5. Rickie Fowler
One of two players in this field ranked in the top 10 of the world rankings, No. 9 Fowler’s inclusion will be among the biggest stories this week at TPC Summerlin.
Quickly approaching his 30s, Rickie is constantly facing enormous pressure to win a major, but he will not be dealing with that this week, although anywhere he goes, much is expected from him.
Fowler has played this event just once this decade (T25, 2016), but boasts an excellent all-around game that allowed him to end the past season hot, as he fell outside the top 20 in just one of his last ten starts.
Recently, he has shown a penchant for the early-season events, and has seen considerable success in them. Coming off a year where he finished 8th in scoring average and 11th in strokes gained: total, Rickie should be a safe bet at the Shriners.
World Rank: 9th
Field Rank: 2nd
Last Six: 7, 8, 12, 17, 28, 2
4. Bryson DeChambeau
At No. 6 in the OWGR, DeChambeau is the highest ranked player in the Shriners field. It has been a mix of phenomenal and terrible for the ostentatious 25-year-old recently; he won the first two events of the FedExCup Playoffs, but was a disappointment at the Tour Championship and an unmitigated disaster at the Ryder Cup.
Having not played since Paris one month ago, DeChambeau should be well-rested as he makes TPC Summerlin the first stop of his 2018-19 campaign. He finished T7 in last year’s event, largely off the strength of bookend 67s, showing that he has the game to compete in Vegas.
Based on his prior success here, and the relatively weak field, the man who has been boom or bust lately is much more likely to see the former than the latter this week.
World Rank: 6th
Field Rank: 1st
Last Six: 19, 19, 1, 1, MC, 30
3. Patrick Cantlay
TPC Summerlin one year ago was the place and time of Cantlay’s first career professional victory, a valiant career comeback for the once amateur superstar after serious injury and tragedy had sidelined him for years.
Now, Cantlay comes back to Vegas for his first career tournament defense, recently finishing a stellar 2018 season where he made 21 of 23 cuts, with 15 finishes inside the top 25, and seven inside the top 10. The world No. 23 is one of the best shotmakers in this field, which was on display when he finished T7 at last week’s WGC-HSBC Champions in China. Fatigue could be a concern, but he won this event last year after placing T15 in Shanghai, so he has proven himself in these circumstances.
Making it all the way to the Tour Championship last year, Cantlay is no longer under the radar in the golf world, and nobody expects last year’s Shriners triumph to be his only career victory for long.
World Rank: 23rd
Last Six: 7, 17, 21, 55, 24, 8
2. Tony Finau
With his plethora of high finishes this past season, including 3 runner-ups and 11 top-10s, it remains shocking that Finau’s win at the opposite-field 2016 Puerto Rico Open is his only career victory.
That real breakthrough win very nearly came this past week in China, but Finau was unable to capitalize on a three-stroke 54-hole lead and was ousted in a playoff against Xander Schauffele.
Despite the late disappointment in Shanghai, Finau will be among the favorites at the Shriners. With six consecutive finishes inside the top 15, not including his 2-1-0 week at the Ryder Cup, Finau is one of the hottest players in the field. Like he does seemingly everywhere, Finau contended at TPC Summerlin last year, reaching third place through three rounds before a late slide dropped him to T16.
The World No. 15 was 10th on Tour in scoring average last year, and early signs for the upcoming season are very promising.
World Rank: 15th
Last Six: 2, 10, 15, 8, 4, 2
1. Webb Simpson
The career comeback of Tiger Woods snagged all the headlines last year, but what Webb was able to come back from was very impressive as well.
The 2012 US Open Champion saw his play drop precipitously in the years following that major breakthrough, and he was especially affected by the Tour’s ban on anchored putting. He started to figure his swing out again late in the 2017 season, especially with his putter, and that confidence led to tremendous 2018 season: 23 made cuts in 26 starts, with nine top 10s, and $5.4 million in earnings.
Easily the highlight of his remarkable comeback season was his absolute obliteration of an elite field at THE PLAYERS Championship. Simpson has not played in the new season yet, but ended last season hot, with a T6-T4 showing in the last two events of the FedExCup playoffs. He was also one of the few bright spots for the Americans at the Ryder Cup, besting FedExCup Champion Justin Rose 3&2 in Sunday singles.
As for Webb and the Shriners, the history there is also positive. Webb won the 2014 title by a whopping six strokes, and followed that up with a T4 the next year.
World Rank: 19th
Last Six: 4, 6, 49, 28, 2, 19
Next Five: Kevin Tway, Joaquin Niemann, Ryan Palmer, Bud Cauley, Troy Merritt