Notables double down on Vegas for Cup points

Jonathan Byrd during the 2013 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas.

Jonathan Byrd during the 2013 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas.

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12:37:01 AM ET. 04/21/2014




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There isn’t another stop on the PGA Tour schedule that is confronted with the sort of challenges that face the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

It’s in Las Vegas, remember? A city that is like no other.

“There are 80,000 tickets for sale on a daily basis – and those just are for the shows (on The Strip),” tournament director Adam Sperling said.

Always, there is talk of the “big names” who are in town for the weekly PGA Tour tournament, but that is a difficult task in Las Vegas. The city, after all, is about star-power 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. Just last week while the Shriners was in action, there were shows being performed by Jimmy Buffett, Donny and Marie, Meatloaf, Shania Twain, Garth Brooks, and the Jeff Beck / Brian Wilson duo.

Yet for all that, last week’s tournament at TPC Summerlin, some 20-25 miles northwest of the heart of Las Vegas, proved a measured success. The field was clearly deeper, the mood more competitive, the fan response keener. And everyone agreed on the reason why.

“They’ve put up a sign saying, ‘FedEx Cup points available,’ “ said Davis Love. “That’s gotten everybody’s attention.”

Playing for the 21st time in Vegas, his first appearance dating back to 1989, Love has felt the tournament in different lights – at the tail end of the regular season; as a Fall Series stop devoid of FEC points; and now as a $6 million, full-FEC points show.

“It’s more exciting (this year),” said Love, and colleagues concurred.

“There are legitimately top players,” said Geoff Ogilvy, who hadn’t played in Vegas since 2005.

Jonathan Byrd was playing for the ninth time since 2002, a stretch that includes his playoff win in 2010 when he made a hole-in-on, so he has perspective, as they say. And this year offered a more competitive feel.

“It feels a little different,” said Byrd. “There’s a better field, guys are hungry. Guys are still talking about football, but not as much. You can feel it in the dining room. Guys are a little more serious. You’ve got to be ready to go.”

Sperling might have talked to each and every one of the 132 players in the field and he felt the more competitive mood. His staff took that approach, too, opting to go with a more traditional pro-am made up of businessmen and a sprinkling of celebrities rather than being strictly entertainers and celebrities.

“At the end of the day, we want to be in the best position to be a competitive event,” he said. Thrilled to have been put into the FedEx Cup schedule, the Shriners group is signed on through 2017 and Sperling is nothing but optimistic.

“You want your own success and failure to be in your control,” he said. “You want to feel a little more in control of your destiny and this year gave us the confidence going forward.”

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