the Puerto Rico Open.

Tyler Duncan (85-1)

Back to the mold of accuracy, greens in regulation and short game with Duncan. He was eighth on tour last season in Driving Accuracy, 54th in GIR and 34th in Scrambling. Duncan has a top-25 finish at Mayakoba and won the RSM Classic at Sea Island in 2019. He lives in Florida, so playing in the wind and putting on Bermuda is not foreign to him in the least.

C.T. Pan (90-1)

And yet another player who relies on accuracy, a strong approach game and a solid short game to succeed. Pan has finished 11th and 16th at Mayakoba and 13th and 6th at Sea Island. He ranked 57th last season for Strokes Gained: Approach and 82nd in SG: Around the Greens. He was also 59th in Driving Accuracy. This is a very watered-down field this week and when assessing the participants over their last 36 rounds, Pan ranks second in the field in Greens in Regulation Gained. I think he has the tools to fare well this week.

Portugal Masters

Germany's Yannik Paul birdied the final hole on Sunday to win the Mallorca Golf Open and earn his first DP World Tour victory at 25-1.

Paul took a share of the lead into the final round but was 2 over par for his first 15 holes and fell two shots behind England’s Marcus Armitage. However, Armitage then three-putted the 16th and sliced his tee shot out of bounds on the next, where Paul’s hooked drive almost suffered the same fate but finished up against a stone wall. Paul was able to take a free drop due to standing on an adjacent cart path and made par, while Armitage, who fell to a T-7 finish, ran up a double-bogey seven and also bogeyed the last. With Paul Waring and Nicolai von Dellingshausen in the clubhouse at 14 under par a playoff appeared to be in the cards, but Paul holed out from 15 feet on the last to secure the win with a closing 72 after shooting a 62 in Saturday's third round.

The three-week stay in Spain has concluded and Paul will be part of this week's field at the Portugal Masters at 20-1. Opening favorite Thomas Pieters will not be in Portugal to defend his title as his second child is due any day now. Robert MacIntyre (14-1), winner of the Italian Open in September, and Jordan Smith (16-1) both finished in the top 10 two weeks ago at Valderrama. Victor Perez (18-1) finished eighth here last year and won the Dutch Open earlier this spring. Antoine Rozner (20-1) has finished top 5 in two of his last seven events and has six finishes of 16th or better in that seven-event span.

Nicolai Hojgaard (22-1), the co-runner-up last year here in Portugal, was on the periphery of contention last week before a poor back nine on Sunday. Eddie Pepperell (25-1) finished third (2017), second (2018) and sixth (2019) in three consecutive years for this event. Matt Wallace (28-1) was eighth in 2019. Meanwhile, Andy Sullivan (35-1) won the Portugal Masters in 2015 and finished runner-up the following year.

The Event

The Portugal Masters began as a European Tour event in 2007 and has remained on the schedule ever since.

This is also the last full-field event on the 2022 DP World Tour schedule for players to either qualify for the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai later this November or to lock up their DP World Tour playing privileges for 2023.

It is essentially the DP World Tour's equivalent of the PGA Tour's Wyndham Championship.

The Course

The Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course in Vilamoura, Portugal, was designed by Arnold Palmer in 2004 and hosted the WGC World Cup in 2005 before becoming the permanent host for the Portugal Masters. It is a typically easy Palmer resort design that has been extended a bit to a 7,191-yard, par-71 layout. The track is flat and exposed with water in play on seven holes and several strategically placed fairway bunkers for which players must contend.

There have been some new trees added to prevent the bombers from having so much of an advantage and the Bermuda rough has been grown to provide more penalty to errant tee shots.

Englishman Oliver Fisher set the course record here in 2018 with a 59, which was the first official round below 60 in the history of the European Tour. Even with the attempt to toughen the course, there still should be lots of birdies this week.

The L93 Bentgrass/Poa Annua greens will roll at 10.5 on the stimpmeter.

Recent History/Winners

2021: Thomas Pieters (-19/265); 25-1

2020: George Coetzee (-16/268); 16-1

2019: Steven Brown (-17/267); 150-1

2018: Tom Lewis (-22/262); 50-1

2017: Lucas Bjerregaard (-20/264); 66-1

2016: Padraig Harrington (-23/261); 100-1

2015: Andy Sullivan (-23/261); 50-1

2014: Alexander Levy (-18/124); 70-1*

2013: David Lynn (-18/266); 80-1

2012: Shane Lowry (-14/270); 66-1

2011: Tom Lewis (-21/267); 100-1

2010: Richard Green (-18/270); 50-1

* weather-shortened to 36 holes

Statistical Trends and Angles

  • Two of the last three winners here ranked first in the field for SG: Putting and five of the last 10 were first in the field for Putts Per GIR.
  • Seven of the past 12 winners here had recorded a win (Coetzee, Lewis, Sullivan, Levy) or a runner-up finish (Lynn, Lowry, Green) in that season to date.

Selections

Nicolai Hojgaard (22-1, BetMGM)

Nicolai was on the first page of the leaderboard and just four back to start Sunday's final round last week in Mallorca but had a tough back nine on the greens and dropped to a T-16 finish.

However, a winner at Ras al Khaimah earlier this season, Hojgaard was first for SG: Off The Tee and 16th for SG: Tee To Green the week before at Valderrama.

Hojgaard made 20 birdies last week in Mallorca (third in field). He was also the runner-up here last year to Thomas Pieters and ranked first that week for Driving Distance, second for Putting, second for SG: Tee-To-Green and fifth for SG: Off-The-Tee.

Eddie Pepperell (25-1, DraftKings)

Pepperell has enjoyed a resurgent year in 2022. After missing nine of his first 12 cuts, he finished runner-up in Wales and has made eight consecutive cuts after that with only one finish outside the top 30 in any event.

Pepperell finished third (2017), second (2018) and sixth (2019) in three consecutive years for this event.

He also ranks No. 1 (second overall on the DP World Tour) in this field for Strokes Gained: Approach.

Andy Sullivan (33-1, BetRivers)

Sullivan won the Portugal Masters by nine strokes in 2015 and nearly went back-to-back in 2016, losing out by a shot to Padraig Harrington.

He has finishes of 11th at Valderrama and 16th last week in Mallorca on this current four-week swing along the Iberian Peninsula.

Sullivan's status has been secured for 2023 and now he just needs to rise up the Race to Dubai Rankings in order to qualify for the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa and the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai next month.

Joakim Lagergren (45-1, BetMGM)

Lagergren is off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Valderrama and finished third two years ago.

The best part of the Swede's game is his putter, which ranks him eighth for Putts per GIR, 16th in Putts per Round, 18th for SG: Putting and 18th for One Putts overall on the DP World Tour.

Hurly Long (50-1, BetRivers)

The German has already locked up starts at the Nedbank and at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai to end the season.

Last week's top 10 in Mallorca marked his seventh of the season, which also includes two in the Barbasol and Barracuda alternate events on the PGA Tour this summer.

Tapio Pulkkanen (55-1, BetMGM)

Pulkkanen has made four straight cuts at the Portugal Masters.

He has five top-10s this season on the DP World Tour, including against a higher-class field in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship a few weeks ago.

Ricardo Gouveia (66-1, BetRivers)

Portugal's Ricardo Gouveia gets a home game this week at the most opportune time.

He resides three spots (120th) and 27 points out of the top 117, which is required for retaining his DP World Tour card for next season.

Gouveia finished fifth here in 2017 and seventh in 2018.

 

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