Best bets for PGA's Bermuda Championship

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 Patrick Cantlay (28-1) shot a final-round 65 last weekend to win the Zozo Championship by one stroke over Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm and earn his third PGA Tour victory. His last win was in June 2019, also on a Jack Nicklaus-designed course at Muirfield Village in the Memorial Tournament. Cantlay led the field in scrambling and was third in strokes gained tee to green and 10th in strokes gained putting. Rahm not only fell a shot short of a playoff, he also fell short of taking the Official World Golf Ranking No. 1 slot from an absent Dustin Johnson, as he needed a solo second-place finish. Thomas birdied the 18th to tie him. Rahm still looks in Masters-ready form, with five finishes of sixth or better in his last nine starts. Russell Henley followed up his T-3 finish at the CJ Cup with a T-4 at the Zozo and now has four top-10 finishes in his last six starts. Tiger Woods’ struggles continued. He tied for 72nd in a 77-player field and obviously needs more reps, which could come in two weeks at the Houston Open in what would be a rare appearance from him in the week before a major. 

 

Most top players will skip the next two events before Augusta. In fact, defending champion Brendon Todd is the only player in this week’s Bermuda Championship field who played last weekend. Todd is 12-1 to defend his Bermuda title along with Will Zalatoris, who was favored a few weeks ago in the Dominican Republic and tied for eighth. Zalatoris has a chance to win a PGA Tour event for the second time despite not being a member of the tour. He won this summer on the Korn Ferry Tour and finished in the top 10 in eight of 11 events — and inside the top 20 in all 11 — on that tour. Add a T-6 finish in his first major at the U.S. Open, a T-8 in the Dominican Republic and a T-5 at the Shriners to go along with his stellar Korn Ferry play. Zalatoris has missed only one cut in 20 events in 2020 and needs only a T-69 finish, basically needing to make the cut, to lock up his special temporary membership on the PGA Tour. While he is a justifiable pick in a weaker Bermuda field, even a field lacking strength will always be stronger than a Korn Ferry Tour event. Doc Redman and Harold Varner III follow in the market at 25-1. Redman has two top-3 finishes in his last five events. Emiliano Grillo is priced at 30-1 along with Denny McCarthy and Kristoffer Ventura, both of whom tied for sixth at the Sanderson Farms Championship four weeks ago. 

 

The Event

 

The Bermuda Championship debuted on last year’s PGA Tour schedule as an alternate event to the WGC-HSBC Champions in China, which was canceled this year due to COVID-19. This year the event is elevated to full FedEx Cup points status, with 500 to the winner. The Bermuda champion will also receive a Masters invitation for 2021 and a full two-year PGA Tour exemption. The total purse also increases from $3 million to $4 million this year.

 

The Course

 

The Port Royal Golf Course will host the event for the second straight year. It has hosted high-level professional golf as the venue for the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, in which all four major champions compete, from 2009-14. Robert Trent Jones designed Port Royal in 1970, and protege Roger Rulewich renovated it in 2009. The track is relatively short by tour standards as a par-71 of 6,828 yards. Half the holes, Nos. 1-6 and 11-13, are played away from the coast. The other half are played seaside. Port Royal is predominantly constructed of Bermudagrass on the fairways and greens, which 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 Tournament of Champions) as similar courses, mainly for the undulations. Tropical storms should make the course soft, but early forecasts are projecting 20- to 25-mph winds through most of the event. The wind will have to be the primary course defense, as 24 under was the winning score here last year.

 

Recent History

 

2019: Brendon Todd (-24-260), 100-1

 

Trends and Angles

Bombers like Harry Higgs (second) and Scottie Scheffler (T-3) were atop the leaderboard here last year, but so were shorter, more accurate hitters like Todd and Brian Gay (T-3).

Last year, Todd rated fourth in driving accuracy, fourth in scrambling and 10th in greens in regulation for his Bermuda Championship win.

 

Driving Accuracy (2019-20 PGA Tour Stats)

Ryan Armour (2) 73.86%

Brian Stuard (3) 71.84%

Brendon Todd (4) 71.36%

Kyle Stanley (5) 71.29%

Henrik Norlander (8) 69.57%

Chris Baker (9) 69.49%

David Hearn (12) 68.44%

Tim Wilkinson (T13) 68.27%

Doc Redman (T13) 68.27%

Josh Teater (15) 68.24%

Greens In Regulation (2019-20 PGA Tour Stats)

Kyle Stanley (2) 72.54%

Aaron Wise (3) 72.10%

Will Gordon (4) 71.70%

Emiliano Grillo (T7) 71.54%

Josh Teater (T7) 71.54%

Doc Redman (12) 70.80%

Henrik Norlander (13) 70.65%

Harold Varner III (15) 70.57%

Pat Perez (T16) 70.51%

Jhonattan Vegas (19) 70.22%

Scrambling (2019-20 PGA Tour Stats)

Brendon Todd (3) 66.10%

Adam Schenk (7) 65.29%

Mark Anderson (8) 65.12%

Cameron Tringale (14) 64.24%

David Hearn (15) 64.14%

Kramer Hickok (18) 63.76%

Russell Knox (22) 63.42%

Tim Wilkinson (24) 63.33%

Ben Martin (27) 62.91%

Maverick McNealy (30) 62.53%

Selections

 

Henrik Stenson 40-1

 

Stenson has made only nine starts in 2020 and now is outside the OWGR top 50 for the first time in eight years. He is always one of the world’s best in driving accuracy and greens in regulation, and this track should be right up his alley. 

Stenson did beat many of the world’s best at the Hero World Challenge last December in the Bahamas, so he still has some winning golf left. He also seems to be in a good frame of mind, considering he just took part in the “Dreams Challenge” involving viral TikTok videos to Fleetwood Mac’s 1977 No. 1 hit, “Dreams.” But Stenson wasn’t drinking cranberry juice from a plastic Ocean Spray bottle; he was drinking from his Claret Jug.

 

Henrik Norlander 40-1

 

Norlander was fourth at the Sanderson Farms Championship, where he rated third in putting average. He is also one of the few players in this field who got a look at this course last year. While he only tied for 28th, Norlander led last year’s field in driving accuracy and was fifth for greens in regulation. 

He seems to go along just fine on shorter coastal courses, including a fifth at the Sony Open at Waialae and a ninth at the RSM Classic (Sea Island) last season. 

 

Peter Malnati 48-1

 

Malnati is solely a recent-form play. He finished second at the Sanderson Farms Championship, but that could have been dismissed as an outlier, considering he’s a former event champion and was just a horse for the course. However, he followed it with a T-5 at the Shriners in Las Vegas. 

He is a shorter hitter, but this track will not penalize his lack of length. If he just hits fairways and greens, he should do well. He leads the PGA Tour in strokes gained putting on the young 2020-21 season. 

 

Brian Stuard 80-1

 

Stuard ranks second in this week’s field for driving accuracy and placed third several weeks ago at the Safeway Open.

He’s another player who has taken a liking to the shorter coastal courses, as evidenced by posting two runner-up finishes at the Mayakoba Golf Classic (El Camaleon), three top-5s at the Sony Open (Waialae) and a top-5 at the RBC Heritage (Harbour Town). 

 

Brice Garnett 105-1

 

Garnett’s lone PGA Tour win is at an alternate event at the 2018 Corales Puntacana Championship in the Dominican Republic. He also plays well at the Mayakoba (El Camaleon), with three top-10s in five appearances and never finishing worse than 25th.

He’s a shorter hitter who hits a lot of greens, and in a speculative and wide-open event like this, he will have a lot of birdie opportunities and just needs to get the putter rolling. 

 

D.J. Trahan 200-1

 

Like many players, Trahan struggled out of the gate from the layoff. He withdrew from his first event and then missed six straight cuts to end the 2019-20 season. He gets a reprieve in that no player on the PGA Tour loses his card this season, but now the sense of urgency is there. 

He has made three straight cuts starting the 2020-21 season. His tee-to-green game is usually solid, ranking 11th in this week’s field.

 

Josh Teater 200-1

 

Teater finished a respectable T-11 here last year. 

He also ranks fifth in the field for greens in regulation and 10th for driving accuracy.

 

Cyprus Open

 

Englishman Ross McGowan was as high as 1,000-1 on overseas exchanges to win the Italian Open, and he did just that with a remarkable performance on and around the greens. McGowan’s statistics were something to behold. Here is how he fared in strokes-gained categories:

62nd SG: Off The Tee (-2.442 strokes)

53rd SG: Approach (-2.150 strokes)

1st SG: Around The Green ( 6.516 strokes)

2nd SG: Putting ( 9.116 strokes)

It is almost impossible to win a top-level pro event by losing almost five strokes in ball striking, but McGowan found a way to do it. Now he is a European Tour winner for the first time in 11 years, when he won the 2009 Madrid Masters. 

This week the European Tour begins the first leg of a double dip in Cyprus with the Cyprus Open. The tournament favorite is Andy Sullivan, who won the English Championship at Hanbury Manor last summer and tied for third at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth three weeks ago. Recurrent bridesmaid Thomas Detry has runners-up this season at the Hero Open and Celtic Classic, and he shares a 25-1 price tag with Matthias Schwab and Joost Luiten. Sam Horsfield won twice in three weeks in August at the Hero and Celtic, and he and Laurie Canter, who was runner-up last week in Italy after leading the first three rounds, round out the contingent at 25-1. 

 

The Event

 

The Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Open is scheduled as a one-off event starting back-to-back weeks in Cyprus, which is hosting a European Tour event for the first time. 

 

The Course

 

PGA National Cyprus on the Aphrodite Hills Resort in Paphos is on the Mediterranean coast. Cabell Robinson designed the course in 2002, and it was renovated in 2017 to comply with USGA and PGA standards. PGA National Cyprus plays as a par-71 of 6,878 yards and is an exposed coastal track. Designed primarily with tourists in mind, it possesses wide Bermudagrass fairways and large, true Bentgrass greens. Three of the par-5s measure in the mid-500-yard range, and two par-4s are just 360 yards, so the 105-player field will have plenty of opportunities to attack and make a lot of birdies. 

 

Selections

 

Thomas Detry 25-1

 

The Belgian has a world ranking of 86 but is still seeking his maiden European Tour win. He was runner-up this summer at the Hero Open and Celtic Classic. Add near-misses in Mauritius and Thailand last December and you can see he’ll soon knock down the door and walk through for a win.

He’s one of the best tee-to-green players on the European Tour, ranking eighth, and is in the top 20 for shots gained: approach and greens in regulation.

 

Matthias Schwab 25-1

 

The Austrian is also seeking his maiden win. He’s just outside the top 100 and has six finishes of fourth or better in the last 16 months, so he also seems ready to win.

Schwab led the field tee to green last week in Italy but finished last in putting in a T-30 finish. But he has talked positively about his game coming around after spending a couple of months playing stateside.

 

Sami Valimaki 35-1

 

Finland’s Valimaki has already won on the coast this season with his first European Tour win in Oman. 

Valimaki has four top-15s in his last six starts, so the form is there. He also was third a few weeks back in strokes gained putting (fifth on the tour overall) at Valderrama and was tops for greens in regulation at the BMW PGA Championship, which was the best field of the summer on the tour.

 

Joakim Lagergren 50-1

Sweden’s Lagergren has taken well to coastal golf. His lone European Tour win was two seasons ago off the coast in Sicily. 

Furthermore, he was third last summer at the Portugal Masters and fifth at the Irish Open. 

 

Jorge Campillo 66-1

 

Campillo won off the coast in Morocco last year, where he finally earned his first European Tour victory. Although off the coast, Aphrodite Hills is similar to some Middle East tracks on the tour like Oman and Qatar, where Campillo won this season.  

The Spaniard had three top-10s this summer, so he’s not far removed from solid form.

 

Kristoffer Reitan 130-1

 

Norwegian Reitan had a distinguished amateur career but is still seeking his first European Tour win and looking to turn his conditional tour clearance to full-time status. 

He is a bit of a momentum play, having finished T-5 last week in Italy, where he shot 65 on Sunday and tied for low round of the day.

 

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