photo courtesy Titleist
The PGA Tour returns to Las Vegas’ TPC Summerlin November 1-4 for the 35th edition of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. The PGA Tour season is just beginning and the high risk/reward course brings a true Vegas feel to the tournament. The event promises to stiff competition with top golfers including Jordan Spieth, Webb Simpson and Tony Finau part of the field. However, while heavyweights like Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods have previously won the event, recent history suggests a first time winner could be on the cards as 3 of the last 4 winners claimed their first PGA Tour victory in the desert.
2017 Champion Patrick Cantlay
photo credit: Robert LaBerge
That was the case last year when Patrick Cantlay overcame the odds to claim his first PGA Tour title. Cartley, born in 1992, had a prodigious amateur career were he remained as the world number 1 for over a year and amassed 4 top-25 finishes in PGA Tour. However, a serious back injury soon after turning professional kept Cantlay off the course for over 2 years and was soon followed by the untimely death of friend and caddie Chris Roth during a night out. Against this, Cantlay battled his way back onto the PGA Tour in 2017. Cantlay’s second full season on the tour began in 2018 and when the unheralded golfer teed off at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. At the end of 4 rounds Cantlay, Kim Meen-whee and Alex Cejka all ended tied on -9. At the second playoff hole Cantlay made a difficult approach shot through trees to save par, and in the windy conditions that was enough to give Cantlay his first PGA Tour win.
Cantlay faces a stern test as he looks to become only the second back-to-back winner. The field looks to be the strongest ever seen at the tournament, with many golfers beginning their seasons at the TPC Summerlin. Jordan Spieth, Bruce DeChambeau, Rickie Fowler and 2018 Team USA Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk are all making their first starts and with the possible exception of Furyk, the event's only multi-winner, all are early favorites. Tony Finau, runner up at last week’s WGC-HSBC Champions via playoff, is another strong contender who has begun the season well. Legends Ernie Els and Vijay Singh are also at the tournament looking to recapture some of their past magic. But with so many former champions being first time winners, it is safe to expect some surprises this weekend in the desert. Coverage is available through the Golf Channel 4:30-7:30pm ET Thursday-Saturday. The final round will be shown 3:30-6:30pm ET on Sunday.