The PGA TOUR leaves the West Coast and heads to the tropics for the 2020 Bermuda Championship this weekend.
All of the TOUR’s top players will behind in the states as the Masters approaches; Brendon Todd is the only player from last week’s ZOZO Championship to make the trip.
It’s a bit of a watered down field this week, but the Bermuda Championship will go being an alternate event to a full FedEx Cup event and the champion will now receive all of the traditional major benefits for a tournament winner. This change to a standalone event will make it an even bigger and more important week for a field of players looking to shore up their statuses on TOUR.
This is the second year of the Bermuda Championship, which typically operates as the alternate event to the WGC-HSBC Champions tournament, which was cancelled this year. As I noted previously, Todd returns to Bermuda looking to defend his title from last fall, which kick started an amazing 2019-2020 season. He won the event by four shots over Harry Higgs, at 24-under par with a final round 62 to pull away on Sunday.
Bermuda Championship Course Preview
The tournament will return to Port Royal Golf Course in Southhampton, Bermuda for the second consecutive year. It’s an old-school track designed in 1970 by Robert Trent Jones, who renovated it in 1995 and then it was further renovated by Roger Rulewich in 2008. It’s a course owned by the Bermudan government and features some unique charm, including an old British Fort, which is adjacent to the 15th tee box.
The course is set to play as a 6,828-yard Par 71 for the pros this week. It’s one of the shorter courses on TOUR, and is very score-able, provided the wind doesn’t go too crazy.
It will feature bermudagrass on the tees, fairways, and greens with two-inch zoysia rough. There are 88 sand bunkers throughout the course and four water hazards which come into play on five holes. As with any exposed, coastal course like Port Royal GC, wind can play a big factor, and the current forecast looks to bring in some steady 25 mph winds on Friday and into the weekend.
That will be the main thing to keep an eye on as you start to build lineups this week and look to find an edge in the tee time waves, as the big elevation changes throughout the course will make the wind even more impactful.
Port Royal Golf Course will feature 3 Par 5s, 11 Par 4s, and 3 Par 3s this week. The Par 5s played as the three easiest holes on the course for last year’s tournament, each playing under par over the full event, which is to no surprise with the longest of the three playing just 553 yards.
The Par 5 No. 7 checked in as the easiest hole on the course, playing to a field average of just 4.26, yielding birdies more than 65% of the time and eagles over 6% of the time. It’s short by TOUR standards at just 517 yards, which is reachable in two by presumably the entire field if positioned well off the tee avoiding the fairway bunkers.
The Par 3s will be the biggest tests. Three of the four made were among the six hardest holes during last year’s event. They all played over par for the tournament and check in at over 200 yards on the scorecard.
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The 16th and 13th were the second and third toughest holes of last year’s Bermuda Championship, and each plays to a lengthy 235 yards off the tee. The 16th is the signature hole of the course as it plays off of a cliff to a peninsula green, with nothing but the Atlantic Ocean in between. It is a spectacular view, but a difficult shot that will require a precise tee shot. Add in the anticipated winds we discussed earlier, and the players may not be in the mental state to enjoy the view as they head to this hole over the weekend.
There are 11 Par 4s at Port Royal Golf Course, and none of them are too long. Six of the Par 4s play less than 400 yards, and the longest of the entire bunch is just 443 yards. The 443-yard Par 4 11th played as the hardest hole on the golf course during last year’s Bermuda Championship.
The field played it to a 4.21 scoring average, nearly a quarter stroke over par, yielding bogey or worse more than 26% of the time with birdies less than 10% of the time. It’s a downhill Par 4, with an approach to a well protected green where longer hitters will have just a wedge in on approach, but again the wind can wreak havoc on this hole and it will be one that players are happy to walk away with par.
Since we’ve only seen one tour event on this course, just last season, there isn’t much in the way of course history to lean on this week. I will instead be focusing on some of the specifics of this course, outside of the stats, to identify some of my plays this week.
There are a few factors that stick out, first with the bermudagrass greens and finding the players who prefer those surfaces, especially on the greens. I will also be looking for is players that do well in the heavy winds that are expected, as wind management will be a big key this week.
This may even be the most important factor this week as it’s a short course that will be more about positioning and navigating the wind, instead of putting an emphasis on distance. We saw the short-but-accurate Todd win here with ease last year.