The CJ Cup @ Shadow Creek
After a slow start to the 2020/21 PGA Tour season we hit the jackpot in Vegas at the weekend as our 250/1 pick for the week Martin Laird bagged the trophy in dramatic style as he came out on top in a three man play off with Matthew Wolff and Austin Cook.
As those who watched it will know the play off was only a small fraction of the story as the Scotsman battled nerves down the stretch as he tried to hang on to his slender lead and get the job done in regulation time.
Needless to say for our heart rates Laird wasn’t able to manage this, bogeying the 72nd hole, however he steadied himself and after a fantastic shot in to 17 on the second play off hole he rolled in a great birdie putt to clinch the victory, his first since 2013.
From our point of view obviously this kind of win doesn’t come along too often but when it does it’s a reminder that, to quote my phrase last week, it’s worth rolling the dice on your big priced play hunches when you have an inkling for them, as even if most of the time the player doesn’t perform as long as the occasional one places and one every now and then pops up and wins you’ll be well ahead of the game.
After all, as it’s always worth remembering, golf betting is a long term game.
so we’ll savour the moment but not obviously for too long as it’s straight back down to business…
So, with five weeks of the new 2019/20 PGA Tour season already completed the tour would under normal circumstances now be heading of for what has become its customary ‘Asian Swing’ that we see at this time of the year.
This year of course though nothing has been ‘normal’ and with the spectre of Covid-19 still looming large in the background the trip to Asia has been cancelled.
The PGA Tour, though who in my opinion have done a fantastic job to safely keep the ‘show on the road’ were not to be beaten and therefore while the WGC HSBC Champions event, which is normally the third tournament in the ‘swing’ has been postponed this year, this weeks event, the CJ Cup, has for one year only been moved to Shadow Creek in Las Vegas, while next weeks second edition of the Zozo Championship, normally played in Japan, will this year be played at Sherwood CC in Thousand Oaks, California.
More of the Zozo Championship next week obviously but for now we will focus on this weeks CJ Cup.
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 headed up by the trio of Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy. They are then followed Justin Thomas, who sits just behind them, and Xander Schauffele.
Shadow Creek is a par 72 measuring approximately 7500yds 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 greens are Bentgrass.
The course was designed by Tom Fazio and Steve Wynn in 1990 before undergoing a redesign at the hands of Fazio in 2008.
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 and Corales host of the Corales Puntacana.
The course, which was originally designed as a private club for Wynn, a hotel and real estate tycoon, to entertain his friends, has now been open for 20yrs approximately to the public. It is worth noting though for ‘the public’ to play it they must stay at an MGM hotel and then stump up the small matter of the $600 green fee…
With regards to previous sightings of Shadow Creek the only glimpse we have had of it on our TV’s is in 2018 when it hosted ‘The Match’ between Phil Mickelson & Tiger Woods.
Although the course is in Vegas huge amounts of trees were imported and I have read comments that it bares a similarity in some ways to Quail Hollow, which as noted above has Fazio’s hand on it. From that point of view the North Carolina course may well be a good reference.
In addition with undulating fairways, water in play on many holes and with the main feature of the course being it’s tiered greens, there is potentially a feel of Augusta to the venue. All in all then while the altitude of Vegas is in play this is not a typical desert venue.
With the event being played on US soil as opposed to in it’s normal home in Jeju Island there is limited value in this section this week for obvious reasons.
For what it’s worth though the three previous editions have been won by Justin Thomas, twice, in 2017 and 2019 and by Brooks Koepka in 2018.
In all honesty though there is nothing to be gained in my eyes in assessing this history in the normal manner so we shall move on…
Similarly to last week in Vegas not unsurprisingly we have wall to wall sunshine with temperatures in the low 90s.
Unlike last week though at the time of writing there is no forecast for the wind to get above 10mph all week.
Basically then perfect conditions for golf.
As I always say though…this could all change!
I have gone with four players this week as follows;
MATTHEW WOLFF –22-1 – 2pts e/w 1/5 odds 1st 7 - FINISHED 73rd
With many of the games big guns returning to action this week for the first time since the US Open it could well be that we have a return to ‘who’s turn is it this week’ out of DJ, Rahm Thomas etc.
From my point of view though with plenty of unknown’s in play with the course I am happy to take my chances and swerve what would basically be a win only bet on the front three or four in the market and instead look for some each way plays elsewhere starting with Matthew Wolff.
Wolff if we didn’t already know it has shown us again recently what a huge star in the game he is going to be for years to come by posting top four finishes in the two recently played Major Championships and by finishing second again at the weekend at the Shriners to make it back to back runner up finishes on tour.
From that point of view surely his second PGA Tour title is imminent and with the possibility that some of those in front of him in the market will have had a break since Winged Foot and will see this as there start to getting back in the groove as they build up to Augusta, I am happy to ride the hot hand with Matthew.
At the weekend Wolff was of course our foe as he battled down the stretch with our man Martin Laird and although I wasn’t enjoying it at the time you couldn’t help but be impressed by the way the 21yr old found the eagle on 16 when it mattered.
Wolff finished last week fifth from tee to green and sixth in approach play and with him acclimatized now to the altitude and with a week to blow off any dust after Winged Foot he may just have an edge on those arriving in Vegas this week. Add that to the fact he is not at any great disadvantage from a course experience point of view as he would be at more regular tour stops and this strikes me as a perfect week for him to step up and bag that second tour title.
JASON DAY – 50-1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 - FINISHED WD
As a whole this week I am going to ignore any speculation in relation to course suitability and tie ins elsewhere and simply focus on players in form who caught the eye last week, however I will break from that for one exception and chance my arm with Jason Day.
Day has been a tough player to work out of late as having looked like he was on the verge of getting right back to somewhere near top form when posting four consecutive top seven finishes including a fourth place at the PGA Championship he suddenly went off the boil again throwing in a shocker at the Northern Trust to miss the cut and finishing right down the field at the BMW Championship.
Following on from this Jason hasn’t started 20/21 with any great gusto finishing 38th at Winged Foot and missing the cut at last weeks birdie fest at TPC Summerlin so why chance him this week?
Well quite simply if we are going to follow course links then of the each way options Day leaps out of the page to me as the one who ties in the best. To expand further firstly the Aussie is a former champion at Quail Hollow, which as noted earlier is a Fazio design and appears to link well here, having tasted victory there in 2018. He was also top ten there in the 2017 PGA Championship.
Secondly Jason’s record at the Fazio designed Conway farms in the BMW Championship reads 4 1 4. Pretty impressive stuff.
Thirdly Day’s like of, and course fit to, Augusta is well known and if there is a resemblance between that venue and Shadow Creek that will surely be to his advantage.
First on tour last season in strokes-gained-around-the-green the Aussie’s ability to handle the sort of surfaces we will see this week is not in doubt and if he can rediscover the long game he found at the back end of last season, on a track where everything points to it fitting his eye, I fancy he could make a big push at returning to the winners enclosure.
JOAQUIN NIEMMAN – 66-1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 - FINISHED 6th
I am more than happy to swerve the European contingent this week who are making the long trip from Wentworth and all that it entails and therefore returning to theme of players who caught my eye at TPC Summerlin I shall firstly give another chance to Joaquin Niemman.
The starting point of my case for the young Chilean last week was his tenth place finish at TPC Summerlin in 2018 coupled with the fact that having been brought up in Santiago, which sits about 2000ft above sea level, [a similar level to Vegas] he is more than comfortable playing at altitude.
Unfortunately in an event where you had to be ‘right at it’ from the outset scoring wise a sluggish 68 on Thursday gave Niemann a bit too much to do and although he made steady progress throughout the week he was never seriously in the hunt.
Still, 13th place after a slow start was a good effort from the 21yr old and he should move on to Shadow Creek in good spirits.
A great tee to green player when on song as we know Joaquin’s weakness is on the greens however as noted last week he is at his best on bentgrass surfaces, which he will face this week. In addition it is certainly encouraging that after negative putting numbers on Thursday and Friday his putter warmed up over the weekend with his best day with the flatstick coming on Sunday.
All in all I don’t think it will be too long before Niemann is being considered alongside the likes of Wolff and Hovland and with the potential for him to build on last week I am happy to side with him again at decent each way odds.
SI WOO KIM – 100-1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 - FINISHED 17th
Finally I shall finish our fortnight in Vegas off by rolling the dice once more on a player who has been on our radar a fair bit over the past couple of months or so, Si Woo Kim.
Longer term followers will know that I firmly believe that Si Woo’s work and obvious progress with Claude Harmon will pay off sooner rather than later with a return to the winners enclosure and on that basis after three more lack lustre efforts to start the new season last weeks eighth place finish at TPC Summerlin certainly caught the eye.
Eighth off the tee last week and 13th from tee to green Si Woo’s long game is clearly in decent nick at the moment and if he can just sharpen up the consistency with the iron play again he will be right back to where he was at the end of last season.
As we know Si Woo is another who’s main struggles come when the putter is in hand so while last weeks 29th ranking in this department was nothing spectacular it certainly offered some positives. More encouragingly however, allowing for the potential challenge around the greens this week though, is the fact that Si Woo ranked 1st in strokes-gained-around-the-greens last week, and this is in keeping with his ongoing strength in this department.
The young Korean can undoubtedly be tough to predict, however we all know what he is capable of on his day and to me he is the sort of player I would rather side with at big odds in bigger company than at shorter prices [unless we are at Sedgefield CC!], particularly when there has been plenty to like about his game as there has been over recent months.
On that basis I shall finish our two week stint in Vegas by chancing him to close it out in style.
UPDATED 13th OCTOBER
FANTASY DRAFT KINGS PICKS
PICK 1 - CAMERON SMITH - DK VALUE - $6800 - FINISHED 11th - DK POINTS TOTAL 87
For my first pick this week I am going to chance Cameron Smith.
The Aussie has emerged of late from what is becoming his cutomary summer slump to produce some solid performances without quite yet catching fire.
This week however with a lot of speculation about the test the players will face if tiered greens bearing resemblances to Augusta do transpire to be the key to the challenge then Smith who has a top five to his name at the Masters could be right in his element.
PICK 2 - RYAN PALMER - DK VALUE - $6700 - FINISHED 17th - DK POINTS TOTAL - 82.5
With the exception of a missed cut at Winged Foot recently Ryan Palmer has been a model of consistency since finishing second at the Memorial in July.
Tenth on tour last seaon in par five scoring the Texan should be able to take advantage of this weeks four par fives and with a decent record over recent years at altitude and in desert events he can hopefully build on last weeks 34th place at the Shriners and produce another solid performance.