We’re now just two weeks out from 2020’s third and final major, the Masters. Before that though we have two more Fall Tour events that have become a staple on the PGA’s end-of-year schedule. The Bermuda Championship is in its second-year of existence and this season will even operate as the standalone event this week for the Tour. Last year it operated as an opposite-field event across from the WGC HSBC Champions event held in China, which it should continue to do for most seasons. Due to Covid restrictions though, that event was canceled this year so the Bermuda Championship becomes the only game in town.
This event may go back to secondary status at some point but this week it acts as one of the final tuneups for many before the big dance two weeks from now at Augusta. For the lessor Tour grinders, it also acts as one of the last chances they have at picking up a win against the decidedly easier fields they’ll see in the Fall. Big FedEx Cup points are at stake here and with almost all of the top players skipping this week, opportunity knocks for many players.
Last year’s winner Brendon Todd, is the perfect example of the type of player who could rise up at this week’s stop. Todd was caught in a miserable slump at the beginning of 2019, which had seen him lose almost all status as a professional. He started to catch a little form late in 2019 and ended it off with a win here, as he finished his week with a spectacular 62 to reach 24-under par and win by four. His story remains one of the best from last season and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that, at such a finicky course in such a remote setting, another Todd-like winner emerges again in 2020.
The course this week will definitely allow for low scoring, but its vicinity to the sea and location on a wide-open and tiny island like Bermuda, means wind could also cause some havoc. The forecast this week does call for heavier winds so a higher winning score could be in store for 2020. From a field perspective, Todd remains the highest-ranked player here at 41st in the Official World Golf Rankings with Henrik Stenson (54), Danny Willett (56), and Will Zalatoris (59) close behind.
Names like Tom Lewis and Rasmus Hojgaard, both winners over in Europe, will add a little spice to this event too but, overall, we have our weakest field of the 2020/2021 season set to play so a completely out-of-left field winner here wouldn’t be a huge shock.
The Bermuda Championship course details
Port Royal Golf Course (Southampton, Bermuda)
Par: 71, 6,828 yards
- Greens: TifEagle Bermuda
- Design: Robert Trent Jones (1970; renovated 1986)
- Past Champions (*different venue)
- 2019 Brendon Todd (24-under par)
This will be the second year in a row that the players are visiting Port Royal Golf Course. The venue is located on the island of Bermuda and is actually the longest course on the island. Even though it shares that distinction, the Robert Trent Jones designed course still is quite short by PGA standards, as it measures in at just over 6,800 yards for the week, while still featuring three par 5’s. Last year’s winner, Brendon Todd, ranked just 51st in driving distance here last year but did sit at 4th in driving accuracy stats for the week and 10th in greens in regulation.
The design of the course has at least six of the holes skirting the sea at some point with the tee shot on the 16th coming right alongside the water and presenting the players with a tough visual down the stretch. The course also provides some elevation changes which likely makes it at least somewhat similar to another tropical course the players see every season in the Plantation Course out in Maui for the Tournament of Champions. Both Port Royal and the Plantation Course are quite open, provide plenty of scoring opportunities for the players and play directly off the ocean, making wind a big factor when it’s up.
From a setup perspective, Port Royal features three shorter Par 5’s, with the longest playing at just over 550 yards. As a group they represent the three easiest holes on the course. Unless headwinds play a huge role here, the Par 5’s will be easily reachable by anyone who hits a clean drive off the tee which again speaks to why accuracy played so well here last season. The rough was not a huge factor here in 2019, and likely won’t be again, as fairways were actually quite hard to hit–the field hit just 54% of the fairways here last season–but players still managed to hit 66% of the greens in regulation which is higher than the Tour average.
The greens at Port Royal feature traditional TifEagle Bermuda grass, a strain which can also be found at Harbour Town Golf Links, home of the RBC Heritage. The link between those two courses goes further than that as Harbour Town is also a shorter coastal venue where precision players tend to romp every season.
The one variable this year with Port Royal may be the weather, as winds are expected to reach 20mph beginning on Friday. Even with the wind up though, the course setups means that any player hitting his irons well should have a great shot at competing here, with the only caveat being that around the green play could play a slightly bigger factor in 2020 if the wind forces more missed greens.
2020 Bermuda Championship betting discussion and picks
From an odds perspective, here is where the last winner of this event generally went off, from an outright perspective, pre-event for the year of their win:
2019- Brendon Todd +8000
Todd came here last year having missed four of his last five cuts so the pundits might say his win was a little “out of the blue” and impossible to predict. There were actually some solid clues around Todd going well here last season though and the first was that he was a very active participant in the Fall series coming in. Todd had five Fall series starts under his belt already before heading into this event and had started to turn his play around in the final leadup with a T28 in Houston.
It’s also worth noting that of the top-6 finishers here last year, five of them had played in four or more Fall series events before their start at Bermuda. This year, we’ve had seven Fall events already, although three of them have had limited fields. Still, giving a little extra credence or weight to players who have been active and showing progressive form since September makes sense this week.
Betting favorites to win the 2020 Bermuda Championship
It’s shocking to see a player without full PGA Tour status be the betting favorite in an actual PGA event, but this is the second time this Fall that Zalatoris has assumed this role (the last was at the Corales Championship).
Zalatoris is coming off of two weeks of rest, and had played in eight of the nine previous weeks before his break after the Shriners Hospital event where he finished T5. He’s finished inside the top-10 in six of his last nine starts now but still carries just one win on his resume as a pro. With the short course bringing in all different styles of player into the mix, his price here feels far too small here to consider.
Todd had a great 2019/2020 season which included top-25 finishes at both the PGA Championship and the US Open. His game has started to show some flaws of late as he’s now lost strokes on approach in five of his last seven starts out on Tour. His putter has remained red hot, as he’s gained +2 or more strokes Putting now in five straight starts. He could come alive again here against weaker competition but there’s almost no way betting Brendon Todd at this number is a good long-term play. He’s a player to keep an eye on next season though against stiffer fields if his game starts coming together again.
Varner has looked great in spots over the last three months or so and fans of the game won’t be shocked to hear that he comes into this week leading the field here in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green stats over the last 50-rounds. This will be just Varner’s third start of the Fall season but his last outing at the Shriners did produce a solid T13, where he showcased a sharp short game. The price here is an improvement over a proven winner like Todd but we’re also used to seeing Varner go off closer to +6600 or better most weeks, even when he’s playing like this. He could and should contend but better values exist elsewhere.
Redman definitely feels like a player who is going to get across the finish line pretty soon. His price here is also quite a bit shorter than we’re used to seeing him at but his pedigree also suggests he’s more than capable of hitting against a field like this. He was in contention late at the Wyndham in August and closed with a 62 at the Safeway to get himself into a T3 spot. This will also be his fourth Fall series event so he’s been active enough not to worry about. From the top players this week, Redman seems like the best outright value at his current odds, it’s just a matter of whether or not he can get his putter to show up at a venue where he finished T35 last season.
Stenson is worth mentioning as we have such a weak field that the presence of the Open Champion from 2016 is interesting. The Swede had a late start after the Covid-19 stoppage and has yet to find anything close to his A-game in five PGA starts since late August. It may seem crazy based on his recent form but taking a shot with Stenson at these odds isn’t a terrible idea. We saw a similar situation play out with Sergio Garcia just a few events at the Sanderson Farms when he finally discovered some confidence on the greens and was able to beat out a lacklustre field for the win. Stenson’s game does feel much further away than Sergio’s was but the field here is even worse than it was at the Sanderson Farms.
Favorite bets (each-ways and outrights)
For more info on types of golf bets available each week, be sure to check out more info here. Each way bets refer to bets that include a bet to win and a bet to place (usually to at least top-5 but sometimes are available up to top-8 or more).
While Henrik Stenson is the well known Swede in this field it’s the other Henrik, who is also Swedish, who I’m more interested in backing. Norlander has spent much of his career fluctuating between the PGA and KF Tour but does feel like he gained a level of consistency last year on the PGA that we haven’t seen from him before 2020.
The Swede comes in looking solid from a recent form perspective, ranking out 8th in SG: Ball Striking and 21st in SG: Putting stats over the last 50-rounds. While his work at the Shriners doesn’t stick out a ton–he was T58 there–he was much sharper the week prior at the Sanderson Farms event on the Bermuda greens in Jackson, where he shot 65-69 on the weekend to finish T4. Norlander has been a great coastal course player throughout his career with some of his best finishes coming at the RSM Classic on Sea Island (playoff loser-2016, T5-2019) and at Waialae Country Club, home of the Sony Open in Hawaii (T9-2020).
This will be his fifth Fall swing start of 2020 this week and, like Todd last year, he dusted off consecutive missed cuts in his first three starts to post some solid showings before heading over to Bermuda. A winner on the KF Tour in June of 2019, Nordlander feels like a player who has progressed nicely on the PGA of late and could strike at some point soon. I like taking a shot with him here given the strength of his results at other similar venues and the way his recent form is setting up.
Bryan is trying to make his way back on Tour for good after an injury issue forced him off around the end of 2018. The 30-year-old is playing here on a major medical exemption and has looked solid in his comeback thus far. While he has 21-starts to regain his card, Bryan has already played six times on Tour and made five cuts, with his best finish coming recently at the Sanderson Farms event where he finished a tidy T12.
While his comeback hasn’t all been smooth sailing it’s worth noting that the winner of the 2017 RBC Heritage event has now gained strokes on approaches in all six of his PGA Tour starts in 2020 and looked much better with his scoring clubs lately too, gaining +5.1 strokes putting on the Bermuda greens in Jackson. Like Nordlander, Bryan has also done his best work on tighter, tricky venues gaining his only PGA win at Harbour Town GL, while also posting solid efforts at places like TPC Southwind and PGA National.
The bottom-line here is that Bryan remains one of the best iron players in this field, and ranks 6th in SG: Approach stats over the last 50-rounds. The course setup here really couldn’t be better for someone whose strengths lies in their approach and putting and whose lack of distance likely won’t be a factor here much at all. He looks like great value at +5000 or better this week.
There’s a couple of players you could argue for here based purely on pedigree and, while I mentioned a couple of the more interesting names at the top in Stenson and Willett, it’s Lewis who possesses the best combo of value and potential for me.
The Englishman forced his way onto the PGA Tour with a dominating three-stroke win in the Korn Ferry Tour Championship event last Fall. Lewis’s win at that event may have come out of nowhere, but he has always had the talent to accomplish such feats and again showcased his ability to mix things up with the best in the world this August when he landed a T2 at the WGC FedEx St. Jude event. Lewis shot the lowest score of the weekend of anyone in the field there and his prowess at TPC Southwind may be a good omen for this week too as the venue has at least some passing similarities with Port Royal.
It’s also worth noting that both of Lewis’ European Tour wins came at the easier host venue of the Portugal Masters, with winning scores of 21 and 22-under par. In short, this is a player who loves a birdie-fest and has already shown he can handle fields similar to the one we’re getting in Bermuda. He’ll be playing in his fourth Fall swing event this week and is coming off a made cut at the Shriners too, which could be enough of a confidence booster for a player like him to get things done this week. The price here simply looks too big for someone who nearly took down an elite field event just a few months ago.
Oppenheim’s a proven veteran player who has started to look like someone capable of potentially busting out in one of these weaker field events. The 40-year-old has made the cut in three of four Fall series events thus far and finished inside the top-40 in all of them. His approach game has looked extremely consistent of late too, as he’s now gained +4 strokes or more on approach in two of his last three starts and had a nice lead-in start in Vegas where he finished T27 and had rounds of 64 and 65 on the week.
Many may forget, but Oppenheim was actually in the last group at the Wyndham Championship a couple of months ago, where he shot 62 in the third round. He didn’t get it done there but this field represents a step down in field strength. He finished a solid T24 here last season and, with his game showing signs of strength again, I think he warrants a small each-way play at a big price here.
Like Bryan, Kraft is another player who is coming off of an injury and trying to gain his full status back on Tour off a Major Medical exemption. The 32-year-old will be making his fourth professional start since returning but also his fourth Fall series start. Like many of the players I’ve already mentioned, Kraft has almost always done his best work at shorter coastal venues like the one we’ll be getting here. The veteran has picked up multiple top-5’s at the seaside venue for the Corales Championship in Punta Cana (2018 and 2019) and also added a solo second place finish at Pebble Beach (2017).
While Kraft’s results haven’t sprung off the page yet in 2020, his ball striking has looked solid, as he ranked 10th in fairways hit at the Sanderson Farms and 4th in GIR in Punta Cana. Kraft has looked solid in his comeback and with his odds still up in the triple digit range, he’s my favorite longshot of the week in the outright/each-way market–but also makes for a great top-20 bet if you can find odds similar to the ones I’ve posted here.
I mentioned Norlander above and I obviously think there’s a lot to like about the Swede this week. If the wind is up he’s going to have a pretty huge ball-striking advantage over McNealy who has lost strokes on his approaches now in 8-straight starts. It’s always dangerous to take on one of the best putters on Tour–McNealy is ranked third in this field in SG: Putting over the last 50-rounds–in a heads up matchup but Norlander has been proficient with that club lately too and if he shows up on the greens this one shouldn’t be close. I like backing the Swede here.