The Butterfield Bermuda Championship sits in the Bermuda triangle of the fall PGA Tour schedule. Last week an incredible field competed for the CJ Cup. In one week, the migration to beautiful Mexico takes place. Stuck in between is the fourth playing of this event out in the mid-Atlantic Ocean. When Brain Gay is your lock placement bet of the week, you're struggling. Of the 132 players in the field, only four are ranked in the Top 100 in the OWGR.
Here's the spin for those who have made the jump to the Atlantic coast's most famous island. The winner will receive $1.17 million ($65.m purse), 500 FedEx Cup points, and an invitation to play at the Masters. With all of the changes happening to the FedEx Cup points/playoffs those 500 points could guarantee a playoff spot for a guy who might not otherwise even get close. So keep an eye on the rookies and possibly first-time winners. This is a big deal, unfortunately for last year's winner Lucas Herbert, it just wasn't a big enough deal to come back and defend.
Herbert got it done last year with some great play and a little luck. His middle rounds were blessed with less windy conditions. He closed on the final day with a great round to secure the title. It's worth mentioning because the early weather predictions are not good for this week. Temperatures are expected to be seasonal in the mid-70s, but the wind and rain are coming. Winds 20+mph are predicted alongside wet weather. It's too early to tell which day(s) will be the worst, but it doesn't look favorable.
There's a near 70% chance of rain on Thursday and Friday tapering off toward Sunday. Port Royal Golf Course has always been a stern test of accuracy, but with weather like that good luck getting past fifteen under par. PRGC is short by PGA Tour standards. With a Par of 71, the scorecard only stretches to 6,828 yards.
- Six of the Par 4's measure under 400 yards. The average Par 4 length is only 402 yards!
- All three Par 5's are reachable and have higher than a 35% birdie rate.
- The Par 3's (8, 13, 16) are the three toughest holes relative to par on the course.
The course design will make you dizzy. No two holes play in the same direction back to back. Therefore, on every hole, for every single shot, you are constantly managing the wind and lie. Eleven of the holes have a significant elevation change to incorporate. With the elements being your toughest competitor, this short course suddenly gets quite challenging.
- Every green complex is dotted with bunkers. All eighteen of them.
- All fourteen of the tee shots face bunkers as well.
- Seven holes have water in play and again the closing stretch of holes 14-18 are all unprotected from the wind.
- The greens don't cause many three putts because they are so small. Due to the possible heavy wind conditions, they aren't extremely undulating.
Even though PRGC is a tough test in the wind, you can score here especially in the opening stretch 1-7. You'll need to accumulate about twenty birdies to get in the mid-teens come Sunday afternoon. Birdie or better statistics and creating opportunities are important. When calm, Brendan Todd won here with a twenty-four under the total. Overall it is a nice mix of paradise and pain. Approach shots stretch from the mid 200's on the longer Par 3's to flip wedges on the short Par 4's. That balance alongside controlling contact and trajectory will dictate our contenders. Wonder who they are? Keep reading.
How to watch?
All on the Golf Channel (all times EDT).
- Thursday 1:30 - 4:30 pm
- Friday 1:30 - 4:30 pm
- Saturday 1:30 - 4:30 pm
- Sunday 1:30 - 4:30 pm
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Accuracy is really the keyword here. Look at the past champions: Brendan Todd, Brian Gay, and Lucas Herbert. Their path to success was ultimately simple. Drive the ball in the fairway and putt the lights out. Historically, players have only managed to hit 53% of the fairways (tour average 62%). The first key to our contention list this week is great driving. It really doesn't matter if you are long or short, just get it in the fairway.
The crucial approach shots this week for scoring are long. Three of the Par 3's stretch over 215 yards and the Par 5's will present critical long iron opportunities. I'm focused on this skill and scrambling on approach. Six of the Par 4's are under 400 yards. Those are pitch shots for the second swing. Going low includes mastering these two ends of the approach spectrum at PRGC.
There's a bunch of sand at Port Royal. Unfortunately, it is not the pleasant pink beach sand. Rather it comes in the form of penalty areas around all of the landing areas. The course has more than forty fairway bunkers and another forty-four of the greenside variety. Sand will play a role come Sunday or maybe even sooner. Those three same past champions are also solid short-game players.
The prevailing wind comes out of the south at PRGC. This means eight of the holes play into the wind. In the closing of the back nine, players will be tested with several cross and downwind conditions. Trajectory control isn't a statistic. You have to know who plays well in the wind. Managing the height of a five-iron isn't nearly as much of a skill as doing it with your wedge. We know the recipe to score, so alongside a great short game I want players with great spin and trajectory control in their wedge game.
The last primary skill is putting. In this case, I reserved the best for last. Players can make a lot of putts here. These greens are not super slopey. If they were, when the wind blows, they would be rendered unplayable. They are small and that coincides with the overall length of the course. If you are hitting these targets, and players do (65% at PRGC, tour average 66%) then good putters will have an advantage over their competition.
Many of the contenders may not be household names, but neither was Lucas Herbert. The average winner's odds over the last three years has been +12700 (127/1). The tour is trending lower these days as more seem to be coming from that middle tier in these weaker fields and that's where my attention is this week.
- Justin Lower continues to be mentioned this fall. He even played well in Napa after the major disappointment he faced at the end of the season at Wyndham. Lower looks like he's playing with a new lease on life. He's made all three cuts this season and a Top 5 finish in the Fortinet. His game is definitely trending over his last five starts and in this field, he brings a great skill set of hitting fairways and gaining birdie opportunities. Bermudagrass may not be his number one surface, but this week it may not matter due to the weather. He's a great putter and all those chances he creates will serve him well in getting through Sunday with a win.
- Ten players have made the cut in all three BBC's, and Ryan Armour is one of them. When hitting fairways is a premium, put Armour on your card. He's incredibly accurate on approach as well. We've established how players will need long iron acumen and wonderful wedges. Ryan won't wow you like a Rory, but he keeps the ball in the play. On a shorter course like Port Royal, he's extremely dangerous. When he does miss a green his short game is better than two-thirds of his competitors. He checks every box in the Brian Gay/Brendan Todd winning recipe.
Outright winners - Butterfield Bermuda Championship
Justin Lower (+3000)
Pick 2* (+4500)
Pick 3* (+5500)
Ryan Armour (+8000)
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