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Power Rankings: Sunbeard Championship

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OTHERS TO CONSIDER

• Michael Kim… The 2018 John Deere Classic champion avoided an exemption as a former winner of that event last week in favor of The Ascendant presented by Blue. T18 ended. Look, she’s on her way back to the PGA TOUR via the Korn Ferry Tour, where she ranks 43rd in points with seven top-25 finishes in 18 starts. He hit six of them in his last seven. Second appearance in Keene Trace (S72, 2021).

• Yannik Paul… The 28-year-old German is making his second appearance on the PGA TOUR. It was just three weeks ago that he debuted at the US Open, where he earned entry as the eighth qualifier out of 10 automatic qualifiers in a series of four events on the DP World Tour. His stretch included a T2 out of three top 20s. He is among the most accurate approachers on his course.

• Marcel Schneider… Paul’s compatriot is the best golfer in Germany ranked 188th in the OWGR. Schneider placed last of the 10 automatic qualifiers for the US Open with three top 10 finishes. Since the Major, he has added a pair of top 20 finishes. Among the best putters on the DP World Tour.

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• Justin Walters… Seventh in hits from the green on the DP World Tour, it’s understandable why he’s racked up six top-20 finishes in his last nine starts. It’s evidence that the 32-year-old South African is paying for that accuracy with an improved putt.

Regardless of where the participants traveled from, they are advised not to have wasted time getting their dirt paws under them, because, true to their regional interests, Keene Trace’s Champions Course is a race track.

The stock par 72 at Nicholasville has delivered three sub-70 scoring averages since it debuted in 2018. (The 2020 edition was canceled due to the pandemic.) It was the easiest par 72 to singularly host an all-course event in its first two seasons, and then the second-easiest (behind TPC Craig Ranch in its debut hosting AT&T Byron Nelson) last season. Fittingly during America’s birthday week, more eagles have been seen at Keene Trace in its last two performances than at any other in the seasons it has hosted the Barbasol Championship. That includes a PGA TOUR record 114 eagles in 2019.

Conventional wisdom suggests that course experience should produce success. Of course, there are always examples of that, but Keene Trace hasn’t turned around in terms of giving away the secrets of its bentgrass greens. Surfaces average 6,000 square feet, but have remained stingy from all distances compared to all other ShotLink laser-cut courses.

All shootouts require a combination of hitting greens in regulation and sinking putts, but this is one of those cases where the proverbial (but ultimately myopic) reference to a putting contest is applied. Consider that the average length of putts made per Keene Trace golfer last year was just 68 feet, one inch. Out of 39 measured fields, he ranked second-lowest behind Copperhead (67’5”). So racking up scoring chances still applies, but there is some comfort in the promise of no gimmicks.

The winner will probably be able to sum up their experience in one word: boost. Whether his rhetoric includes a combination of sticking to his guns, pocketing “everything” or never hitting a big number when he misses a green, orderly work in those areas will define how he prevailed. As usual, the primary rough is allowed to extend to 3½ inches and the greens are ruled at 11½ feet on the Stimpmeter. Without changes, the Champions Course remains at 7,328 from the points.

If a PGA TOUR member wins, they will receive the usual amount of rewards. Includes 300 FedExCup points, a membership extension through at least the 2024 season, and spots in the 2022 Sentry Tournament of Champions, THE PLAYERS Championship, and PGA Championship. If a DP World Tour member prevails, his optional PGA TOUR membership waiver would extend only through the 2022-23 season, though he will still receive the standard two-year waiver on his home circuit.

Also, non-members who finish inside the top 10 will not be eligible for a top 10 waiver at next week’s Barracuda Championship. However, the top finisher, who will not be exempt from participating in the Open Championship next week, will be the last man in the field at St. Andrews.

The hot, muggy air will help encourage rain and a chance for thunderstorms on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday afternoons, so it would be upsetting if there isn’t at least one delay at some point. The gradual cooling will set the stage for a nice ending. Wind will not be a factor.


ROB BOLTON SCHEDULE

PGATOUR.com’s Rob Bolton recaps and previews each tournament from numerous perspectives. Look for your next contributions as scheduled.

MONDAY: Power Rankings (Genesis Scottish Open)
TUESDAY*: Power Rankings (Barbasol Championship), Sleepers (Genesis Scottish Open), Expert Picks, Draws and Fades
WEDNESDAY: Select them Preview
SUNDAY
: Medical Extensions, Qualifiers, Shuffle, Rookie Ranking

* – Rob is a member of PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks panel for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, also released Tuesday.

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