Christopher Hanewinckel, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Kevin Na
- You should consider how a player will handle playing in Las Vegas before making your picks for the Shriners Hospital for Children Open.
- Jason Sobel sizes up the field and makes a few picks from favorites to mid-tier to longshots, including a few Vegas locals.
I love Vegas. You love Vegas. Everyone loves Vegas.
Professional golfers are only human, so it’s safe to assume that they, too, love Vegas.
Knowing that, I’ve always wondered why the Vegas-based PGA Tour event doesn’t attract a better field. Played in the first month of the new season, this tourney provides a low-pressure, low-stress playing opportunity with plenty of extracurricular activities to keep ‘em busy off the golf course.
It might be the one city where players on the cut line would rather have the weekend off, if only for the chance at greater financial success.
Not to belittle how much these pros work on their games — hint: it’s a lot — but all work and no play makes you a dull boy. Things are rarely dull in Vegas, and well, the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open is one of the few tourneys I’ve never covered, but I can’t imagine there are too many late-afternoon grind sessions on the range this week.
Sounds like the kind of tourney we’d all like to play if we were professional golfers, which doesn’t explain why the field is usually the opposite of the Sin City glamour.
Until this week.
Check the entry list and you’ll find some bona fide big-name players in this field. Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Tony Finau and Bryson DeChambeau headline a list that, at least on the surface, is weightier than those for recent editions of this event.
It makes perfect sense. These players can give themselves a chance for an early season win — and if their game isn’t quite up to it, they can just enjoy the sights and scenes of Vegas.
All of which leads to my strategy for this tourney: Try to avoid the players who will enjoy Vegas too much.
Look, I’m a huge proponent of relaxing and unwinding after a long day on the golf course, but dinner and a show on the Strip is one thing, while crushing the blackjack tables until 4 a.m. is something much different.
What I’m saying is, don’t bet on the guys you’d most like to have at your bachelor party.
That recalls my favorite piece that I’ve ever written. It was about Eddie Pearce, who’d been deemed “The Next Nicklaus,” but famously partied his way around the PGA Tour. And one of my favorite stories from that piece is this one, via GolfChannel.com:
In his rookie season, Eddie played the PGA Tour event in Las Vegas — his first journey to the City of Sin. As was usually the case with him, evening turned into night and night turned into dawn. This time, dawn turned into daytime and Eddie was still partying.
“I was at the casino all night, just drinking and having a great time,” he remembers. “I started gambling, playing the dice, playing blackjack. Before you know it, it didn’t make any sense to me, but I see [PGA Tour official] Jack Tuthill. At that point, I’d had the dice in my hands for 18-20 minutes, so I was up big time. He said, ‘What are you doing? Do you know what time it is? It’s 11:00.’ Well, I was supposed to tee off at 8:30. I said, ‘You see these chips? This is a lot more than the prize money in the tournament.’ I gave him a $500 chip and said, ‘This should cover my fine.’
“I didn’t know what else to do. He just shook his head. Nobody could do anything with me. People tried, but I was just impossible.”
Here’s my list of players with plenty of game – and those who (I hope) will be safely tucked into bed by 10 p.m. each evening.