Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013 | 2 a.m.
Zach Johnson is one of the top golfers on the PGA Tour, finishing last season fifth in the chase for the FedEx Cup with eight top-10 finishes.
He’ll be one of the marquee attractions this week at the Shriners Hospital for Children Open, which begins today at TPC Summerlin.
Typically, the Las Vegas stop is at the end of the season and no FedEx points are awarded. But, in an attempt to boost the profile of the fall series, the PGA changed the FedEx Cup points calendar, which made the Shriners Open part of the beginning of the chase.
It’s the second tournament in the 2013-14 season where FedEx points are available. While most golfers are still adjusting to the new schedule, they’ve embraced the change and are eager to start the new season with a strong performance.
“It feels (like) I’m still playing in the 2013 season, which I guess is good for me because of where I came from in that season,” Johnson said. “So I’m just going to try to continue doing what I’m doing. I know the numbers start over and the points start over and the lists start over, but my game is where it need to be and I’m going to continue to play.”
The changes to the schedule have brought a higher-quality playing field to TPC Summerlin. Johnson is at the top of that list.
The 2007 Masters champion has been part of three Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup teams.
“It’s going to take some time to get used to,” Johnson said of the schedule change. “I think we’re seeing the fields are probably a little bit deeper, a little bit better. It’s going to take some time, but I think everybody is going to get used to it.”
Johnson isn’t the only notable in the playing field. Here’s a look at some of the others.
Ryan Moore looks to repeat
Former UNLV golfer Ryan Moore was the first player in Shriners Open history to carry the first-round lead to a victory when he edged Brendon de Jonge by one stroke for the 2012 title.
Moore, who has made the cut in six of his seven appearances at the event, tied the course record last year with a 10-under 61 on the first day. His total score of 260 strokes, 24-under par, also set the Shriners tournament record.
The 2004 NCAA individual national champion for UNLV ended last season inside the top 30 on the PGA money list, finishing in the top 10 in three other tournaments.
Moore will start at 7:23 a.m. Thursday on the 10th hole.
Three Rebels in the same group for opening round
This group has played more than its share of golf rounds together.
Former Rebels Chad Campbell, Charley Hoffman and Bill Lunde will be part of the same playing group today when the Shriners Opens tees off, beginning at 7:14 a.m. on the 10th hole.
Hoffman and Lunde were key contributors on the Rebels’ 1998 national championship team; Campbell is part of the school’s athletic hall of fame, helping the Rebels take second in the 1996 NCAAs.
Campbell has 13 career victories and took second at the 2009 Masters after losing a playoff against Angel Cabrera and Kenny Perry. Hoffman has a pair of PGA victories and more than $12 million in career earnings, and Lunde played in just six tournaments last year and was included in the Shriners field as a sponsor exemption.
Having three former standouts in the same group during the local event will surely be a proud moment for Dwayne Knight, the Rebels’ longtime head coach.
Other Rebels in the field include: Derek Ernst (he won once last year in his rookie season on tour), Andres Gonzales and Kevin Penner, a recent UNLV graduate.
Big names and former champions
There are 10 former champions in the field, including the past seven winners. One of the most notable winners is 1993 champ Davis Love III, who went on to capture the 1997 PGA Championship and was the captain of the 2012 Ryder Cup team.
Other Shriners Open champions include: Moore (2012), Kevin Na (2011), Jonathan Byrd (2010), Martin Laird (2009), Marc Turnesa (2008), George McNeill (2007), Troy Matteson (2006), Stuart Appleby (2003) and Bob Estes (2001).
Vijay Singh, who was ranked No. 1 for 32 weeks in 2004 and 2005, is the most accomplished golfer in the field. Singh won the FedEx Cup in 2008, has won three majors and three times finished atop the money list with more than $68 million in career earnings.
The 50-year-old is making the transition to the Champions Tour and played just 19 events in 2013.
In addition to the former UNLV players, there are a few Southern Nevada residents in the field. They include Bonanza High product Scott Piercy and Henderson resident Nick Watney. Na, the 2011 Shriners Open champs, also calls the area home.