2023 Butterfield Bermuda Championship Preview

2023 Butterfield Bermuda Championship Preview
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Rain, rain go away. Come again another day. That tune has likely been the theme song for many residents of Bermuda this year.

They received more than 12 inches of rain in May to set a record for the month and then flirted with the October record as well. They are having one of the wettest years on record while also dealing with more than six tropical storms over the last three months. Now the PGA Tour will stroll through town to play their penultimate event of the FedExCup Fall series. It’s safe to say we should be expecting soft conditions for this week’s Bermuda Championship.

The Course

The host venue of the Bermuda Championship will be Port Royal Golf Course in Southampton, Bermuda. It is a Robert Trent Jones Sr. design that opened in the early ‘70s with a complete renovation by Roger Rulewich in 2008.

The renovation was completed ahead of the 2009 PGA Grand Slam of Golf which it hosted for six years. Port Royal returned to the schedule five years later to host this event. This will be the fifth running of the Bermuda Championship.

Glancing at the scorecard, we see a par 71 that plays to just 6,828 yards from the tips. That is extremely short by PGA Tour standards. There are eight par 4s that play under 415 yards and none longer than 458 yards. Power is not a requirement here as evidenced by Brendon Todd and Brian Gay cracking the winner’s circle in two of the four editions.

As Todd put it in 2019, “It’s one of the shorter ones we play on the Tour and it forces everybody to hit the ball with the same clubs off the tee because there’s cross bunkers and hazards in certain places.”

Water comes into play on up to seven holes but the course is relatively defenseless without the help of Mother Nature. Ryan Armour talked on that point in 2020, “What I really love about this place is it’s unique. Every day could be different, it depends on where the wind’s coming from. You’ve got to hit so many different shots off the tee, so many different shapes off the tee.”

The weather guides the scoring environment here with eight of the 16 rounds played to a field average under 70 strokes. With the field averaging as low as 67.8 in round one last year. On the flip side, the field has averaged a score over par in a quarter of the rounds with notable round averages of 72.7 and 73.6 as evidence of how tough this course can play when the winds are really swirling.

Looking at the turf across the property, they’ll see wall-to-wall bermudagrass, fitting given the location. There is some zoysia mixed in on some of the fairways. The TifEagle Bermuda greens typically run on the slow side of the spectrum, as is often the case when the Tour travels to a coastal course.

Looking for similar course comps, we can consider the Pebble Beach Pro-Am rota and Sea Island while Keene Trace provides a soft-course comp with easy scoring conditions and a similar field strength.

Golfers to Watch

Adam Scott

The Aussie headlines the field this week. Scott is making his tournament debut but not his course debut. In fact, he won the 2013 PGA Grand Slam of Golf at Port Royal so he should have fond memories of the course. Scott has top-10 finishes in five of his last 13 worldwide starts so it is easy to see why he’s opened as the pre-tournament betting favorite.

Brian Gay

In a classic case of recent form versus course history, Gay will try to win one for course history this week. He is a past champ at Port Royal (2020) and he’s finished T-12 or better in his other three trips. Spending most of his time on the Champions Tour these days, Gay has missed the cut in his last six starts on the PGA Tour.

Troy Merritt

After a down year, Merritt has popped with a pair of top-10 finishes in four starts this fall. Over the last two years, his adjusted scoring average improved by more than half a shot per round when playing on coastal courses and he also shows large improvement on short courses, as well. This week’s course suits him well on paper but he’s always a boom-or-bust kind of option for fantasy gamers.

Akshay Bhatia

The coastal king lived up to his reputation last week with a backdoor top 10 at the World Wide Technology Championship. Bhatia started 2023 with a T-7 finish in The Bahamas, added a runner-up finish in Puerto Rico, and snagged a fourth-place finish at the Mexico Open. His breakout win on the Korn Ferry circuit also came in the Bahamas. His game is well-suited for coastal resort tracks which makes him an appealing option for gamers or bettors this week.

Alex Smalley

Smalley has racked up more than his fair share of big finishes by the coast, as well. He has 11 finishes of T-14 or better on the PGA Tour and six of those have come on coastal courses. It’s an impressive ratio based on the percentage of coastal courses played. Two of those notable finishes have come at Port Royal with a T-12 in 2021 and a T-11 finish last year. The Duke alum is currently 58th in the FedExCup Fall standings and has a very good chance of maintaining his spot in the “Next 10″ with two events on coastal courses to end the fall.

Ranking the Field

1. Adam Scott
2. Brendon Todd
3. Thomas Detry
4. Lucas Glover
5. Alex Noren
6. Ben Griffin
7. Alex Smalley
8. Lucas Herbert
9. Akshay Bhatia
10. Doug Ghim
11. Mark Hubbard
12. Luke List
13. Taylor Pendrith
14. Dylan Wu
15. Nick Hardy
16. Ryan Palmer
17. Davis Riley
18. Peter Kuest
19. Brandon Wu
20. Stewart Cink

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