Timberlake adds new look in Las Vegas

BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2008 Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open | Preview | 15 Oct 2008

There is a hype around Las Vegas at present and while that is not an unusual occurrence in ‘the city that never sleeps’, the PGA Tour’s Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open promises to lift that even further this week.

The involvement of one of the biggest names in the Unites States entertainment industry is the key for this event to be taken to another level and both players and fans are set to enjoy what is likely to be a huge week.

The TPC Summerlin will again play host although this year the Bobby Weed and Fuzzy Zoeller designed layout goes it alone rather than sharing the duties as venue, as had been the case in earlier years.

The tournament produced a surprise winner last year with George McNeil winning in his rookie season by four shots over D.J. Trahan. McNeil has followed up with another solid season in 2008 but while a successful defence would not be the surprise it was last year, it would be a considerable improvement on his most recent form.

The tournament has thrown up several surprise winners in recent years although that is perhaps as much a reflection on the multiple courses used and the pro-am format as it is any other reason. The relaxed nature of the previous Pro-Am format can allow inexperienced players the opportunity to shine. Back to a regular 72 hole stroke-play event and now just the one layout, there may well be a more predictable result in 2008.

33-year-old Mark Wilson appears to be to be on the verge of his second PGA Tour victory. Coming off a great second place finish last week in Texas, Wilson has a very good record in this event having been inside the top 20 in four of his five visits to the event. He has missed only one cut in his last 15 tournaments this season and although he may not be a favourite in many people’s thoughts, his record and current form suggests otherwise.

Mike Weir finished 10th here last year at a time when his form was not at the same level it is right now. He went on to win the following week in 2007, the finish in this event providing a confidence boost for him when he needed it badly. Having finished runner up at the recent Deutsche Bank Championship and then 6th at the Tour Championship, Weir has given himself a two week breather and is expected to do well.

Stephen Ames has played well in the last few weeks following a run of events well below his standard. This will be Ames’ first visit to this event in five years and when he did play previously he generally struggled to do well. The event has a new dynamic and new look now however which could stand the Canadian in better stead.

Rory Sabbatini finally found some form last week after what had been a frustrating year. He led into the final round in San Antonio and while he will not be pleased with his finishing round, he gave an indication he was back to somewhere near his best. He has played this event well in previous years.

The Australasian contingent is again numerically strong and in terms of its chances to produce a winner of this event. Most have shown glimpses of form of late and a win by an Australian this week would add to the success Australasians have had in this event in recent times. In 2002 Phil Tataurangi won his only PGA Tour event, in 2004 Stuart Appleby was the champion and in 2004 it was Andre Stolz.

This year Mathew Goggin, Steve Elkington, Rod Pampling, Jason Day, Tim Wilkinson, Peter Lonard, Nick O’Hern, Nathan Green, Mark Hensby, Nick Flanagan, Matt Jones, David Lutterus and Brett Rumford all get their chance.

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    About the Author: Bruce Young

    A multi-award winning golf journalist, Bruce's extensive knowledge of the game comes from several years caddying the tournament circuits of the world, marketing a successful golf course design company and as one of Australia's leading golf journalists and commentators.


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