As a seaside course, conditions can be windy at Port Royal Golf Course, and the weather forecast for this weekend is no exception.
This week the PGA Tour travels to Southampton, Bermuda, where the Port Royal hosts the Bermuda Championship. For just the second year, the tournament serves as a full FedEx Cup point event. As a 6,828-yard par 71, Port Royal is one of the shortest courses on tour. It features 6,000-square foot greens, 88 sand bunkers and five holes in which water is in play.
The course played an average of 1.2 strokes under par last year, had a cut of minus-1, and saw Brendon Todd win with a score of minus-24. Our models expect a similar scoring result this year, with an expected cut of EVEN par and a winning score of 22-under.
There are ample scoring opportunities on the course, which has nine par 4s under 450 yards and three par 5s where two are reachable for the whole field. The toughest holes on the course are the long par 3s, including a 16th hole that plays 235 yards and the tee shot is hit across the ocean to a green sitting on its own peninsula.
In the 2019 tournament, the strongest correlation to success was hitting greens and putting well once you got there. Off the tee, hitting fairways mattered about twice as much as distance. Overall, it’s a course where length off the tee is mitigated by course shortness, but all other facets are tested. In looking for golfers to succeed, we’ll be targeting players who hit a ton fairways and greens, and can stick it close to the pin with those approach shots.
The Bermuda field is very weak compared to the ZOZO last weekend. The Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) has Bermuda with a 62 in strength of field, less than 1/10th of what the ZOZO featured. The favorites are Korn Ferry wunderkind Will Zalatoris, the defending champion Todd, Doc Redman and Harold Varner III. Todd is the only one we’re fading entirely this week. He’s been in sub-optimal form lately, and is the only player in the field coming off two straight weeks of PGA tournaments.
After leading the Korn Ferry Tour in points in 2020, Zalatoris has played in four PGA Tour events since the start of September, finishing sixth (US Open), eighth, with a missed cut, and fifth three weeks ago at the Shriners. He’s a made cut away from achieving special temporary status on tour, and he’s a name you will want to know.
Across the Korn Ferry tour this season, Zalatoris hit a remarkable 79.2% of Greens in Regulation — about 12% higher than the KF tour average. In his four PGA Tour events, he’s averaged plus-2.08 Strokes Gained: Ball Striking per round. His plus-1.26 SG: Approach puts him third on tour in recent-form iron play, behind only Russell Henley and Dustin Johnson.
No, he isn’t the third best ball-striker on tour, but should he gain tour membership, he could be among the top 15.
PICK TO WIN
Despite singing his praises, Zalatoris is not our pick to win. As we said in our course overview there is a second area of focus this weekend — putting. Zalatoris has a weakness, and it’s putting. Redman isn’t the greatest putter himself, but he’s significantly better than Big Z, and has the ball-striking to match. The 22-year-old Redman is 88th in the OWGR and has 39 career PGA Tour starts under his belt, but he’s still looking for his first victory. In a swing season that’s seen veteran victories from Stewart Cink, Martin Laird and Hudson Swafford, we’re counting on Redman to become the second first-time winner of the 2021 season.
Redman’s specialty is hitting fairways and hitting greens. He hits 65.6% of fairways and 70.5% of greens, while playing about average around the greens. It’s a spectacular course fit for him, as his biggest weaknesses are short par 3s and long par 5s (there are only two on this course). His ball-striking should allow him to avoid the myriad of sand bunkers on the course and set him up with loads of birdie opportunities. He leads our model this week with a 4.73% chance of winning.
OTHER FAVORITES WHO COULD TRIUMPH
Ventura represents Norway, played at Oklahoma State, and was born in Mexico. He was a 2019 Korn Ferry grad, and has played well since his ascension to the big tour. In the young 2021 season, he’s already netted a pair of top 10s at the Sanderson Farms and Safeway. Ventura’s strengths are off the tee and on the greens, but he also hits more than 70% of his greens. He’s above average by Greens in Regulation but below average by SG: Approach. This likely means he isn’t sticking it super close to the pin every time, though his putting is good enough to make up for it.
He’s only lost strokes on the greens once in his last six starts, and twice he’s gained more than four strokes putting. Last year he tied for 41st at Bermuda, but he was 25th in birdie or better percentage and was bogged down with a quadruple-bogey in Round 1 and a triple in the third round. He’s played more consistently this year, and he could win if he avoids the big hole.
Putting is always a concern with Norlander, and last year’s Bermuda was no exception. He led the field in fairway percentage and was fifth in greens in regulation, but finished just 28th thanks to an abysmal putting performance.
Norlander, however, is capable of putting together an awesome performance with his putter. He’s gained more than seven strokes putting twice in his last seven starts, including 7.1 strokes at the Sanderson Farms — also played on Bermuda Grass. His ball-striking will be there, and if he can putt this weekend, he could find his way to the top of the leaderboard.
LONGSHOTS WHO COULD SURPRISE
Hitting 70.5% of fairways, Stanley is one of the most accurate drivers on tour. He only averages 288 yards off the tee, and he struggles mightily when a course plays to length, but this week the course is right in his wheelhouse. In the 2020 season, he was top 10 in proximity on approach from both 125-150 yards and 150-175 yards, which is where the majority of approach shots will come from this week. His putting is probably bad enough that an outright win isn’t in the cards, but our model likes his chances to finish inside the top 10.
Gordon has been hit-or-miss since the restart, making only half his cuts while netting a top 5 finish. He’s horrid with his short game, but his work off the tee is excellent. He’s particularly good on par 5s, and with his length, each one becomes an eagle opportunity this week.
Like Stanley, Teater is an excellent ball striker with length issues off the tee and a bad putter. He’s also among the top 10 in proximity from short distances, which is a skill he can compete with this week. If he can play the par 5s at tournament average, his work on the short par 4s could be enough to propel him into the top 10.
FAVORITE DRAFTKINGS GPP PLAYS
Will Zalatoris ($10,900)
Harold Varner III ($10,700)
Doc Redman ($10,400)
Really you can’t go wrong with any of these options. Pick the one you think will win and roll with him.
Kristoffer Ventura ($9,100)
Henrik Norlander ($8,900)
Stewart Cink ($7,900)
Wesley Bryan ($7,800)
Jhonattan Vegas ($7,500)
Kyle Stanley ($7,100)
Doug Ghim ($7,100)
Will Gordon ($6,700)
Keith Mitchell ($6,700)
Josh Teater ($6,400)
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