When the PGA Tour decided to include some of the Fall Series tournaments in the FedEx Cup points chase with a restructured schedule, it was looked at as a shot in the arm by the Shriners Hospitals for Children who oversee and are the title sponsor for the Las Vegas tour stop.
But while everyone is pointing to 2014 for major upgrades to the field, this year’s Shriners Open, which begins Thursday at TPC Summerlin, is proving to have one of its strongest fields in years.
No, Tiger Woods didn’t opt in. Neither did Phil Mickelson.
But the field has six players who have won majors, six who are in the top 50 in the World Golf rankings, six who participated in the recent President’s Cup and 23 who have won on Tour in the past two years.
It didn’t hurt having an upgraded purse of $6 million with the winner earning $1.8 million. And a chance to pick up some early FedEx points also helped lure some players who might normally pass on Las Vegas.
“I’ve always tried to stay realistic with what expectations would be for our field,” tournament director Adam Sperling said. “I thought our field would be stronger than it had been, and we had a strong field for a Fall Series event. But I’m thrilled with our field.”
Zach Johnson and Webb Simpson are playing. So are Lucas Glover, Tim Clark, David Toms, Graham DeLaet, Brendon de Jonge, Y.E. Yang, Angel Cabrera, Vijay Singh and Hideki Matsuyama.
Cabrera is a former Masters and U.S. Open champion, and Glover and Simpson also have won the U.S. Open. Toms won the PGA in 2001, and Singh won it in 2004.
There’s plenty of local flavor in the field as well, headed by defending champion and former UNLV star Ryan Moore. Former Rebels Charley Hoffman, Bill Lunde, Chad Campbell, Andres Gonzales, Derek Ernst and Kevin Penner also are in the field, along with local residents Kevin Na, the 2011 champion; Nick Watney; Scott Piercy; and Alex Prugh.
“I think we’re fortunate to have several local players who are big-name players in the field,” Sperling said.
Sperling believes the fans who come out also will be excited about some of the spectator improvements that have been made to the course. The Hill, which overlooks the green at No. 16 and the tee at No. 17, has been enhanced and will offer more variety in food and drink as well as more television sets to follow weekend football.
Admission to The Hill is included in the cost of the ticket, which is $30 in advance, $35 at the gate. On Friday and Saturday, there will be evening concerts at no additional charge.
Two other viewing spots to consider are at the 15th green, where a patio has been set up just a few feet from the green, and between holes 8 and 9, where a beer truck will be set up.
“We’re trying to utilize our space better,” Sperling said. “That patio behind the concession stand at 15 is going to be very popular once people see it. You’re literally right on top of the players as they come in on that hole. And the beer truck between 8 and 9 is going to have heavy traffic because you can go back and forth between those holes with no problem.”
Parking continues to be free with shuttle service from the Suncoast Hotel and Casino. For those who want to park at the course, there is paid valet parking available. Last year’s tournament drew 35,000, and Sperling hopes to see that number grow with all the changes.
“The field’s better,” he said. “We’ve upgraded the facilities. We’ve opened up The Hill to everyone, and to have access to The Hill for $30 and all the amenities it offers and the view it provides, I’ll put the value of that up against any ticketed venue on the Tour.
“We’ve done a lot to get people to come out. Hopefully the weather cooperates and we can have a great week.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter @stevecarprj.