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Conditions ripe for low scores at Shriners Children’s Open

Updated October 11, 2023 - 7:12 pm

The weather forecast for Las Vegas for the next four days calls for warm, pleasant temperatures and no significant wind. That takes away most of the defenses PGA Tour players face on one of the easiest courses they compete on all season.

When play begins Thursday at the Shriners Children’s Open, players know they have to go low — really low — not only to contend but to even make the cut at TPC Summerlin.

Luke List, a winner last week in Mississippi, says it’s no secret that birdies come in bunches in Las Vegas, and the winning score will be in the 20-under to 25-under range.

“All the par-5s are gettable and you got to kind of score on those holes, and I think it’s just avoiding some big numbers, and then some of the par-3s are tricky, so I think just giving yourself the opportunities when they come about,” List said.

The wide fairways can turn TPC Summerlin into a bomber’s paradise, leading to shorter irons into the holes and opportunities for birdies on just about every hole on the 7,255-yard, par-71 layout.

It’s a course that gave up 1,997 birdies and eagles last year, a number surpassed on only two other courses on the PGA Tour.

“It gives you some room off the tee, but you also have to hit it pretty straight,” said Taylor Montgomery, who tied for 15th during his first start at the event last fall. He says it’s the next shot that is key.

“You have to be precise into the greens, and chipping and putting is a huge deal on this golf course,” he said.

The Bermuda grass and the dry Las Vegas heat combine to create tight lies around the greens, making chipping the real challenge.

“If you’re driving it well here, you’re going to have a lot of wedges and a lot of 50-, 60-yard shots into these par 5s, or even up around the green,” Montgomery said. “Getting it up and down 70, 80 percent of the time, and you’re going to be up there.”

That was the key to Tom Kim’s success in 2022, when he became just the third player in the past 40 years to play an entire tournament without making a bogey. And with 24 birdies during the week, Kim walked away with his second PGA Tour title before the age of 21, something only done by Tiger Woods before him.

“It’s definitely not an expectation to have this week,” Kim said of avoiding bogeys on his scorecard. “Definitely expectations are – it’s so easy to set them so high because I didn’t make a single bogey, 24 birdies, and you kind of have a feeling where you need to do it again. Bogeys happen. I can’t try to not make a bogey.”

Kim, the highest ranked player in the field at No. 16, is among the favorites this week. It’s a list that includes List and Ben Griffin, the rookie who led most of the week in Mississippi before losing in a five-man playoff. Griffin, however, says there is another name to consider: LPGA star Lexi Thompson, who Griffin played a practice round with on Tuesday.

“I thought she was striping it,” Griffin said of Thompson, just the seventh woman to play in a PGA Tour event. “She was hitting it closer than us on a few holes, which is to be expected. She has a ton of talent, and she can handle it out there. It’s a little different out here being a little firmer, a little different conditions, but I think she’s adjusting well, and she played awesome. I think she can really compete this week.”

Greg Robertson covers golf for the Review-Journal. Reach him at grobertson@reviewjournal.com.

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