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Players prepared to go low at Shriners Children’s Open

Updated October 5, 2022 - 5:29 pm

Green lights will be flashing on just about every tee box starting Thursday for PGA Tour pros playing the Shriners Children’s Open at TPC Summerlin.

Scores are always low in the tournament, and players know going in they will need a lot of birdies on their scorecard or be left behind.

If the scores in recent years aren’t evidence enough — the last four winners have finished the week at least 21 under — then course designer Bobby Weed Jr. has some advice for this year’s field.

“You have to get on the No. 1 tee with an aggressive attitude,” Weed said. “You’re not going to pick your way around this golf course. I think for the most part, you step on the first tee, put the pedal down and never take it off.”

Nobody has done that better than Patrick Cantlay over the past few years. In four appearances in the tournament, he has a win in 2017, runner-up finishes in 2018 and 2019, and a tie for eighth in 2020.

“Obviously around this place you need to make a ton of birdies and not very many mistakes, because most every year the winner is in the 20-, 25-under range,” Cantlay said Wednesday. “That’s what it takes. You’ve got to shoot 5-, 6-under every day.”

Martin Laird, a two-time winner of the event, said taking the right mental approach is key to playing well in Las Vegas. There’s never a need to panic at TPC Summerlin, he said, because there are always plenty of opportunities for birdies as the round progresses.

“It’s just one of these fun courses where you know there’s a good handful of holes where if you just play some solid golf, you’re going to have some good birdie looks,” he said. “I don’t feel like it’s a place where, if you start your first four or five holes even par, you know there are nice stretches coming up. You can run four or five off in a row.”

That’s exactly what Sungjae Im did last year during the final round, making eight birdies in a 10-hole stretch, including five straight at one point — on his way to a 62 and a four-shot victory.

With some extremely wide fairways, hot weather, little wind and pristine course conditions, players can turn TPC Summerlin into a pitch and putt. But Max Homa, perhaps the hottest golfer in the world right now, said thinking that way can prove detrimental. He prefers to approach the Shriners as he does any other tournament.

“I feel like if you’re approaching the tournament the correct way, it would essentially be just to hit a good tee shot, hit the smart best second shot and then hit the best putt you can,” said Homa, who attributes much of the low scoring to all the par 5s being reachable in two, and a short par 4 that is drivable for most of the field.

“I’ve always looked at the courses where the scores are lower as if you make less mistakes, you’re still going to make a bunch of birdies because we’re good at golf. But if you can limit the backing up, that seems to be my mentality,” said Homa, a winner three weeks ago in Napa, California.

Homa will be playing the first two rounds with Tom Kim, the 20-year-old who has emerged onto the golf scene with a win in North Carolina in July to earn his tour card and become the catalyst for the International team at the recent Presidents Cup.

Kim had never played TPC Summerlin before Tuesday, but he can already tell what’s in store for players this week.

“You’ve really got to keep up with the guys here,” Kim said. “It’s going to be fun.”

Greg Robertson covers golf for the Review-Journal. He can be reached at grobertson@reviewjournal.com.

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