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Shriners Open Preview: Na Is a Vegas Ace

Greg Vara

Vara is the lead golf writer at RotoWire. He was named the 2013 FSWA Golf Writer of the Year. In addition to producing the weekly preview and the bulk of the draft kit content, Vara participates in Yahoo!'s "Experts Picks" where he routinely dominates. He also picks college football games against the spread in his "College Capper" article.

Hideki Matsuyama was very productive last season. He finished with eight top-10s and won the Phoenix Open in February. He also cracked $4 million for the first time in his career, and yet, it felt like he left something on the table.

That's actually high praise as 99 percent of the golfers on the PGA Tour would kill for numbers like that. Matsuyama, however, has the game to be a once-in-a-decade talent. Like many in his spot, though, it's going to take work to get there, but if early returns on the 2016-2017 season are any indication, he might be on his way to the top of the PGA Tour.

The difference between a good season and a great one for Matsuyama lies on the greens. Last season, it was the putter that held him back from greatness as he ranked 103rd in the all-important strokes-gained category. This season, he's fourth in putting average and the improved putting has resulted in a win and a runner-up showing. Obviously, he can't keep up this pace, but he's already surpassed $2.3 million in earnings and a $6 million season isn't out of the question. Of course, he'll need to maintain his improved putting along with everything else, but if the past two years are any indication, Matsuyama is only going to get better.

This week:
Shriners Open - TPC Summerlin, Las Vegas

Last Year:
Smylie Kaufman shot a final-round 61 on his way to a one-stroke victory over six players, including Kevin Na.


Jason Bohn

This event will feel more like a typical fall event than the previous two weeks as the field is a little thin. With that in mind, it's time to look a little deeper into the field list than normal. Bohn looks like a solid pick as he's finished runner-up here in two of his Last three starts and he's a perfect 7-7 on cuts made at this event.

Kevin Na

The window to use Na runs from October through March and since November is in that stretch, he's in play this week. Na not only finished runner-up at this event last year, but he won it in 2011. Na is known for playing well on the West Coast, and while Las Vegas isn't the West Coast, it's close enough.

Webb Simpson

A few years ago, Simpson was too valuable to use during the fall portion of the schedule, but that's not the case any longer. With that in mind, this looks like a good spot for Simpson as his track record here is solid. That track record includes a win in 2014 and top-5s in 2010 and 2015.

Nick Watney

Remember this guy? Yes, the guy who once earned more than $5 million in one season, then disappeared. Well, he's back! In the physical form anyhow. Watney missed most of last season due to injury, but he has a hefty 21 starts to earn his card this season, which means he needs to get moving. This is a good spot for Watney as he's finished in the top 20 in five of his last six starts here.

Patton Kizzire

It's generally not a good idea to use a guy off a missed cut, especially when that missed cut came at the Sanderson Farms Championship, but Kizzire posted a runner-up in his previous showing and also was one in the group of six last season that finished one stroke out of the lead here.


Smylie Kaufman

Kaufman won this event last year, but his game was in better shape heading into the event then than it is now. Kaufman posted a top-10 the week prior to this event last year, and in his two events leading into this event this season he posted a T45 and a MC. Not to mention, his form toward the end of the 2015-16 season was poor as well.

Bryson DeChambeau

DeChambeau is typically a guy I would look at during the fall season, especially at an event like this where the field isn't very strong, but the problem is, there are a ton of guys in the field this week with solid track records and DeChambeau doesn't seem to be in top form, so might as well wait on him.

Cody Gribble

A couple things working against Gribble this week. First, he's coming off a huge win last week, his first on the PGA Tour and that's generally a recipe for failure in the week that follows. Second, while the field is thin this week, it's much stronger than it was last week at the opposite-field event that Gribble won.

Jimmy Walker

Walker is generally a pretty reliable player during the fall portion of the schedule, but after his performance last week at the CIMB, I don't think it's worth the risk. Walker posted four rounds at or above par last week and three of those rounds resulted in 77 strokes or more. Something was way off in his game last week and if any of that carries over to this week, then he's in trouble.

Danny Lee

One of the biggest disappointments of the 2015-16 season, Lee will hope to rebound this year, but that resurgence might have to wait another week. Lee has played this event three times, and he's failed to make a single cut. Lee should rebound at some point, but it might not happen until 2017.


Last week:
Scott Hend (T54) - $49,250; Season - $212,470

This week:
Jason Bohn - Bohn is not on the list of golfers you might be saving for the 2017 portion of the season, so you might as well pull the trigger here. The high-end finishes are appealing, and I expect nothing short of a top-10 this week from Bohn.


Last week:
N/A - (0); Streak - 1

This week:
Jason Bohn - It's tough to argue with a perfect record, which is what Bohn has at this event. Not only is he a perfect 7-7, but he has several high-end finishes, which means he's got a great feel for this course.