The CJ Cup @ The Summit Club
It was another solid week for us at The Shriners as we made a nice return courtesy of our 125/1 pick Adam Hadwin who finished sixth and bagged us a full place.
Whilst the aim of the game of course is to try and find the winner each week there is no doubt in my mind that the lifeblood that keeps us ticking over week in week out is the E/W returns, particularly those at juicy odds, and having landed three places at three figure odds in consecutive weeks to start the season we are now in a nice position going forward.
The event itself was won by Sungjae Im who after stalling on Saturday produced a tremendous burst of scoring right from the start of his round on Sunday and after his nearest challenger Matthew Wolff started to struggle around the turn the result was never in doubt.
So, with three weeks of the new 2021/22 PGA Tour season already completed the tour would under normal circumstances now be heading off for what has become its customary ‘Asian Swing’ that we see at this time of the year.
This year though with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic still being felt around the world while next weeks Zozo Championship will return to Japan, this weeks CJ Cup, normally held in South Korea, will for the second year running be played in Las Vegas.
Last year the event was hosted by Shadow Creek, however the host course in Sin City this year will be the Summit Club.
The event is a limited field event with no cut. The field is made up of the top 60 available players from the previous seasons Fedex Cup, plus qualifiers from the Asian Tour and Korean’s based on OWGR, making 78 players set to tee it up in total.
The field and betting market is headed up by the trio of Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, and Xander Schauffele. They are then followed Collin Morikawa who practices out of the course.
The Summit Club is a par 72 measuring just over 7400yds although it should be noted that as per last weeks venue TPC Summerlin there is an element of altitude in play so the course wont play to its full length.
The course features four par fives ranging from 550yds to 614yds and three par fours under 380yds. The course also features a par three under 140yds in length.
The greens are Bentgrass.
As was the case with last years host course, Shadow Creek, The Summit Club course was designed by Tom Fazio.
The course opened for play in 2017.
Other Fazio designs/redesigns used on tour include Quail Hollow in Charlotte and Eagle Point which hosted the 2017 Quail Hollow Championship, Conway Farms host of the 2013, 15 & 17 editions of the BMW Championship, Corales host of the Corales Puntacana and more recently the Caves Valley Club used for this years BMW Championship.
The course, features wide undulating fairways and desert areas riddled with your typical cacti you want to avoid at all costs. In addition water is in play with several holes featuring meandering creaks running either alongside or across the fairways. In addition the course features larger than average tiered greens.
To sum up whilst last years venue Shadow Creek was not a typical desert track this weeks venue strikes me as being far more akin to your standard desert layout and unless the weather plays a part I expect scoring to be good.
With the event being played for the second year running on US soil, as opposed to its normal home in Jeju Island, there is limited value in in looking at the history of the events played overseas since the tournaments inception for obvious reasons.
For what it’s worth though the three previous editions held in Korea were won by Justin Thomas, twice, in 2017 and 2019 and by Brooks Koepka in 2018.
With the tournament returning to a Fazio design in Las Vegas for the second year running it is probably worth looking at last years final leaderboard though so here is the top ten finishers.
1 J Kokrak
2 X Schauffele
3 T Hatton, R Henley
5 T Gooch, J Niemann
7 B Watson, L Griffin
9 S Munoz
10 H English
With last years event being played on the back of the previous weeks Shriners event at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas one thing I thought it might be useful to take a look at is how many of the players who finished in the final top 10 at Shadow Creek had tee’d it up the week before in Vegas, thus giving them a weeks tune up at desert golf in Vegas.
The answer to this is that seven of them had including the winner Jason Kokrak, with the three odd ones out being Xander Schauffele, Tyrrell Hatton and Bubba Watson.
Therefore, allowing for the fact that a lot of the marquee names that you would expect to feature at the business end of a limited field event like this hadn’t played at the Shriners, my feeling is, all be it with only one year’s sample to go on, that a previous weeks run out in desert conditions is advantageous.
After a very windy start to the week things should settle down in to pleasant, sunny, all be it slightly cooler than normal conditions, with temperatures not getting much above 70 until Sunday.
Wind like last week could be a slight factor with gusts of 15mph possible over the first three days before Sunday becomes a lot calmer.
As I always say though…this could all change!
I have gone with six players this week as follows;
AARON WISE - 55/1 - 1pt e/w 1/5 odds 1st 7 - FINISHED T5th
I shall start things off this week with a player who in my eyes is clearly trending towards a second PGA Tour title, Aaron Wise.
Wise who landed his lone PGA trophy to date at the 2018 Byron Nelson lost his way after that win, with the 2019/20 season particularly being a struggle.
After an eighth place finish at the Barracuda in July 2020 though, a result, which of course sits very nicely alongside the form pointers we are looking for this week, Aaron began to rediscover his touch and he came close to a second trophy at the Mayakoba early in the 20/21 season.
The turn of the year saw Wise continue to post strong results and with his consistency returning he ended last season 49th in the Fedex Cup standings.
Aaron’s ball striking has been really solid over the past twelve months however his main problem has been on the greens, something shown by his ranking last season of 174th in SGP. Of late however the 25yr old has turned to using a long putter he used to use back in college to great success in the ‘nearly but not quite anchored’ manner, and this has undoubtedly lead to an improvement on the dance floor.
Last week Wise showed again that he is comfortable in the desert producing an eighth place finish at the Shriners hot on the heels of a solid seasons opening 26th place at the Sandersons.
At TPC Summerlin Aaron struck the ball really nicely to finish the week ranked seventh from tee to green, furthermore and perhaps even more importantly, he was ranked 26th in putting, which whilst not a standout stat shows again improvement is being made in that area.
Away from the desert bearing in mind we have very little to go on this week I also think it is worth noting that Wise has shown a strong liking of Quail Hollow, which has this weeks designer Tom Fazio’s stamp on it, finishing second there in 2018 and ninth there this year, and he also played nicely at the Fazio designed Caves Club recently at the BMW.
I noted earlier that I felt a warm up in the desert last week could certainly be of benefit this week and I am optimistic that Wise can build on last weeks momentum and make a strong push for his second Tour title this week.
JOAQUIN NIEMANN – 55/1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 - FINISHED 45th
Next up for me this week is Joaquin Niemman.
I sided with Niemann in this event last year after he had played solidly at TPC Summerlin the week before to finish 13th and he duly rewarded us with a sixth place finish and an E/W return.
Including that sixth place finish Joaquin had at that time tee’d it up on four occasions in Vegas finish 10th, 13th and sixth alongside a MC in 2020, which came just after his maiden tour win at the Greenbrier, if we excuse him that poor week then on the basis that he was suffering a bit of let down after his win, it is clear to me that the young Chilean is more than comfortable in the desert.
The fact that Joaquin does enjoy playing at altitude should not be too much of a surprise as he was brought up in Santiago, which sits about 2000ft above sea level, a similar level to Vegas.
Moving on to this year and Niemann has knocked on the door of a second PGA trophy throughout 2021 posting three runner up finishes, two of, which saw him lose out in play off’s and there is no doubt in my mind that another win will come very soon.
After playing in the season ending Tour Championship Joaquin took a month’s break to re charge the batteries before returning last week at TPC Summerlin to start his new campaign.
At The Shriners then perhaps not unsurprisingly the 22yr old wasn’t quite as sharp as he has been in the event previously however a 40th place finish, which included a round of 64 on Friday, should certainly have dusted off the cobwebs.
Moving on to this week I expect Joaquin to move up a notch in all areas and on a course with a bit of room off the tee, some driveable par fours and reachable par fives he can hopefully thrive.
To sum up in an event where I expect several of the big names to lack some sharpness following the Ryder Cup, Niemann is exactly the type of player I believe can take advantage in conditions, which I believe should really suit him.
RUSSELL HENLEY – 66/1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 - FINISHED 25th
Another player who is long overdue another trip to the winners enclosure is Russell Henley.
Since returning to form early in 2020 Henley has been racking up the high finishes and has to be frank done everything but win.
The 20/21 season saw Russell rack up five top ten finishes including a seventh place at the back end of the campaign, which saw him in the box seat to bag the trophy at the Wyndham Championship before a disappointing closing 71.
If we roll the clock back to the beginning of the season and Russell started out with a solid 27th place at The Shriners before going on to finish third in this event, move on 12 months and last week saw him post a very similar finish of 21st to start the new season.
Looking at last weeks outing in more detail and Russell, as his been his want over the past year or so, was once again exemplary with his iron play ranking first in approach play and sixth from tee to green. Also as has been his want over the past few years though the putter, for which he was ranked 56th for the week held him back.
Moving on to this week then and my simple hope is that if the three time tour winner can bring his normal strong tee to green game to the party, on a course where a lack of knowledge to all on the greens could be a leveller, if he can just up his performance with the putter slightly he could really take advantage. On that hunch then I am happy to take my chances and side with Russell this week.
TALOR GOOCH – 55/1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 - FINISHED T5th
Next cab off the rank this week is the in form Talor Gooch.
Yet to win on tour Gooch is a player who when he first came out on tour initially stayed very much under the radar however his form over the past 12 months or so has brought him in to the spotlight as one of the most consistent ‘maidens’ out there.
Back tracking slightly and Talor’s first full season as a PGA Tour member saw him finish 139th in 2018. 2019 though saw him improve to 101st, 2020 to 60th and another solid campaign in 20/21 saw him finish 68th.
The strength in Gooch’s game is predominantly from tee to green with his approach play consistently the area he ranks best in. Solid enough on the greens as well though Gooch’s all round game is strong.
Talor has began his 2021/22 season in really strong form finishing fourth at the Fortinet Championship and 11th last week at the Shriners so he should embark on his second week in Vegas in a confident mood, particularly as at TPC Summerlin he ranked fourth from tee to green and fifth in approach play.
One other factor that should put the 29yr old in a confident frame of mind this week is his previous form in the desert, which as well as some solid performances at TPC Summerlin has seen him finish fourth in the American Express in 2019 and fifth in this event last year.
We saw in this event last year in Jason Kokrak a PGA Tour maiden take advantage of some rustiness from the big names and land his first tour title and while not of course in playing styles I can see some parallels in profile with Gooch coming in to this week and I am happy to chance him to take advantage in the same way.
BRANDEN GRACE – 125/1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 - FINISHED 68th
Next up this week I can’t resist one more roll of the dice this year on a player who has served us well through 2021, Branden Grace.
Whilst the remainder of our team this week have had the benefit of a tune up at TPC Summerlin Branden arrives here after a 27th place at the Dunhill Links a couple of weeks ago and a 12th place finish before that in the Dutch Open. In addition lets not also forget Branden finished second at the Wyndham Championship only a couple of months ago.
Back on US soil then and in solid if not spectacular form Grace this week returns to a type of layout he has always thrived in, a desert setting.
To back this up further we only need to look at his record firstly in desert based European tour events such as Qatar where he has won twice or Abu Dhabi or Dubai where he has performed strongly in the past or perhaps even more pertinently at the Waste Management Phoenix Open where he has finished second and ninth in recent years.
Furthermore Branden shared the 36 hole lead in the Barracuda Championship another desert event in 2020 before having to withdraw with a positive covid test. Clearly then Grace flourishes in the desert.
Add this prowess on this type of course to the fact that he is a multiple proven winner who we know can compete in this company and who arrives here in solid form and I am more than happy to take my chances at three figure odds.
HUDSON SWAFFORD – 200/1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 32nd
Finally I shall finish our fortnight in Vegas with a roll of the dice at big odds on a player who I just could not get away from when it came to correlating course form, Hudson Swafford.
Swafford finished his comeback season, which saw him find the winners enclosure again with a solid play off series, posting back to back top 20s at the Northern Trust and the BMW Championship.
Moving on to the new season though and there hasn’t been too much to get excited about as Swafford missed the cut at both the Fortinet Championship and the Sanderson Farms before finishing 56th at the Shriners.
No great shakes on the form front then coming in to this week, however what leads me to the two time tour winner this time out is his striking performances on courses which link to this week.
Firstly while not desert events we have Hudson’s performances over the past year on Tom Fazio layouts. We can start naturally with the win at the Corales Puntacana event almost 12 months ago to the week and Hudson then followed up with a sixth place finish in the same event when it was played again six months later.
Move the clock forward three months and Hudson pitched up at Congaree, another Fazio design, for the Palmetto Championship in June and finished second and he then, as noted earlier, posted a 17th place finish at the Caves Club at the BMW Championship in August, a result, which could have been much better had he not stalled somewhat on Sunday.
So four visits to Fazio designs over the past year have resulted in three top six finishes and another top 20. It is also worth noting that other than the Caves Club performance all of these finishes came on the back of poor results in previous weeks.
Moving on then to desert events and Hudson’s maiden tour title came in the American Express event in 2017 while his only top ten in an abbreviated 2020 season was a ninth place finish in Phoenix. If we then roll the clock back to the 17/18 season and his best result of the campaign was an 11th place at the Barracuda.
So then to sum up Hudson loves the desert and seems to spring to life whenever he sees a Fazio design of late meaning this weeks combination of the two should be a dream proposition for him, all of which is enough for me to wrap things up this week with a speculative play at big odds.
UPDATED 12th OCTOBER
FANTASY DRAFTKINGS PICKS
PICK 1 -CAMERON DAVIS - DK VALUE $6400 - FINISHED 64th - DK POINTS TOTAL 86
With two of my main team Branden Grace & Hudson Swafford featuring in the sub $7K DK pricing this week I am going to add just one further pick in this section, Cameron Davis.
With a guaranteed four rounds to play as a player who always makes plenty of birdies Davis makes plenty of appeal on that basis alone, as even if he finishes mid division come Sunday the chances are he will have scored well on the DK front. If you then add in his eye catching 27th place finish at the Shriners where he closed with a round of 66 and his selection here makes even more sense.
The icing on the cake is that Cameron posted a third place finish at the American Express back in January to rubber stamp the fact he is more than comfortable in the desert.