The Butterfield Bermuda Championship
It was one of those frustrating weeks for us in Mexico where most of our team performed solidly but were unable to quite produce the low scoring to keep pace with the birdie fest that the course delivered.
In the end it was left for Akshay Bhatia and Beau Hossler to produce a run for us on Sunday, which ultimately saw them finish two and three shots respectively shy of the places.
To rub salt in to the wound the event was won by Erik Van Rooyen who we were on in his most recent start in Vegas at triple digits.
It was a hugely emotional victory for both Van Rooyen and his caddie, as a close college friend of theirs is battling terminal cancer. Add that to the fact that the South African had entered the week in the key 125 spot and you can only admire the back nine 28 he produced on the final day to close the event out.
With Camilo Villegas also in the hunt for the win before ultimately finishing second, the final day was certainly riveting watching and once more reminded us how fascinating these Fall events can be despite the lack of star names.
So we move on and its time for the penultimate event of the new look PGA Tour Fall season, the Butterfield Bermuda Championship.
The event, which first debuted on Tour in 2019 as an opposite field event to the WGC HSBC Champions event will for the fourth year running take centre stage as the only PGA Tour event this week.
As has been the case since its inception the host course will be the Port Royal GC in Southampton.
The field, which it must be said is weak, is made up predominantly of players who are still battling for a spot on the ‘next ten’ 50-60, or the top 125 or 150. Only two members of the regular season top 50, Lucas Glover and former champion here Brendan Todd are in attendance. Favouritism honours however go to Adam Scott who makes his debut here. Scott is then followed in the market by Todd, Thomas Detry and Akshay Bhatia.
Port Royal GC is a par 71 measuring just over 6800 yards.
The greens are Tiff Eagle Bermuda.
The course is a Robert Trent Jones design.
The course features a mix of tree lined holes early on before coastal holes exposed to the Atlantic Ocean take over later on in the front nine and dominate the rest of the way home.
From that point of view the wind can clearly be a factor and we should be looking towards other shorter coastal courses with obvious similarities for reference such as El Cameleon, home of the Mayakoba where last years winner Brendan Todd was also victorious a week later, Harbour Town at Hilton Head, Sea Island home of the RSM and Waialae CC home of the Sony Open.
With the event only having been on the calendar for three years we do not have too much to go on. Here though is the final top ten from those three leaderboards.
1st S Power
2nd T Detry
T3rd P Rodgers, B Griffin & K Yu
T6th A Baddeley, D McCarthy
T8th M McGreevey, J Lower
10th H Endycott
1st L Herbert -15
T2nd D Lee & P Reed -14
4th P Rodgers -13
T5th T Pendrith & S Stallings -12
T7th P Malnati, JJ Spaun, C Thompson, D Riley & V Whaley -11
1st – B Gay -15
2nd – W Clark -15
3rd – O Schneiderjans -13
T4th – D MCarthy, S Cink, M Jones, D Redman -12
T8th – D Hearn, K Hickok, R Armour
1st – B Todd -24
2nd - H Higgs -20
T3rd - H Lebioda, A Wise, B Gay, & S Scheffler -18
7th – F Gomez -17
T8th – D Hearn, W Roach & R Armour -15
As we can see from these results while the event has only been running for four years a clear pattern has emerged with shorter straight hitting players like Gay, Todd, Hearn, Armour, Redman and Hickok coming to the fore.
In 2022 this pattern was broken to a certain extent as PGA Tour rookie Lucas Herbert who is longer than average off the tee prevailing.
Last years champion though Seamus Power is shorter in distance than average off the tee, while other shorter hitters like B Griffin, A Baddeley and K Yu also performed strongly.
One trend that that has developed over the four years is that strong putters seem to go really well here. The first two winners Brendan Todd & Brian Gay have always been known for their work on the greens while 2022 winner Lucas Herbert actually topping the 21/22 PGA Tour SGP rankings. Meanwhile last years winner Power’s putter is best club in his bag.
The first two winners had both been known as players who thrived more on their favoured East Coast surfaces and while as a PGA tour rookie Herbert didn’t have this pedigree his second best result of the season came the following March at Bay Hill.
From an incoming form point of view neither of the first two winners gave us any immediate clues as both Gay and Todd had been in dreadful form to put it frankly coming in. Todd had at least given a small hint of what was to come by finishing 28th in Houston the week before after missing his first four cuts of the season however Gay had posted nothing better than 27th all calendar year amongst a swathe of missed cuts.
Herbert had missed his first two cuts on the PGA Tour however he had proven his winning pedigree for the second time on the DP World Tour only three months or so previously when triumphing in Ireland.
Power meanwhile had managed nothing better than 30th in his first three starts of 22/23 finishing a lowly 49th in the limited field event the week before.
In relation to previous form here Todd of course triumphed in the first edition of the event, however Gay had finished third here the previous year so we at least knew he was suited to the track.
2021 winner Herbert was making his debut here so nothing to go on there, however last years winner Power had played solidly in all three previous editions with a best of 12th the year before.
Sketchy stuff with regards to past form here or current form then however the clearest guide for this event comes from form at correlating courses. The obvious venues to focus are the likes of Hilton Head the home of the RBC Heritage, Sea Island the home of the RSM, Waialae CC the home of the Sony Open, The Corales Puntacana event and perhaps most significantly El Cameleon the former home of the Mayakoba event.
I say most significantly for the last event as the first winners here to date, Todd and Gay have also triumphed at the Mayakoba so the obvious links are there for all to see.
With Herbert being in his first full season Stateside there was no bank of correlating course form to compare, however with wins in Dubai and Ireland, as well as of course his Aussie background, his pedigree on links type tracks and in the wind was not in doubt and he put this to great use in 2022 when the wind blew here strongly.
Last years winner Power meanwhile had a fifth at the Corales in 2018, a sixth at Hilton Head in 2019, fourth and third place finishes at the RSM and Sony Open in 21/22 as well as a 12th at the Mayakoba the same campaign so a huge amount of pointers there.
Temperatures look set to sit in the high 70s through the week with conditions, fingers crossed, set to stay dry.
Wind as is always the case here could well play its part with the possibility of 20mph+ gusts and even stronger on Saturday in the forecast as I write.
As I always say though…this could all change!
I have gone with six players this week as follows;
ADAM LONG – 60/1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 13th
I’ll start this week with Adam Long.
One common theme of all previous winners here is that their strongest club in the bag is the putter.
Long fits that bill at 41st on tour in the greens.
The one time tour winner is also one of the most accurate out there and he hit every fairway last week in Mexico on his way to 23rd place, his third solid Fall effort in a row.
A runner up and third place finish at the Mayakoba, a fifth place at the Corales and a 12th at Hilton Head meanwhile give us the eye catching correlating course form we need while a debut effort here of 44th last year gives us something to build on.
At a 138th in the Fedex Fall rankings Long needs a big week and this looks a great opportunity for him to deliver one.
TROY MERRITT - 60/1 – 1pt e/w 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 72nd
Next up for me is Troy Merritt.
Troy produced back to back top tens to start the Fall events however at 119th in the Fedex rankings he is still looking over his shoulder.
Since those top tens Merritt has cooled off slightly, however he closed with a flourish in Mexico with a 65, which should bring him here in good heart.
Merritt’s CV is littered with strong efforts on shorter coastal tracks including at Pebble Beach, Hilton Head and most recently a third at the Mayakoba last Fall and I am happy to take him to build on his strong recent play here.
PATTON KIZZIRE – 80/1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 37th
Next cab off the rank is Patton Kizzire.
A two time winner on tour with his victories coming at the Mayakoba and Sony Open Kizzire immediately jumps off the page to us this week based on those correlating results.
Kizzire is another player battling to keep his card as he heads in to this week at 126th spot in the standings. Last week though after making two of the first three cuts in the Fall events he finally produced a strong week finishing 15th in Mexico ranking an encouraging sixth in GIR.
This week will mark Patton’s debut in this event however this looks a good set up for him on paper and I will trust him to build on last weeks effort.
PETER MALNATI – 80/1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 37th
If we are looking for strong putters we needn’t look much further than Peter Malnati.
Yet another player who sits just inside the top 125 at the moment at 122 Peter has always done his best work on the greens currently ranking 18th on tour with the flat stick.
A three time visitor to Bermuda Malnati has never finished lower than 21st with a best of seventh so he clearly isa fan of the layout while a seasons best of fourth at Pebble Beach reminds us again that he is very much at home on short coastal layouts.
Malnati started the Fall series with an 11th at the Fortinet and I’ll take the one time tour winner to spring back to life this week again.
SCOTT PIERCY – 125/1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 27th
Another player who seems to make a knack of salvaging his card at the 11th hour is Scott Piercy and there are signs he could be once more about to produce another Houdini act.
Piercy played nicely last week in Mexico ranking 15th in accuracy and 12th on the greens on his way to 23rd place.
Surprisingly for a player historically known as a big hitter Piercy has a sneakily good record on short coastal tracks with top tens at both the Mayakoba and Hilton Head to his name.
Furthermore Scott has two 14th place finishes in three visits here to his name.
At 131st in the standings it’s now or never for Piercy and I’ll side with him to deliver the goods once more.
RICHY WERENSKI – 200/1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 69th
Finally I’ll take a chance on another player who has been doing by far his best work on the greens this season, Richy Werenski.
Richie was 23rd here last year, his one made cut in his first ten starts of the season before he posted a 20th by the coast once more at Pebble Beach.
Add this to a third at the Mayakoba and a fourth at Bay Hill, which links nicely here with Lucas Herbert and we have some good correlating links.
34th this season on tour in putting it was actually the flat stick, which let Werenski down in Mexico last week on his way to 45th place while he ranked strongly in GIR at 13th.
If normal service resumes this week on the greens and he can align that to his improved tee to green play from last week the one time tour winner could be set to thrive on a course, which every indication says suits him.