Butterfield Bermuda Championship
It was a solid if unspectacular week for us at the ZOZO Championship as our 55/1 pick Mackenzie Hughes saved the week for us on Sunday by sneaking in to fourth place with a birdie, birdie finish to bag us a full place.
In all honesty we were never really in the picture to bag the winner of an event, which was dominated and won by the home favourite Hideki Matsuyama so I am happy to take the very small profit on the week and move on.
So after its jaunt to Asia we return to the relative normality of a regular tour stop, all be it one that is only being seen for the third time on tour this year.
The event in question is the Bermuda Championship, or the now newly named, Butterfield Bermuda Championship, which first debuted on Tour in 2019 as an opposite field event to the WGC HSBC Champions event.
For the second year running though the event will take centre stage as the only PGA Tour event this week and for the third year since its inception the host course will be the Port Royal GC in Southampton.
After a couple of weeks, which seen some of the games bigger names tee it up in no cut/guaranteed prize money events this week in all honesty the standard of field drops off considerably.
The market is headed up by the recent Valderrama winner Matt Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick is then followed by Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Mito Pereira and Patrick Reed.
Port Royal GC is a par 71 measuring just over 6800 yards.
The greens are Tiff Eagle Bermuda.
The course is a Robert Trent Jones design.
The course features a mix of tree lined holes early on before coastal holes exposed to the Atlantic Ocean take over later on in the front nine and dominate the rest of the way home.
From that point of view the wind can clearly be a factor and we should be looking towards other shorter coastal courses with obvious similarities for reference such as El Cameleon, home of the Mayakoba where last years winner Brendan Todd was also victorious a week later, Harbour Town at Hilton Head, Sea Island home of the RSM and Waialae CC home of the Sony Open.
With the event only having been on the calendar for two year we do not have too much to go on. Here though is the final top ten from those two leaderboards.
1st – B Todd -24
2nd - H Higgs -20
T3rd - H Lebioda, A Wise, B Gay, & S Scheffler -18
7th – F Gomez -17
T8th – D Hearn, W Roach & R Armour -15
1st – B Gay -15
2nd – W Clark -15
3rd – O Schneiderjans -13
T4th – D MCarthy, S Cink, M Jones, D Redman -12
T8th – D Hearn, K Hickok, R Armour
As we can see from these results while the event has only been running for two years a clear pattern has emerged with with shorter straight hitting players like Gay, Todd, Hearn, Armour, Redman and Hickok having the edge over more aggressive youngsters like Clark, Scheffler and Wise.
In addition both winners are known as strong putters who have thrived more on their favoured East Coast surfaces.
From an incoming form point of view neither winner gave us any clues whatsoever as both Gay and Todd had been in dreadful form to put it frankly coming in. Todd had at least given a small hint of what was to come by finishing 28th in Houston the week before after missing his first four cuts of the season however Gay had posted nothing better than 27th all calendar year amongst a swathe of missed cuts.
In relation to previous form here Todd of course triumphed in the first edition of the event, however Gay had finished third here the previous year so we at least knew he was suited to the track.
That last point leads us on to the most clear guide for this event, which is previous form at correlating courses. The obvious venues to focus are the likes of Hilton Head the home of the RBC Heritage, Sea Island the home of the RSM, Waialae CC the home of the Sony Open, The Corales Puntacana event and perhaps most significantly El Cameleon the home of the Mayakoba event.
I say most significantly for the last event as both winners here to date, Todd and Gay have also triumphed at the Mayakoba so the obvious links are there for all to see.
Temperatures look set to sit in the low 80s through the week and the potential is there for storms both leading in to the week and over the weekend in particular.
The main issue for the week though looks to be the wind the possibility of 20-30mph winds and even stronger on Sunday in the forecast as I write.
As I always say though…this could all change!
I have gone with five players this week as follows;
GRAEME MCDOWELL – 80/1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 12th
When looking for players in this weeks field who’s CV of wins on the PGA Tour fits the profile we are looking for there is one man who’s name sits out like a sore thumb and that is Graeme McDowell.
A four time winner on the PGA Tour McDowell has landed his four trophy’s at the Mayakoba, which we know fits the bill perfectly here, the RBC Heritage, which links well here, a link that is rubber stamped by last years Champion in this event Brian Gay, the Corales Puntacana and of course at Pebble Beach the scene of his greatest triumph at the US Open.
In other words put Gmac on a short coastal course and he automatically becomes a big threat.
Delving in to Graeme’s recent form coming in to this week and whilst I would be chancing him on this layout even if he had missed his last ten cuts he has actually made the weekend on the last three occasions he has tee’d it up with a 22nd place finish in his penultimate start at the Dutch Open, which included a second round of 65, showing there is some decent stuff in there at the moment. Furthermore at the Shriners recently where he opened with rounds of 70 and 66 before fading over the weekend he was eighth for the week in Driving Accuracy.
McDowell struggled last season on the PGA Tour, however his one big finish of fourth place came at the Corales, while the previous season his one top five on the PGA Tour came at Waialae CC in the Sony Open, when we were on board at 150/1. In addition his most recent win across the globe came early in 2020 in links style conditions in Saudi Arabia.
It is also worth noting that while he didn’t pull up any trees in the event McDowell has at least had sight of this course before having played here in the 2010 Grand Slam of Golf event.
Finally as is the norm here conditions are expected to get pretty blustery at times this week and if there is one man in this field who’s experience makes him equipped to handle whatever the elements may throw at them more than any other it is undoubtedly McDowell.
To circle back round to where we began then while this is McDowell’s maiden appearance in this event this week based on his profile he is all but an auto bet for me on this type of test and in this level of company he is more than capable of repeating the heroics of another veteran Brian Gay last year.
KRAMER HICKOK - 80/1 – 1pt e/w 1/5 odds 1st 7 - FINISHED 30th
Next up this week I am going to take my chances with another ‘horses for courses’ play and risk that a return to a venue that he has flourished on before can trigger a return to form for Kramer Hickok.
A former college roommate of Jordan Spieth’s big things were expected from Hickok when he joined the PGA Tour full time at the back end of 2018 however it is fair to say that he hasn’t to date lived up to expectation and keeping his place on tour has been a battle.
Last season however things finally started to click for Kramer and it looked as though everything was going to fall in to place for his first win at the Travelers Championship in June.
In the end though unfortunately Hickok lost out that week to Harris English in a marathon eight hole play off that will go down as one of the highlights of the 20/21 PGA Tour season.
Since that disappointment the Texan has struggled to really get going again with his remaining four starts of that season garnering nothing better than a 58th place, while his opening three outings of the new campaign have seen him miss two cuts and finish 57th last weekend at the ZOZO.
A poor run of form no doubt then of late for Kramer however this week he returns to a venue that his two starts to date have seen him finish 15th & eighth on his two previous visits and clearly the type of course that he is most at home on.
To back this up firstly we need look no further than the aforementioned second place at TPC River Highlands, a short par 70 course, while his next best finish last season behind his eighth place here was a 14th place at Colonial CC in the Charles Schwab. If we then go back to the previous season after his seasons best 15th here his next best effort was a 21st at the tough windy PGA National. Finally a look at his debut season on tour sees that he posted a seasons best 10th at the Corales Puntacana while interestingly his lowest round of that whole campaign was an opening 64 at the Mayakoba.
I do have some slight reservations that Kramer has made the trip here straight from Japan and as a whole I have looked to swerve players this week who have made that journey, however on a track that obviously fits his game I believe there is enough juice in his price to take a risk and I am happy to have him on side.
ADAM SVENSSON – 100/1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 - FINISHED 22nd
Next cab off the rank for us this week is Adam Svensson.
I chanced Svensson a few weeks back at the Sanderson farms event to no avail however there is enough in my eyes to like about his profile to risk him again at three figure odds this week.
Svensson’s forays on to the PGA Tour to date have been disappointing with his maiden season of 18/19 leading to a swift return to the Korn Ferry Tour while his start this time around has seen him miss two cuts alongside a seasons opening 51st place at the Fortinet Championship.
Where things get interesting for me this week though with the Canadian is his form on the Korn Ferry Tour over the recent years. Firstly if we go back to 2017 Adam posted his second best finish of the campaign at the Corales Puntacana event, which was still at that time a Korn Ferry event, while if we go on to 2018 he posted a 13th place and a win in back to back weeks in blustery conditions in the Bahamas. He also then went on to finish eighth in the season ending Web.com Tour Championship in Florida.
Bringing things up to date and the Canadian produced a two win season this year on the Korn Ferry Tour to earn his return to the big league with the most recent of those successes coming barely two months ago so his confidence should still be high despite has lacklustre start to the new campaign. Noticeably to me however is how he put that season together as while one of the shorter hitters on the tour he ranked sixth in accuracy, 11th in GIR and 36th in putting. In other words he is exactly the sort of short, straight hitter who flourishes in the wind we are looking for.
A Canadian by birth Svensson has based himself for several years now in the Palm Beach Gardens area of Florida so it is not at all surprising he is comfortable in windy conditions or on Bermuda greens and in an event which is really low in strength in depth I expect him to give a strong account of himself at three figure odds this week.
JJ SPAUN – 175/1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 - FINISHED T7th
Next up for me in an event that I feel it is certainly worth speculating in I am going to chance JJ Spaun.
The theme for this week is of course to find players who have previously thrived on similar shorter coastal tracks and Spaun is one such man who could just spring a surprise.
After a solid opening season on tour in 2016 31yr old Spaun looked like a player set to break through with the following campaign bringing him three top three finishes including best of second place at the correlating RSM Classic.
The 18/19 season saw more of the same from JJ as it was a case of ‘close but no cigar’ on a couple of occasions, particularly at the Mayakoba where he finished third. Significantly then that means Spaun has finishes of 14th and third to his name at the course that links most closely to hear, El Cameleon.
Since that season though Spaun has lost his way somewhat and after a stay of execution in 19/20 with his card courtesy of the covid related changes, which meant no player lost their status, 20/21 saw him have to return to the Korn Ferry finals.
At the Korn Ferry finals though JJ came straight out and did what was required of him by posting a second place finish at the Albertsons Boise event to ensure he would be straight back out on the PGA Tour.
While Spaun hasn’t got off to a flyer in the new season he has followed a missed cut at the season opening Fortinet Championship with a 68th place at the Sandersons and most recently a 35th place at The Shriners.
Looking at that week at the Shriners in more detail and JJ finished the week ranked fifth in putting, more often than not his nemesis, while he had one really strong day with his irons. Certainly not the finished article then but undoubtedly encouraging signs.
Spaun is making his debut in Bermuda this week however he has shown in his time on tour that for whatever reason he produces some of his best stuff at this time of year and if you then add in his strong past efforts at the Mayakoba and his improved display at the Shriners he is worth risking in my opinion at the odds this week.
TED POTTER JNR – 200/1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 10 - FINISHED MC
For my final play this week in the spirit of Brian Gay and Brendan Todd who had both been racking up the missed cuts between them in the year or so prior to their wins here I am going to chance Ted Potter Jnr.
Potter Jnr is one of those players I am always happy to risk at huge odds on the right sort of track for two reasons, one he knows how to win and two he can find his form out of absolutely nowhere.
With regards to the need to find form out of nowhere Ted arrives in Bermuda with a bunch of missed cuts to his name and no top twenty finishes since May with his last top ten coming when we were on board – and he was in no form on arrival – in Puerto Rico.
This season Potter Jnr has made one start on tour at the Fortinet and an 82 on the Friday lead to a MC. Enough to put you off then quite possibly, however guess what…the last time Ted shot 82 on tour on the Sunday at the Farmers in 2018 he came out and won in his following start at Pebble Beach, memorably taking down Dustin Johnson.
Talking of that win and that of course leads us on to the main appeal of Ted this week, his correlating course form. He has the win at Pebble to his name, top 20s at the RSM, The Heritage and the Sony, a top ten at the Sony and two top ten’s in Puerto Rico. Basically if its by the coast the 37yr old tends to thrive.
This week see’s the Florida native making his debut in this event and I am quite prepared, as is the want with a player who is the definition of mercurial and from whom you never quite know what you are going to get, for a missed cut. However at the odds on offer in a field of this quality on this type of track I will always be happy to risk him and this week is no exception.
UPDATED 26th OCTOBER
FANTASY DRAFT KINGS PICKS
PICK 1 - AUSTIN COOK - DK VALUE $6900 - FINISHED MC - DK POINTS 28.5
Before we get started here it's worth noting that three of our five outright picks this week, McDowell, spaun & Potter Jnr fall in the sub $7K DK pricing however as always I will pick a couple of further plays for this segment.
My first pick is Austin Cook. After taking the Patrick Reed route to PGA Tour fame of Monday qualifying once a full tour member Cook hit pay dirt with when landing the trophy at the RSM Classic in 2017.
with the RSM being an event, which is hosted on a short coastal track Cook immediately comes up on our radar for this week.
Since that victory Austin has had an up and down time of things on tour however he did come close to adding a second win at the Shriners last Fall before losing out in a play off.
Seemingly at his best at this time of year then Cook arrives at a course, which as a shorter hitter should plsay to his strenghths and having posted an 11th place finish already this season at the Fortinet I expect him to perform well this week.
PICK 2 - CAMILO VILLEGAS - DK VALUE $6800 - FINISHED 34th - DK POINTS 73.5
Another player who is always at his best at this type of test is Camillo Villegas. Camilo posted his best finish last season of 6th place at the RSM while his next best efforts were eighth at The Honda and 11th at the Valspar. If we then roll the clock back to his previous full season on tour in 2017 he posted a best of second at the RSM.
The Colombian arrives here on the back of a solid 35th place last time out at the Shriners, which included a Saturday 65 and I expect him to build on his debut here of 55th last year and produce a solid four days.