Birdies key at Summerlin

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With the FedEx Cup a thing of the past and the Ryder Cup uproar dying down, the PGA Tour next heads to Las Vegas.

With the FedEx Cup and the Tour Championship a thing of the past and the Ryder Cup uproar still dying down, not too many big guns will be coming to TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas this weekend.

The Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, which tees off on Thursday, is the first of the four tournaments making up the US PGA Tour’s Fall Series, which no more than half a dozen years ago was introduced mainly to give the Tour stragglers a chance to seal a place in the top 125 who are handed full-exemption Tour cards for the following season.

The series could also help players claim other entitlements, among them exemptions to the Masters for the season’s top 30 players and to the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Jack Nicklaus’s Memorial Tournament for the top 70.

Last year World No 1 Luke Donald played in and won the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic, the final leg of the Fall Series, in order to ensure that he became the first man in history to top the Money Lists on both sides of the Atlantic

But series hasn’t been the success it was hoped it would be, it seems, for next year it will fall away and be replaced by a new series of late 2013 tournaments that will be part of the new, wrap-around 2013-2014 PGATour schedule and as such, will count towards earning FedEx Cup points.

In the meantime Nick Watney, who narrowly missed out this year on a Ryder Cup cap, will be teeing it up again at TPC Summerlin this week with the aim of making up for his disappointing close miss there last year.

A Las Vegas resident, Watney shared the lead after 54 holes, but slipped back into second place and finished two strokes off the winning pace set by fellow American Kevin Na, despite having played his final 51 holes in a bogey-free 16-under.

Watney will surely have learnt from that experience that pars are not enough on the 7,342-yard, TPC Summerlin course which, for some time now, has been rated as one of the US Tours easiest par-71 tracks where birdies – and lots of them – are the keys to victory.

And this should apply even more so this week when the weather, according to golfweather.com will be virtually perfect on ‘five-star’ Friday and pretty close to it on ‘four-star’ Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

No rain is expected all week, it will be mostly sunny and mild with temperatures in the high 70s and low 80s and the strongest wind will only gust up from 4 and 5 mph to 9 mph on Thursday afternoon.

Yes that’s birdie weather alright, and defending champion Na and home favourite Watney along with the likes of the other higher-profile golfers in the field like former US Amateur champion Ryan Moore and the inform fellow American Robert Garrigus who hasn’t missed the cut in his six starts at TPC Summerlin and last year shot a third-round 63, are going to have to make hay while the rain and the wind stay away.

If they don’t, they could well find that out in front of them heading down the closing stretch on Sunday is resurgent multi-major winner and former World No 1 Vijay Singh, who finished in 8th place in the recent BMW Championship, or RBC Canadian Open winner Scott Piercy who edged into the final 30 at the Tour Championship and is another local resident likely to know Summerlin like the back of his hand.

And if their current stats mean anything, it’s also quite possible that other front runners up alongside Singh and Piecry and setting the pace will include lesser-knowns like Chris Kerk, Josh Teater and William McGirt.

Along with Piercy, some of the other 2012 Tournament winners in the field this week are Johnson Wagner (Sony Open), Kyle Stanley (Waste Management Phoenix Open), John Huh (Mayakoba Golf Classic), George McNeill (Puerto Rico Open) and Scott Stallings (True South Classic) while together with Singh, other former major winners playing at Summerlin are Trevor Immelman (2008 Masters), Stewart Cink 2009 Open), Justin Leonard (1997 Open), Angel Cabrera (2007 US Open and 2009 Masters) and John Daly (1991 PGA Championship and 1995 Open).

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