This week we expected two PGA Tour events, but the WGC-HSBC Champions event in China has been canceled due to COVID-19. Now the Bermuda Championship becomes a full-field event and the only major tour event this week with the Hero Indian Open, co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours, also being canceled. This week's event in Bermuda has the weakest field of the PGA Tour season. In fact, the field has already exhausted its alternate list.
Matt Fitzpatrick (14-1), a winner two weeks ago in the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama on the European Tour, is still seeking his first stateside and PGA Tour victory and will be doing so in the favorite's role this week. Christiaan Bezuidenhout (16-1) has two top-5 worldwide finishes this fall (third, Korn Ferry Tour Championship; fifth, BMW PGA Championship). Patrick Reed (22-1) is the highest-ranked player in the field (OWGR No. 24) and is the only Top 25 OWGR player in Bermuda this week. Mito Pereira (25-1) has four top-6-or-better finishes since his "battlefield promotion" (three Korn Ferry Tour wins) to the PGA Tour earlier this summer. Hayden Buckley (30-1) has five top-10s in his last eight starts across the Korn Ferry and PGA Tours.
The Bermuda Championship made its debut in 2019 on the PGA Tour schedule as an alternate event to the WGC-HSBC Champions in China. Last year, the event was elevated to full FedEx Cup point status with 500 points going to the tournament winner. This year it was going to return to alternate event status, but the WGC event in China was canceled due to COVID-19, so it is back to full-event status. The Bermuda winner will receive a Masters invitation for 2022 and a 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 increases to $6.5 million with Bermuda-based Butterfield Bank and the Bermuda Tourism Board signing on as co-title sponsors.
The Port Royal Golf Course in Southampton, Bermuda will host the event for the third 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 relatively short by tour standards as 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 seaside. Port Royal is predominantly constructed of Bermudagrass (it is in Bermuda after all) on the fairways and greens (average 6,000 square feet and 11 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. Tropical storms this time a year should make the course and the greens soft, but early forecasts are projecting 20- to 25-mph winds for most of the event. The wind will have to be the primary course defense as it was last year with 15 under as the winning score.
2020: Brian Gay (-15/269); 200-1*
2019: Brendon Todd (-24/260); 100-1
* playoff win over Wyndham Clark
STATISTICAL ANGLES AND TRENDS
With a limited event and course history, Strokes Gained: Approach is almost always a good place to begin.
Strokes Gained: Approach (Last 36 rounds)
1. Cameron Percy 29
2. Matthew NeSmith 22.1
3. Luke Donald 20.7
4. Mito Pereira 18.6
5. Joseph Bramlett 18.2
6. Seamus Power 17.6
7. Bo Hoag 17.6
8. Adam Svensson 17.1
9. Hank Lebioda 14.9
10. Russell Knox 14.7
With a course length of just 6,828 yards, length is not an issue for this field as shorter but accurate hitters like Brian Gay and Brendon Todd have been the two victors in Bermuda.
Fairways Gained (Last 36 rounds)
Hideki Matsuyama finished runner-up to Tiger Woods in 2019 at Narashino Country Club for the Zozo Championship. Last weekend, he won the Zozo Championship in his home country of Japan at 14-1 by five strokes over Brendan Steele and Cameron Tringale.
1. Ryan Armour 64.6
2. Brian Stuard 64.1
3. Kramer Hickok 46.6
4. Matt Fitzpatrick 45.8
5. Heath Slocum 41.1
6. David Hearn 40.8
7. Mark Hubbard 40.3
8. Olin Browne 40
9. Aaron Rai 38.6
10. Russell Knox 34.3
Windy conditions are expected this week once again in Bermuda.
Strokes Gained Total: Windy Conditions (Last 36 rounds)
1. Patrick Reed 28.5
2. Chris Stroud 28.2 (33 rounds)
3. Russell Knox 27.5 (35 rounds)
4. Bo Hoag 24.7 (9 rounds)
5. Luke Donald 23.9 (28 rounds)
6. David Hearn 22.4
7. Matt Fitzpatrick 22 (22 rounds)
8. Sean O'Hair 18.9 (22 rounds)
9. Andres Romero 17.3 (24 rounds)
10. Jonathan Byrd 16.5 (34 rounds)
Two of the par-3s at Port Royal measure 235 yards and are some of the most difficult on tour largely due to the winds.
Strokes Gained Par-3 225+ Yards (Last 36 rounds)
1. Adam Hadwin 0.41
2. Hayden Buckley 0.37 (20 Rounds)
3. Adam Svensson 0.34
4. Alex Smalley 0.24 (30 Rounds)
5. Russell Knox 0.24
6. Nick Watney 0.23
7. Scott Brown 0.22
8. Aaron Rai 0.20 (30 Rounds)
9. Denny McCarthy 0.18
10. Peter Malnati 0.18
Note: Strokes Gained Per Hole
Four par-4 holes at Port Royal measure 350-400 yards.
Strokes Gained Par-4 350-400 Yards (Last 36 rounds)
1. Ben Crane 20.2
2. Stephan Jaeger 14.1
3. Nick Taylor 11.4
4. Ricky Barnes 11.4
5. Seamus Power 11.3
6. Joseph Bramlett 10.3
7. Chase Seiffert 10
8. Fabian Gomez 8.2
9. Brian Stuard 6.6
10. David Lipsky 6.6
Being in Bermuda, it's no shocker that the players at Port Royal will be putting on Bermudagrass greens.
Strokes Gained Putting Bermudagrass (Last 36 rounds)
1. Matt Fitzpatrick 40.4
2. Christiaan Bezuidenhout 39.7
3. Denny McCarthy 30.3
4. Patrick Reed 28.9
5. Peter Uihlein 23
6. Greg Chalmers 18
7. Camilo Villegas 16.9
8. Brian Gay 16.5
9. Adam Hadwin 16.4
10. Ryan Armour 15.3
Russell Knox 44-1
Knox has two appearances in Bermuda — 11th (2019) and 16th (2020).
He thrives on shorter, coastal courses. Career finishes include 13th (2015), 11th (2017) and 10th (2018) at Waialae; 15th (2018), 14th (2019) and seventh (2021) at Pebble Beach; 9th (2014) and 2nd (2016) at Harbour Town; second (2015) and third (2016) at El Camaleon.
Ryan Armour 55-1
Armour has a pair of eighth-place finishes here in 2019 and 2020.
He also has five top-25s at El Camaleon, which is a similar coastal setup.
Aaron Rai 60-1
After securing his PGA Tour card at the Korn Ferry Tour finals, Rai has initially struggled on the PGA Tour, missing his first three cuts.
Following those missed cuts, he returned to Europe, where he finished 14th at Wentworth in the BMW PGA Championship and then finished 25th at Valderrama.
His last victory was at the 2020 Scottish Open in rainy and windy conditions, so he should feel comfortable here.
Anirban Lahiri 80-1
Lahiri finished T-11 in Bermuda last year and shot a 66 in the opening round in the 2019 event before having to withdraw after Round 1.
He also was sixth at the Corales Puntacana, which is similar to this event, and also this week's setup at Port Royal is very reminiscent of some of the Asian Tour courses he played on for years.
Brian Stuard 90-1
Being straight off the tee is especially important here and Stuard is No. 2 on Tour in Driving Accuracy for the past three months.
Stuard has two runner-up finishes at correlated events like the Mayakoba/OHL Classic, four top-8 finishes at the Sony Open, a fourth at the Puerto Rico Open, and two top-15 finishes at the RSM/McGladrey Classic.
Adam Svensson 90-1
After losing his PGA Tour card in 2019, Svensson secured his return to the main tour with a superb year on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2021, winning two events and finishing third on the money list.
In 2018, Svensson won the Great Abaco Classic in the Bahamas, an event typically affected by strong wind and if we look down the leaderboard there, one of the names behind him, in fourth, was last year’s runner-up in Bermuda, Wyndham Clark.
He also possesses strong performances in the Corales Puntacana, finishing sixth there in 2017, when it was still a Korn Ferry Tour event. Then he had a ninth in the Great Exuma Classic last year, another event held in the windswept Bahamas.
Bo Hoag 90-1
Hoag finished T-11 here in 2019. Plus, he has a T-9 at Waialae in 2020 and a T-7 at the Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, so he has shown some mettle on these shorter coastal courses.
He has also shown to be a very good wind player as he has gained + 24.7 total strokes in windy conditions over the course of just nine total rounds.
Luke Donald 180-1
Former World No. 1 Donald is now ranked just outside the top 500 in the world. He returned to Europe off his assistant captaincy at the Ryder Cup with two made cuts after missing 14 of 18.
Many players have pointed to a correlation between Port Royal and Harbour Town, and Donald’s record there is fantastic with second (2009), third (2010), second (2011), third (2013), second (2014), second (2016) and second (2017). Last year's Bermuda champion Brian Gay also won at Harbour Town.
Donald was sixth here after 36 holes last year (finished 40th), but this could be a place where he goes well considering recent form does not seem to matter here.