PGA Tour Picks: Butterfield Bermuda Championship

By TOM LaMARRE

Six weeks into the new season, the PGA Tour will play outside the United States for the next two weeks, starting with the Butterfield Bermuda Championship beginning Thursday at Port Royal Golf Course in Southampton, Bermuda.

Next week is the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba at El Camaleón Golf Course at Mayakoba, Riviera Maya, Mexico.

While the top players in the World Rankings are skipping these two tournaments, there are still many outstanding golfers who will be looking to improve their standing on two outstanding golf courses.

“I think it’s a combination of, you know, the weather, just similar to Florida,” said Brian Gay, who won the Bermuda event in 2020 and has won five times on the PGA Tour, but will be playing this week after mostly competing recently on the PGA Champions Tour.

“I grew up on in Bermuda grass, which the whole course is  Bermuda here. It’s not necessarily, it’s not a bomber’s course and you don’t necessarily have to hit it far, and there’s plenty of opportunities. Just stay out of trouble on a few holes where you’ve got to be careful and there are plenty of birdie chances out there without having to hit the ball long. You don’t need a lot of length to play well here.

“I think it’s a combination of, you know, the weather, just similar to Florida. I don’t mind the wind.”

Defending champion Lucas Herbert of Australia will not be back to defend his title in the tournament, which was first played in 2019, nor will Brendon Todd, who won the initial time the event was contested.

Herbert won by one stroke over Patrick Reed and Danny Lee of New Zealand.

Said Reed, who is playing on the LIV Golf Tour and will not be in the field this week: “It’s one of those golf courses that if they didn’t have wind around here, you’d go out and you’d destroy it. So I almost feel like they need the wind here to be kind of a defense mechanism for the golf course, for the tournament.”

Also in the field this week are John Daly, Seamus Power of Ireland (pictured), Aaron Baddeley of Australia, Denny McCarthy, S.H. Kim of South Korea, C.T. Pan of Taiwan, Harry Higgs, Jonas Blixt of Sweden, Charley Hoffman, Nick Taylor of Canada,  Russell Knox of Scotland, Justin Lower, Lucas Glover, Nick Watney, Bill Haas, Garrick Higgo of South Africa, Aaron Rai of England and Erik van Rooyan of South Africa.

BEST BETS

1. Seamus Power, Ireland – A two-time winner as a pro on different tours, Power captured the 2021 Barbasol Championship in a playoff over J.T. Poston on the PGA Tour and also won the 2016 United Leasing & Finance Championship on the Korn Ferry Tour. He had five top-10s last year, including a tie for ninth in the PGA Championship. Tied for 12th in Bermuda last season.  

2. Davis Thompson, United States – Winner of the Rex Hospital Open on the Korn Ferry Tour earlier this year, Thompson has tied for ninth in the ninth in the Fortinet Championship and tied for 12th in the Shriners Children’s Open with four rounds in the 60s to start the PGA Tour season. The former No. 1 amateur in the world will be making his tournament debut in Bermuda.

3. Garrick Higgo, South Africa – A seven-time winner as a pro, including the 2021 Palmetto Championship at Congaree on the PGA Tour when he was 22, Higgo started this season by finishing solo third at Sanderson Farms. He is playing in the Butterfield Bermuda Championship for the second time after tying for 34th last year, when he carded scores of 67 and 65.  

4. Denny McCarthy, United States – Claimed the 2018 Korn Ferry Tour Championship, when it was still the Web.com Tour, and last season had five top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour including a tie for seventh in the U.S. Open. McCarthy tied for fourth in the Bermuda Championship in 2020 with a closing 63, and a tied for 15th by posting three rounds in the 60s one year earlier.    

5. S.H. Kim, South Korea – After winning the 2020 KPGA Championship and the 2021 Japan PGA Championship on the Asian Tour, Kim has tied for fourth in the Shriners Children’s Open and tied for 13th in the Sanderson Farms Championship in this his rookie season on the PGA Tour. He will be making his debut in the Butterfield Bermuda Championship this week. 

6. Harry Higgs, United States – Winner of the 2019 Price Cutter Charity Championship on the Korn Ferry Tour and the 2018 Diners Club Peru Open on the PGA LatinoAmerica Tour, Higgo’s best chance to win on the PGA Tour came when he was second, two shots behind Steward Cink in the 2020 Safeway Open. He also was second, four behind Brendon Todd in 2019 in Bermuda. 

7. Brian Gay, United States – Has won five times on the PGA Tour, including the 2020 Bermuda Championship, when he beat Wyndham Clark with a birdie on the first playoff hole after closing with a 64. Gay, who is now 50, is playing mostly on the Champions Tour this season, where he has finished fourth, tied for fifth and tied for sixth in three events this season.   

8. Jonas Blixt, Sweden – Has won three times on the PGA Tour, in the 2012 Frys.com Open, the 2013 Greenbrier Classic and the 2017 Zurich Classic New Orleans, a team event alongside Cameron Smith of Australia in a four-way playoff on the fourth extra hole. Also tied for second in his first Masters in 2014. Blixt is making his debut in the Butterfield Bermuda Championship.

9. C.T. Pan, Taiwan – Claimed his only PGA Tour victory in the 2019 RBC Heritage and also won the Players Cup and the Cape Breton Celtic Classic in a playoff on the PGA Tour Canada in 2015. Pan claimed the Bronze Medal in the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo and tied for seventh in his Masters debut in 2021. He is making his debut in the Butterfield Bermuda Championship.

10. Justin Lower, United States – Has yet to win as a pro, but has been close, tying for fourth in the Fortinet Championship after opening with a 63, and tying for 20th in the Shriners to start this season, after tying for eighth in the Barbasol last season. Lower was tied for sixth after posting three scores in the 60s last season in his Bermuda debut, but closed with a 73 to tie for 17th.

OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: John Daly, United States; Aaron Baddeley, Australia; Charley Hoffman, United States; Lucas Glover, United States; Nick Taylor, Canada; Aaron Rai, England; Russell Knox, Scotland; Nick Watney, United States; Erik van Rooyen, South Africa; Bill Haas, United States.

SLEEPERS

1. Brandon Wu, United States – Claimed only pro victory in the 2021 Korn Ferry Tour Championship, was T-2 in Mexico Open and T-3 in Puerto Rico Open on PGA Tour last season.   

2. Stephan Jaeger, Germany – Six-time winner on the Korn Ferry Tour was fifth in the Rocket Mortgage and T-6 in the Wells Fargo on the PGA Tour last season. T-20 in Bermuda last year.  

3. Callum Tarren, England – T-13 in the Sanderson Farms Championship this season on PGA Tour after a T-5 in the Puerto Rico Open, T-6 in John Deere and T-7 in 3M Open last season.

4. Austin Smotherman, United States – Winner of the Simmons Bank Open on the 2021 Korn Ferry Tour and the 2018 59 Abierto Mexicano de Golf. Missed the cut in Bermuda last season.  

5. David Lingmerth, Sweden – Three-time champion as a pro, including the 2015 Memorial on the PGA Tour and twice on the Korn Ferry Tour, Lingmerth also was T-2 in the 2012 Players.

For first round tee times, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html

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