Sam Burns and Billy Horschel targetting a winning send off for the year at the QBE Shootout

Twelve pairs tee it up at Tiburon GC on Friday for the final event of the PGA Tour’s 2021 schedule.

There was a time when this week's final event of the PGA Tour's 2021 was called the Shark Shootout, after the host Greg Norman.

The Australian's name is no longer too popular at the circuit's Ponte Vedra headquarters.

As the field of 12 pairings returns to Tiburon for this annual pre-Christmas party the bigwigs will be happy the event is now called the QBE Shootout because Norman has spent the back end of this week sharking for Saudi Arabia's plans to change the face of the sport.

There will be no official mention of his back-stage shenanigans this week; it'll be up to us to add the wry grins and note that it's a funny old world when he hands over the trophy (as is traditional).

In Florida itself it will be all hit and giggle, a knockabout week of fun that, in typical elite golf style, will conclude with the distribution of an eye-watering amount of cash.

$3.5 million, in fact, for what amounts to little more than It's a Knockout or Wipeout in golf form.

For the hot favourites Sam Burns and Billy Horschel, who have both enjoyed excellent years, it's easy to see this week going one of two ways.

Burns has won twice and very nearly landed a World Golf Championship title in August.

Horschel also went close to WGC success, at the Workday Championship, before he completed the job in the Dell Technologies Match Play. He then added triumph in the European Tour's BMW PGA Championship.

If they feel it is 'job done' they might lose focus early on and spend the week in third gear.

But they might also quite easily relish applying a full stop to a year of great success, remind themselves of all they've achieved, enjoy basking in it, and ride the wave to victory.

They might also recall that this is not the first time they have combined this year - they also did so when tied fourth at this year's Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

Maybe they'll want to go one step better than the places this time?

Burns is a debutant in the tournament, but Horschel has played every year since 2013, collecting six top fives finishes (three of them top threes). He'll be eager to finally land the title.

Let's take a closer look at their prospects, the format of the tournament, and their closest rivals for the title.

Burns and Horschel

When they finished in that tie for fourth in the Louisiana pairs event they not only proved they get along well on the course (and presumably off it), but it reiterated that they both like playing on Bermuda greens.

Burns won at Innisbrook a week later, his second win at Jackson was on the same surface, as was play-off defeat at TPC Southwind and also his tied third last week in the Hero World Challenge.

What about Horschel? His win in the Match Play at Austin was on Bermuda, as was his second place at The Concession and he was also seventh at Waialae in January.

Moreover, Burns finished a tournament ranked in the top three for Strokes Gained Putting four times in 2021 and every time it was on Bermuda greens.

Horschel is a less sure putter, but his seven appearances in the top 20 of SG Putting in 2021 all came on Bermuda greens.

They're the favourites, it's a silly season event, but they do have a really great shot this week.

Format

Friday - Scramble: both players tee off, pick the best ball, both play from that spot and so on until they hole out. It's a form of the game that demands aggression - since 2014 every first round leading duo went sub-60 (four of them sub-57).

Saturday - Greensomes: both players tee off, again they select the best ball, but they play alternate-shot from that point.

Sunday - Fourballs: both golfers play their own ball, the better score counts.

Jason Kokrak and Kevin Na

Kokrak is a three-time winner in his last 30 starts, including last time out at the Houston Open. He also landed second in this event alongside JT Poston in 2019. Na has a similar record with victory in his second start of the year at the Sony Open, he was then the joint low-scorer in the Tour Championship, and he was tied second in last year's Shootout (and third in 2018).

Harris English and Matt Kuchar

The tournament specialists with a frankly absurd record. They've started together six times, won three times and finished second twice. But, even better than that, two of the wins were absolutely sensational. They won by seven strokes in 2013 and by nine shots last year. To put that into perspective, in the 21st century only three winning pairs ended the week more than two shots clear of second. A concern would be the long-term form of Kuchar and short term results of English.

Jason Day and Marc Leishman

Day won this tournament alongside Cameron Tringale back in 2014 and was fifth in his only other start 11 years ago. Leishman made his tournament debut last year, finishing eighth, but he also landed the Zurich Classic of New Orleans alongside Cameron Smith in May. Day has gone five starts without a top 50, Leishman is in better nick with three top 20s in his last four starts.

Corey Conners and Graeme McDowell

Northern Irishman McDowell is making his ninth start this week and looking to finally lift the trophy after three times ending the week in second. Conners will be his seventh different partner which suggests either an ease with plenty of his peers or an inability to keep hold of a friend! Conners was sixth two years ago on his event debut.

Lexi Thompson and Bubba Watson

Watson hasn't played since August, which doesn't feel like the greatest preparation, but there might be something in this combination because he aided Team USA at the Solheim Cup (albeit in a losing cause) and proved popular with the players doing so. Thompson is a regular in the event with a best of tied fourth in four visits. Deemed the wild outsiders of the event, they both often end their swings in ungainly fashion, but they can also knock approach shots close and drain birdies too.

READ MORE: The Rise and Fall of 2021: Who went up and who went down in the world rankings this year

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