10. Andrew Putnam
Putnam missed the cut at last year’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, but it is difficult to discount his chances this week too much for it, given how tremendously his game has grown since.
The 29-year-old won the Barracuda Championship in early August, and has also contended in a number of non-opposite field events, such as the FedEx St. Jude Classic (solo 2nd) and the RBC Canadian Open (T8). His best may be getting close, as Putnam shined in China at last week’s WGC-HSBC Champions, finishing T4 and leading an elite field in greens in regulation.
There is a potential fatigue factor since Putnam played the entire Asian swing, but based on recent form, he could be a real factor in Vegas.
World Rank: 67th
Field Rank: 14th
Last Six: 4, 29, 50, 16, 49, 78
9. Bronson Burgoon
The OTHER long bomber out of Texas A&M, Burgoon has posted some great finishes as of late, including a runner-up in his last start at the CIMB Classic two weeks ago. He was also T2 at the John Deere Classic in mid-July, and he posted a T11 at the Northern Trust, the first leg of the FedExCup playoffs.
Burgoon did well hitting fairways last season, and by finishing third in the CIMB field in greens in regulation, he showed that he can be a factor with the driver out of his hand too. This will be his first start at TPC Summerlin since missing the cut three years ago.
World Rank: 104th
Field Rank: 26th
Last Six: 2, 53, 58, 11, MC, MC
8. Jordan Spieth
Among those making their 2018-19 season debuts at TPC Summerlin, none are more highly-anticipated than that of 11-time PGA Tour winner, 3-time major champion Jordan Spieth.
The 25-year-old Texan was arguably the Tour’s biggest disappointment this past season. In 23 starts, Spieth went winless, had a career low five top 10s, failed to reach the Tour Championship for the first time, and had his lowest-earning career season by far.
Since a solo-third place finish at The Masters in early April, Spieth has recorded just a single top 10: a T9 at the Open Championship, where he was the 54-hole leader, but imploded in a birdie-free Sunday 76.
A solid showing at the recent Ryder Cup was promising, but this week at the Shriners, an event he has not played before, should tell a lot about his confidence level heading into the new season. Most will be especially interested in how Spieth looks on the greens, as putting yips were the chief reason he dropped out of the top 10 in the world rankings.
World Rank: 13th
Field Rank: 3rd
Last Six: 55, 12, 25, 12, 60, 9
7. Gary Woodland
After prevailing at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in early February, Woodland’s game completely went into the tank for six months, but since a first-round 64 at the PGA Championship, where he would go on to finish T6, he looks like a new man, or at least the best parts of his old professional self.
Woodland ended the FedExCup Playoffs strong, and in two starts in the new season, he finished T5 at the CIMB Classic and 2nd at the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges. With a round of 61 in the former, and a round of 63 in the latter, the 34-year-old Kansas product has looked unstoppable at times. He has a well-earned reputation as one of the Tour’s longest hitters, but many would be surprised to see that he finished 10th on Tour last year in greens in regulation.
This will be his second consecutive year playing TPC Summerlin; he posted a T18 last year, shooting 67-68 in the middle rounds.
World Rank: 31st
Field Rank: 7th
Last Six: 2, 5, 11, 12, 24, 48
6. Aaron Wise
The 22-year-old former Oregon star Wise had an incredible debut year on the PGA Tour, highlighted by a dominant victory at March’s AT&T Byron Nelson. Wise missed his next five cuts after the win, but has been rounding back into form since the start of August, and four of his final six starts of the past season resulted in finishes of T16 or better.
Wise has now chosen the Shriners for start No. 1 of season No. 2, a tournament where he finished T10 just two years ago, pacing the field after a 66-65 start. He was a birdie machine at the recent FedExCup playoffs, a promising sign given that this tournament is usually a birdie fest.
World Rank: 53rd
Field Rank: 11th
Last Six: 15, 16, 69, 5, MC, 6
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