The PGA Tour is in Las Vegas this week for the second event on the 2014-15 calendar -- the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. Webb Simpson returns to the tournament as the defending champion in a field that will include the likes of FedExCup Champion Billy Horschel, Brandt Snedeker and Jimmy Walker.
Birdies are a must at TPC Summerlin -- that's always the case and there always seems to be a 59-watch.
Because of that, here are some birdie monsters you might want to keep an eye on this week.
5. Charley Hoffman
Best finish in 2014-15 season: First start
Reason to watch: Hoffman is making his first start since the BMW Championship. A year ago, his fourth-place finish in Las Vegas was one of five top-10s on the year. In 93 rounds played on Tour in 2013-14, Hoffman was 11th overall in birdies made with 93. That should bode well for Hoffman this week -- of course, he's going to need to shake off some rust.
4. Camilo Villegas
Best finish in 2014-15 season: First start
Reason to watch: The lone top-10 finish in 2013-14 for Villegas happened to be a rather unexpected win at the Wyndham Championship. The Shriners Hospitals for Children Open was one of eight missed cuts for Villegas in 29 starts a season ago, but that doesn't matter to me too much. He was 14th on Tour in birdies last year. In order to have a better season, he's going to need to limit the big mistakes. You can't make that many birdies and not finish among the top 10 more often.
3. Harris English
Best finish in 2014-15 season: Missed cut at Frys.com
Reason to watch: Though he's coming off a missed cut a week ago, I'm not going to read too deeply into that for English. He was 15th on the PGA Tour in birdies last season, collecting seven top-10 finishes, including a win at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba --the second of his career. English makes birdies and bunches and seems to play his best toward the end of the calendar year, which for him, would make for a great start to a new season.
2. Charles Howell III
Best finish in 2014-15 season: T71 at Frys.com
Reason to watch: It still boggles my mind that Charles Howell III has just two wins on the PGA Tour. How is that even possible? There's so much talent there. He was fourth on the PGA Tour in birdies made last season with six, top-10 finishes. He tied for fifth in Vegas last year. I like his chances this week.
1. Jimmy Walker
Best finish in 2014-15 season: 63rd at Frys.com
Reason to watch: If he's not "the" favorite this week, Walker is certainly "a" favorite. He led the PGA Tour in birdies a season ago and also racked up three wins -- the first three of his career on Tour. A tie for 12th in Vegas was one of an incredible 19 top-25 finishes in 27 starts for Walker. He's become one of those names you expect to see on the first page of the leaderboard week in and week out.
Making a golf ball do what you want it to do on a calm day is tough enough, but when the wind begins to blow, it can be a real challenge, even for the world's best golfers.
PGA GRAND SLAM OF GOLF: Live scoring, photos, video, updates
That was the case Wednesday in the PGA Grand Slam of Golf at Port Royal Golf Course in Bermuda. Even world No. 1 Rory McIlroy had to acclimate himself to the changing conditions.
"The wind's up a little bit and from a slightly different direction," McIlroy said. "It's a little tricky out there today."
For Bubba Watson, trying to putt while being buffeted by the wind might be more difficult than trying to shape a shot.
LESSON LEARNED: Tips for putting on a windy day
So what can you do to combat windy conditions? PGA professional Nicole Weller of The Landings Club in Savannah, Ga., offers five tips for amateurs to keep the ball low and in control:
1. When it’s breezy, swing it easy. Don’t fight the wind, work with it. Allow the ball to ride the wind when downwind and plan for it in club choice into the wind.
2. Sometimes when hitting an approach shot into the wind, it’s pretty cool to take 1-2 clubs extra, depending on the wind’s force and plan for the ball to be hit so that it would end up past the hole but then watch as the wind "knocks it down" right near the flagstick.
BROADCAST SCHEDULE: Follow Wednesday's action on TNT, 4 p.m. ET
3. Into the wind, I find success teeing the ball higher so I can level out the approach to the shot and send it more driving into the air instead of teeing it lower and having to then go down after the ball, creating more cut and spin that lifts it too high into the air.
4. If the flag is blowing pretty hard, I’d club up or down one club or play at least 5-10 yards left or right to allow for drift. If the flagstick is actually bending a lot in the wind, I’d club up or down 2-3 clubs or play at least 10-15 yards left or right to allow for drift.
5. Stinger or three-quarter punch shots into the wind can hold the lines fairly well. Instead of a high sweeping finish with low irons, take one or two extra clubs and use all the energy in a three-quarters swing with a finish pointing right at the target, not up into the sky.
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