Shriners Hospitals for Children Open: Five players to watch at TPC Summerlin
Viva, Las Vegas! The PGA Tour is in Sin City this week for the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open -- the second event of this new 2013-2014 wraparound schedule.
One year ago, Ryan Moore picked up the second PGA Tour victory of his career at TPC Summerlin and his first since winning the Wyndham Championship in 2009. It was an extra special win for Moore, who graduated from nearby UNLV in 2005.
If there's one thing we've learned after years of watching tournaments at TPC Summerlin it's this: you'd better go low. The winning score is routinely 20 under or better. Like seeing boatloads of birdies and eagles? Then this is the tournament for you.
With that, here are five players to watch this week at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open:
5. Ryan Moore
Best finish in 2013: Fourth at the Waste Management Phoenix Open
Reason to watch: For starters, Moore is the defending champion. After a so-so 2013 season that included three top-10 finishes, you've got to think Moore is excited about the good vibes that come with playing on a course where he's comfortable and has had success. That's exactly what he gets at TPC Summerlin. Also expect Moore to be extra fresh this week. His last start was in the middle of September -- a tie for 11th at The Barclays.
4. Zach Johnson
Best finish in 2013: Winner of the BMW Championship
Reason to watch: In his eight starts since a playoff loss at the John Deere Classic, Johnson has finished outside of the top 8 just once. That's insane. Eight top-10 finishes in all of 2013, including the win at BMW Championship, that runner-up showing at John Deere and a third-place finish at Colonial. Johnson was also on the winning U.S. Presidents Cup team. When he's putting well, few in the world are better than Johnson. On a course that demands birdies, it means you're going to have to make a lot of puts. Johnson fits the bill.
3. Hideki Matsuyama
Best finish in 2013: T6 at the Open Championship
Reason to watch: I was expecting a Presidents Cup hangover to impact Matsuyama last week at the Frys.com Open. Instead, he played the final three rounds like this: 66-68-66 to finish in a tie for third -- his best career finish on the PGA Tour. That final round 66 was extra special, as Matsuyama birdied each of the final three holes. Many are expecting big things from Matsuyama in the 2013-2014 season -- most of all, Matsuyama himself.
UPDATE: Matsuyama withdrew from the tournament Thursday morning before his Round 1 tee time due to illness.
2. Brendon de Jonge
Best finish in 2013: T6 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open
Reason to watch: OK, on paper, de Jonge's 2013 stats don't exactly jump out and make you say, "Wow!" He had four top-10 finishes in 30 starts, but did play well enough at the end of the season to make it through to the Tour Championship. There's something to be said for that. The reason I think you need to watch out for de Jonge is this -- 2013 International team Presidents Cup captain and fellow Zimbabwean Nick Price thought enough of de Jonge's game to use a captain's pick on him. Do you know what something like that can do for a person's career? Greg Norman did the same thing to Adam Scott in the 2011 Presidents Cup. Two years later, Scott won the Masters. Are we saying there's a major in de Jonge's near future? Not necessarily. All we're saying is that these guys have big-time belief in themselves. But, when someone of Price's ilk thinks so highly of your game too, well, that's got to be a shot in the arm.
1. Graham DeLaet
Best finish in 2013: T2 at The Barclays
Reason to watch: DeLaet could be the biggest golf star to come out of Canada since former Master champ Mike Weir. DeLaet is intense and has a big game. In an otherwise forgettable Presidents Cup showing for the International team a few weeks ago, DeLaet was one of the few shining stars. He went 3-1-1 in his rookie appearance. That included a spectacular singles win over another young star -- Jordan Spieth -- where DeLaet holed out from a bunker on No. 18 at Muirfield Village for the win. In 2013, DeLaet racked up seven top 10s in 26 starts, making the cut 21 times. Like we said last week with Jimmy Walker, it seems as though it's only a matter of time before DeLaet collects that maiden Tour win. Could this be the week?
Here's video of that final-hole bunker shot from DeLaet at the Presidents Cup:
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.