THE CJ CUP – Jeju Island, South Korea
The Club at Nine Bridges (7,196 yards, par 72)
$1,665,000 and 500 FedEx Cup points to the winner
As a nod to the incredibly successful 2015 President’s Cup in South Korea, the PGA Tour expanded its Asian footprint to three events as the CJ Cup kicks off the PGA Tour’s first recurring event in South Korea this week. The host course, The Club at Nine Bridges, is South Korea’s only course ranked in the world’s top 100. Opened in 2001, the venue has hosted four LPGA events with all four champions hailing from Korea. The field includes 10 of the world’s top 30 based on official world golf rankings, including No. 4 Justin Thomas, No. 9 Jason Day, and No. 25 Adam Scott. The 78-player field is comprised of the top 60 in last season’s FedEx Cup rankings, along with 18 other slots stemming from the Korean Tour, Asian Tour, or sponsor’s exemptions. Scoring will be a big question mark with no relevant history, but the one certainty is an exciting new event stationed in South Korea for years to come.
Prior Decade Champions
2017 is the debut year
Key Stats to Winning at The Club at Nine Bridges
· Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green
· Greens in Regulation
With no usable men’s golf history at this venue, the best we can do is examine the course layout for clues on what kind of player will succeed here. The course features some stunning views of Mount Halla, a double green shared by holes 11 and 15, and a risk-reward par-5 18th hole complete with an island green. There are two or three par-4s that will provide a tough test of power and precision, as will a couple of the longer par-3s. But mixing in a few easier holes and scorable par-5s, it’s reasonable to expect this event to produce a winning score between 15- and 20-under in normal conditions. The greens are large and undulating, but most of the challenge is centered around tee-to-green power and precision to set up reasonable approaches and avoid the deep greenside bunkering.
FanDuel Value Picks
Justin Thomas, $10,300 – Though Thomas didn’t three-peat at the CIMB Classic last week, his status as top-ranked player in the field carries over again for this week’s CJ Cup. Thomas was sixth in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green last season and he’s again a solid fit for the course this week. Don’t overthink his average finish last week as Thomas is clearly the cream of this field.
Jason Day, $10,200 – Day has notched top-25s in his last six events dating back to the WGC-Bridgestone, including three top-10s. The bad news is he’s struggled in putting together four straight rounds of solid golf. As one of the best in the field this week, Day could still compete with only three good rounds, but his upside to win is why I’m considering him a good value at $10,200.
Paul Casey, $9,700 – Casey continues to churn out top-15 finishes like there’s no other alternative, capturing a T7 at last week’s CIMB Classic. The Englishman will look to make it nine top-15s in his last 10 events with a good finish this week, which seems quite likely. He’s an incredibly safe option again this week.
Xander Schauffele, $8,900 – The reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year transitioned well into his sophomore season with a third-place effort at last week’s CIMB Classic to kick off the new year. Given his exceptional talent and great form right now, he’s easily one of the best values this week and should be in line for another respectable finish.
Longer Shots Worth a Risk
Pat Perez, $8,200 – Perez not only enjoyed a career year with three top-3s last season, he kicked off the new season with a dominating win last week at the CIMB Classic, his third PGA Tour victory. It’s hard to point to what exactly is responsible for Perez’s recent highs after 15 years of mediocrity, but his outlook is good for this week’s CJ Cup as he rides the coattails of last week’s victory.
Keegan Bradley, $7,400 – Bradley followed up his missed cut at the Safeway Open with a runner-up effort out of nowhere at last week’s CIMB Classic. Though his volatility can be hard to digest, his form coming off last week combined with his ability to drive it well and hit greens in regulation make him a worthwhile play on Fanduel this week.
Anirban Lahiri, $6,500 – Lahiri’s game has grown to new levels in the past two years as he nearly collected $2 million on the PGA Tour last season. Coming off two straight top-10s including one at the CIMB Classic last week, Lahiri will look to tame the new venue and get the season off to a great start.
Cameron Smith, $6,200 – A slew of missed cuts has hampered Smith since July, but the events where he’s made the cut since then have resulted in seventh, 12th, and fifth place finishes. With no cut in place for this week, four rounds should serve Smith quite well coming off a Sunday 64 and tie for fifth last week.
Strategy Tips for this Week (based on 60k standard salary cap)
In a second straight week of a small 78-player field with no cut, there’s plenty of freedom for lineup selection. However, it’s reasonable to assume the top tee-to-green players will thrive here given the large and unfamiliar greens, so focusing your attention on gifted ball strikers should serve you well. This usually means selecting two or three of the 10 highest-salaried players and filling in with lower-tiered options with upside, but with all players guaranteed four rounds, this week offers plenty of options to flex your strategic muscles.