Original article published 26 October 2022
The PGA Tour travels east from South Carolina off the coast to Bermuda, and Keith Stewart has three to tail starting on Thursday.
The PGA Tour is visiting the beautiful pink sands of Bermuda for the fourth edition of the Butterfield Bermuda Championship at Port Royal Golf Course alongside the southwestern shores of this immaculate mid-ocean getaway. The Par 71 scorecard tells a 6,828-yard story from tee to green. Short by PGA Tour standards, the course challenges the competitors through the elements. Looking ahead at the forecast, we see the players will have some serious wind and wet weather to contend with.
Windy conditions really challenge the world’s best at Port Royal. Each of the fourteen driving holes have fairway bunkers. Players never play two holes in a row going in the same direction. That type of dizzying design doesn’t allow competitors to get comfortable with the wind. The Par 3s are a perfect representation of this as well. Holes 8, 13, and 16 are ranked as the toughest three holes on the course relative to par. All four point in a different direction and three of them are guarded by water including the signature sixteenth hole.
Trajectory is going to be the key all week to contend. With cross winds and an endless amount of elevation changes, players will have to bring their best ball striking skills. Even though the elements may test the touring professionals, birdies happen at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship. Nine of the holes have a birdie rate above 20%. Each of the Par 5s yield birdies better than a third of the time.
In the previous three editions, the average winning score is eighteen under par. I expect Sunday’s champion to be below that number based upon the forecast. Bermuda is a dream world. Beautiful pink sands surround a wonderful kaleidoscope of colours on the buildings, beaches, and harbours. Although only four of the Top 100 OWGR are here to play, one man’s dreams will come true. After all, alongside a $1.17 million dollar 1st place check comes an invitation to the 2023 Masters.
Past editions at Port Royal tell a simple story on what it takes to contend. Players must be accurate off the tee. Statistics show us that players are only hitting 53% of their fairways (Tour average – 62%). The course has small greens and hitting the putting surfaces requires a combination of distance and trajectory control. Strokes Gained Approach and overall proximity to the hole are vital as well.
Short Par 4s and long Par 3s are a “polar” combination on approach. The guys will need to be accurate from over 200 yards for those Par 3s and reachable Par 5s. To score on the Par 4s, you better get the wedge game going. The greens are exposed to the elements. Therefore, they cannot be too treacherous or windy days would render them unplayable. The recipe for contention at Port Royal comes down to keeping the ball in the fairway so you can ultimately attack each hole location.
With 500 FedEx Cup points on the table each of the favourites this week has plenty of motivation to try and secure the title. There are three at the top of everyone’s board we should be watching closely: Denny McCarthy (16/1), Thomas Detry (18/1), and Mark Hubbard (22/1).
McCarthy is a master on the green. In search of his first victory on the PGA Tour, he will lean heavily on his ability to score on all length Par 4’s. He accumulated five Top 10 finishes in the 2021-22 season. He’ll use that experience as a contender to stay close on Sunday.
Thomas Detry is less of a household name, yet a stellar DP World Tour campaign last season has him on our radar. He’s strong T2G and that skill set will serve him well. In three events this season, he has two Top 12 finishes. Detry drives it deep down the middle and that will be a decided advantage this week.
Mark Hubbard hits it close on approach. The excellent iron player has 69.25 scoring average in this event and the perfect wedge game to compliment this course. Hubbard’s handy skills on Bermudagrass and in the wind round out a strategic skill set designed for offshore success on tour.
The board offers ten players this week with under 30/1 odds. Each of them has a great chance to win but watch for their past successes as playing outside the continental United States is not for everyone.
Best of Bermuda 2022-23 Season
Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee: Detry 42nd, McCarthy 94th, Hubbard 132nd.
Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green: Hubbard 31st, Detry 40th, McCarthy 69th.
Strokes Gained: Approach: Hubbard 22nd, Detry 80th, McCarthy 85th.
Proximity to the Hole: Hubbard 41st, Detry 86th, McCarthy 116th.
Par 4 Scoring: Detry 7th, McCarthy 23rd, Hubbard 32nd.
There’s nothing better than a nap at the beach, but don’t fall asleep on these middle tier contenders.
Bermuda is the best opportunity this fall for a mid-odds player to step up and get his first win. There are a couple guys who have come close recently, and I believe are ready. Before the books close, make sure you grab a ticket on this group.
SH Kim 30/1 – In his last 5 events, SH has gained almost five shots (4.6) SG: Total against the field. The driver and putter are his best weapons, and on this course Kim’s ability to make birdies will be rewarded. He’s a Par 4 scoring machine and excellent at saving himself from the sand; pink or otherwise.
Callum Tarren 55/1 – Tarren is a trajectory master. A great driver of the golf ball, Callum scores well on Par 4’s because his pitching game is so good. He’s ranked second in the field for scrambling skill and that will serve him well on a course where six Par 4’s measure under 400 yards.
Will Gordon 55/1 – Sure he can “flash” the driver around, but where Will Gordon gets it done is scoring. He’s survived six cuts in a row on the Korn Ferry and PGA Tour combined. His best putting distance is from 0-10’. Making those will certainly help you score. This well-rounded Commodore should feel at home surrounded by water this week.
I love to call it the four-day lottery. Golf’s version of the ultimate winning ticket. No other sport allows for a quicker longshot pay day.
Brian Gay 125/1 – In three starts, he has finished 3rd, 1st, and 12th. His continued success at Port Royal is based upon his ability to get the ball in the fairway and then putt better than 95% of the field. With the incoming weather expected, his course familiarity and past success will be a massive edge. The strength of Gay’s game has always been around the greens and success in the sand. I’d make him your lottery pick this week!