The CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges
Another week which started promisingly for us unfortunately ended disappointingly again with Billy Horschel fading over the weekend and JT never really getting out of second gear until the final round.
So with the first week of the ‘Asian Swing’ complete we now move on to its second leg, The CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges.
The event debuted on the tour last year so this year is its second edition.
The tournament is played at Nine Bridges Golf Club on Jeju Island in South Korea.
Needless to say Nine Bridges GC has only eight bridges, with the ninth bridge being metaphorical, that which connects the club to its members and guests.
Similarly to last week 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 Tour.
The field and betting market is once more headed up by Justin Thomas who is the defending champion this week. JT is then followed in the market by newly crowned PGA Tour player of the year Brooks Koepka, Jason Day, last week’s winner Mark Leishman and Hideki Matsuyama.
The Club @ Nine Bridges is a par 72 measuring just under 7200yds.
The greens are creeping Bentgrass.
The course was designed by Golf Plan whose two principles are Ronald Fream & David Dale.
It was completed in 2001 and is considered to be one of, if not the, finest courses in Korea.
Despite its Asian location the course bares a lot of similarities to Gleneagles in Perthshire particularly on the back nine, which is referred to as the Highland Course.
Importantly the course is situated 3500ft up Mount Halle, which is South Korea’s highest mountain. As such the course plays ‘at altitude’.
Other events played at altitude on the PGA Tour include the WGC Mexico and The Barracuda Championship, whilst the Omega Masters at Crans-Sur-Sierre on the European Tour is played at significant altitude.
Another important factor is that again due to its location the course is exposed to wind and you can expect this to play a part this week.
As the event is only entering its second year we have very little to go on however we saw enough in one edition to see that with the dual challenges of wind and altitude in play that this is a tough test.
The inaugural edition was won by Justin Thomas who opened with a round of 63 [-9] only to find that three days later after further rounds of 74 70 & 72 the same total was enough to earn a playoff with Mark Leishman before he clinched the victory.
Third was another Aussie, Cameron Smith with -6, whilst fourth was the lone Korean in the top 10, Whee Kim.
The remainder of the top 10 was filled out by a bunch of players all tying on -5. These were Perez, Lovemark, List, Harman, Brown & Lahiri.
To show how tough the test was not one player managed four rounds under par and only three players, Leishman, Kim and Harman managed four rounds of par or better.
Although we only have one years worth of data to sample from one thing I did think it worth looking at is how many of those players who made the top 10 last year teed it up the week before at the CIMB in Kuala Lumpur.
The answer to this was actually a pretty high number in that eight players, JT, Smith, Whee Kim, Perez, Lahiri, Lovemark, List and Brown all played at TPC Malaysia.
It would appear therefore, all be it with a very small sample to look at, that even though the test this week is completely different to last week, the week to acclimatise to the time zone is beneficial.
We look set for four dry days with temperatures in the high teens this week, however as per last year the wind looks certain to be a factor again.
All four days show gusts forecast of at least 10-15mph, with Thursday and Sunday at the time of writing showing the strongest forecast winds of 25mph or even stronger.
As I always say though…this could all change!
As per last week the obvious winner is defending champion Justin Thomas, however with trepidation I have decided to ignore him this week as I have strung e/w hunches for several players at far bigger prices who I believe can perform well.
On that basis I have gone with five players this week as follows;
TYRRELL HATTON –33-1 – 1pt e/w 1/4 odds 1st 5 FINISHED 14th
First up this week for us is Englishman Tyrrell Hatton.
Currently ranked 24th in the world Hatton is now firmly established in the higher echelons of the game.
Since finishing 6th in the US Open in June Tyrrell has not missed a cut on either side of the Atlantic and he has recorded a further three top 10 finishes including 2nd place last time out at the Dunhill Links when looking to achieve the ‘threepeat’.
In addition of course he played some solid stuff on his Ryder Cup debut forming a strong fourball partnership with Paul Casey.
On top of his really solid play of late my main reason for particularly liking Hatton this week is cross over form on venues, which would appear to share the two most important keys to success this week, good wind play and experience in playing at altitude.
To expand further, firstly as we all know Tyrrell has a stellar record in the Dunhill Links with his two wins and a second place finish over the past three years.
In addition he has top 5 finishes to his name in the British, Scottish & Irish Opens over the past few years as well is in Dubai. Basically he is a superb player in windy conditions.
Secondly if we then look at Tyrrells record in events played at altitude over recent years we find that he has performed really well in these.
In two visits to Club De Golf Chapultepec he has finished 10th & 3rd and in three of his four visits to Crans-Sur-Sierre, home of the European Masters he has finished 3rd.
In other words he has five top 10s [& four top 3s] in his last six outings in the two key events played at altitude on the PGA and European Tour that he has teed it up in.
Add this together with his record in wind effected events and I suspect we are looking at the player with the best credentials in the field for the conditions that they will face this week.
The final clincher for backing Tyrrell this week is that this is a time of year that for the past couple of years he has produced his best golf.
In 2016 he won the Dunhill Links before notching three more top 10s over his next five events, whilst last year he followed his Dunhill Links win with a win in the Italian Open the very next week.
The one slight negative is that Tyrrell did not play in last weeks CIMB so will not yet be fully acclimatized to the time zone, however we saw with Leishman last year, who was a play off a way from winning this event, that this is not a be all and end all so I am willing to overlook this fact.
Now a big player on the world stage the next rung on the ladder for Tyrrell is for him to notch his first win on the PGA Tour and I strongly believe that the Club @ Nine Bridges will offer him a great opportunity to do that this week.
KEVIN CHAPPELL – 66-1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED 29th
Next up for us this week is Kevin Chappell.
The appeal for me in Chappell this week is his ability to perform well on tough golf courses combined with the fact that he has performed well on courses and in events known to be wind effected, such as at The API, TPC, RBC Heritage, RSM Classic, Valero Texas Open and of course at last year’s Open in Carnoustie.
Chappell’s talent is not in doubt, however since belatedly notching his maiden PGA Tour title at the aforementioned Valero Texas Open last year he has not pushed on and added a further victory as one might have expected.
Since his 6th place finish at Carnoustie Kevin has struggled somewhat, with nothing better than a 35th place finish to his name in the remainder of the 2017/18 season, which came in his final event of the season, The Dell Technologies Championship.
Last week however, Kevin caught the eye when opening his 18/19 season with a 10th place finish at the CIMB Classic.
As we have already established the birdie fest offered up by TPC Kuala Lumpur couldn’t be much further away from the conditions that the players will be presented with this week and in all honesty you would have thought that that the CIMB would not really be an event Kevin would be able to show his best grinding strengths in.
Never the less he played very nicely last week completing three of his four rounds bogey free and he finished the week 6th in GIR.
Kevin has not pulled up any trees in his starts at altitude in the WGC Mexico over the past couple of years however look back further and he has finished 34th & 14th in his two visits to Reno in years gone by so he has shown that he can play in altitude.
Furthermore having been brought up in California you would think that growing up Kevin would have had plenty of opportunity to play on courses affected by altitude.
I mentioned earlier in the preview that based on last year’s final leaderboard an outing at the CIMB the week before could be beneficial and having caught my eye in Kuala Lumpur I am hopeful Kevin can give us a big run this week on a test, which will hopefully be far more suitable for his game.
BYEONG HUN AN – 40-1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED 41st
It would be foolish to ignore the Korean contingent this week and of those teeing it up the one who I like the look of most is Ben An.
Yet to secure his maiden PGA Tour victory An has come mighty close on a couple of occasions over the past twelve months with runner up finishes both at the Memorial and the RBC Canadian Open.
Since the latest of the 2nd place finishes in Canada Ben has ticked along nicely without doing anything particularly spectacular, but equally without missing any cuts.
Last year Ben arrived on Jeju Island straight from having played and performing solidly in the Italian Open.
Despite this far from ideal preparation Ben had a really decent week in what is obviously a hugely high profile event for him, and he notched an 11th place finish.
This year Ben has chosen instead to play in the CIMB Classic and this has to have given him a far better chance to prepare for this week.
At the CIMB Ben played nicely all week without ever really being in the thick of things and he closed with a 66 to finish 13th.
Having shown last year that he can handle the expectations of the home crowd, and the challenges the course offers, you have to think that this year Ben can make an even stronger push towards his maiden PGA Tour win in his home country event and I am keen to have him onside this week.
BRIAN HARMAN – 125-1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED 36th
Next up this week I can’t resist taking a chance on Georgia native Brian Harman on the prices on offer.
The two time PGA Tour winner started his 2017/18 season on Jeju Island with a 5th place finish before going on a tear which lead to him notching six straight top eight finishes in his first six events of the season.
As the season progressed, perhaps with one eye on the Ryder Cup, he started to cool off a bit, however he still notched two further top 10s on the year, one of which, a 3rd place, came in the altitude of Club De Golf Chapultepec in the WGC Mexico.
Furthermore as I mentioned above Brian has two PGA wins to his name and both of these came on Bentgrass greens, which is what he will face this week.
After missing the cut at the Open Championship his final five events of the year resulted in five finishes between 49th and 71st.
Now I’m sure refreshed, and with no more Ryder Cup pressures on his back, he arrives on Jeju Island having closed his 17/18 season in a very similar vein to that, which he closed his 16/17 one.
On this basis and with the fact that he is a proven competitor at the highest level and a proven winner, I cannot understand why he is priced in the market at the same price or even bigger than several players who are yet to win on the PGA Tour and/or have no form on the course.
To me Brian should be an 66-1/80-1 shot at the most this week and on this basis alone I am happy to include him at what I see is a hugely generous 125-1 for seven places.
CAMERON SMITH – 28 -1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED T7th
Finally this week I am going to give another chance to the young Aussie Cameron Smith.
Regular readers will know that I included Cam in our team last week at a very similar price and ultimately although he far from disgraced himself in finishing 22nd, he was never seriously in the hunt at any time.
This week we move on to another venue where Cam played well last year in finishing 3rd and this, coupled with the fact he has consistently performed well on golf courses where wind is a factor has tipped the scales in favour of me siding with him again.
We know that Cam was brought up on the windy Brisbane coast and as well as winning last years Aussie PGA he has delivered strong finishes over the years at Hilton Head, Pebble Beach and of course at Chambers Bay when he was 4th in the US Open.
Although Cam only finished 22nd last week his stats were solid and his customary hot flat stick was in working order.
It is inevitable that Cam will eventually get of the mark on the PGA Tour in a solo event and I suspect when it does happen it will be on a course where there is a bit more give in the fairways and wind is a factor, and this is what we are facing this week.
On that basis I am happy to give another chance to the young Aussie to get the job done this week.
UPDATED 17th OCT
TRADER SCOTT PIERCY FINISHED T5th - BEST PRICE TRADED 4.5
For my trader this week I have decided to go with the Nevada native Scott Piercy.
Since winning the Zurich Classic pairs event with Billy Horschel last spring Piercy has had a pretty lean time of things with no finish better than 45th for the last three months of the 17/18 PGA Tour season.
Scott however opened his 18/19 season with a solid 27th place at the CIMB last week, which promised more at the halfway stage.
Scott has shown over the years that he can play well in windy conditions, notably in Hawaii and Mexico, and he has also shown he can mix it with the bigger names on tougher courses, most noticeably when he notched back to back 2nd place finishes at the US Open and the WGC Bridgestone in 2016.
Importantly for this week he has also shown he can perform at altitude when he won his maiden PGA tour title in Reno in 2011.
Currently trading at a nice juicy price in the higher 300s if Scott did start well his price would quickly crash due to his proven pedigree.
I am therefore happy to have Scott as our trader this week and am hopeful he can give us a good run for our money.
CURRENTLY TRADINING @ 360