Editor’s Note: Dustin Johnson has withdrawn from this week’s The CJ Cup @ Shadow Creek after testing positive for COVID-19.
The CJ Cup @ Shadow Creek is now in its fourth year and with its move to the mainland U.S. for 2020, there’s more big names in the field than usual.
Shadow Creek course record holder and world number one Dustin Johnson ($11,100) is here, as is world number two Jon Rahm ($11,300) and world number three Justin Thomas ($10,800). Joining them will be the consistent trio of Rory McIlroy $10,600), Xander Schauffele ($10,300) and Hideki Matsuyama ($9,200), who will all be searching for their first win of 2020 here.
The big news this week is the return of Brooks Koepka ($9,700), who has been on hiatus since after the PGA Championship due to lingering issues with his knee. Koepka has rehabbed for two months now and will be looking to find some consistent form (and health) prior to the Masters in a month. With Koepka here, all of the previous three winners of this event (Thomas has won twice) are in the field.
Shadow Creek—Las Vegas, Nevada
Par 72, 7527 yards; Greens: Bentgrass
Shadow Creek is a pure Las Vegas creation that has been around since 1990. Designed by Tom Fazio and paid for by Hotel Tycoon Steve Wynn, the venue was exclusively private up until 2000 when it became semi-open to MGM guests at $500 a round. The venue has only been seen in competition to the public once, when Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods had their first version of “The Match” on it in 2019.
By all accounts, Shadow Creek is a tough Par 72 that features a course record of just 66 (after the 2008 renovations), currently held by Dustin Johnson. Even though it’s located in the desert, Shadow Creek is far from a typical desert setup as plenty of trees and streams do line the fairways throughout. Despite being in the desert, creeks and smaller water hazards are strewn throughout the course with water coming into play on nine of the 18 holes here. As a longer Par 72, comparing it to one of the more classic, longer venues we see every year like Muirfield, Quail Hollow or even Augusta National is probably a good starting point.
Like those previously mentioned Par 72’s, Shadow Creek has a handful of shorter Par 5’s which should all present at least some birdie opportunities this week. The shortest Par 5 measures in around 529 yards, while the longest sits at 622 yards so not all of the longer holes will necessarily present eagle opportunities and the longest of the Par 5’s may even play close to even for the week. There is also a driveable Par 4 on the course that plays to just 324 yards, but there’s also five Par 4’s over 450 yards.
The course has been prepped over the last month or so in anticipation of this event so I’d personally expect scoring here to be a little tougher than people expect. Look for conditions similar to what we see at Augusta most years, where birdie opportunities are available on certain holes while, at most of the others, par will remain a solid score.
2020 Outlook: Despite the calendar now moving into late Fall, the weather this week looks great. Highs will be in the high-80’s most of the week while morning lows will be slightly chilly around 60 degrees. The limited field in play for this week’s no cut event will also have more condensed tee times than usual so wave stacking for classic formats on DraftKings isn’t needed. The wind on Thursday is worth keeping an eye on as Thursday is set to be the windiest of the event right now, with p.m. gusts expected in the 12 mph range. The very earliest starters on the first day could have a very slight advantage, although it’s too early to write that in pen.
Past Winners and trends
**The previous events were all held in South Korea at Nine Bridges.
2019—Justin Thomas -20 (over Danny Lee -18)
2018—Brooks Koepka -21 (over Gary Woodland -17)
2017—Justin Thomas -9 (over Marc Leishman playoff)
· Thomas won at the Club at Nine Bridges in 2019. He came into that event with scorching form having won a playoff event three starts earlier, while also landing top five finishes in his previous two starts.
· Thomas also posted a Fall playoff win when he won the CJ Cup in 2017. The 2017 win marked his third in seven starts.
· Brooks Koepka was also coming off a solid playoff stretch when he won but had also won the PGA Championship five events prior.
· All of the last three winners of the CJ Cup had just landed wins in their prior five starts against elite fields. They’d also all landed at least one top 10 finish in a FedExCup playoff event.
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful to not put too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value comparative to their DraftKings Sportsbook odds of winning this week.
Abraham Ancer +4500 and $8,200
· Jason Day $8,300 and +6000
· Sergio Garcia $8,400 and +5500
· Louis Oosthuizen $8,500 and +4500
Jason Kokrak +6600 and $7,000
· Brian Harman $7,200 and +8000
· Jordan Spieth $7,300 and +11000
· Bubba Watson $7,300 and +7000
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
1. Dustin Johnson ($11,100, Recent finishes: T6-win): The world number one is coming off a stretch of play which saw him grab two wins and a runner-up finish over his last four starts. His T6 at the U.S. Open was disappointing (from a long-term perspective) but solid nonetheless and represented his second top 10 in a major in two months.
2. Matthew Wolff ($10,000, Recent finishes: T2-2nd): Wolff was a hard luck loser last week at the Shriners, just a few weeks after also grabbing a second-place finish at the U.S. Open. The 21-year-old has taken his game to the next level consistency-wise and has now posted top five finishes at two major championships in the last two months. There’s few players better than him right now.
3. Xander Schauffele ($10,300, Recent finishes: T5-T2): Schauffele continues to fall just short of the finish line, as he’s yet to grab a trophy in 2020. However, despite that, the number of top 10 results he’s been able to land has been impressive. T5 at the U.S. Open and T10 at the PGA Championship—his record in limited, no-cut events—is hard to top and makes him dangerous once again this week.
4. Sergio Garcia ($8,400, Recent finishes: T43-win): Garcia followed up his win at the Sanderson Farms event (his first on the PGA TOUR since the 2017 Masters) with a T43 at the Shriners birdie-fest. The last result may not jump off the page, but Sergio’s consistency levels are roaring back to life and he could easily jump back in the mix here given his current level of ball striking.
5. Justin Thomas ($10,800, Recent finishes: T8-T2): Thomas remains in the world’s top three in the OWGR. He’s gained two wins in 2020 already and will go searching for his third CJ Cup win this week. Thomas’ T8 at the U.S. Open marked his best ever finish at that event, although it should be noted that he gained over +9 strokes there around and on the greens to accomplish the feat.
DraftKings DFS Strategy
Cash Games: The salaries this week have the top two players in the field very closely ranked and with lots of potential value in this elite field event,
starting with Dustin Johnson ($11,100) here seems pretty standard. DJ is coming off a dominating playoff run and finished T6 at the last major—he also holds the course record at Shadow Creek. After DJ, the decisions get a bit tougher, but I like the potential here for big weeks from SungJae Im ($8,700-see below) and Hideki Matsuyama ($9,200). Matsuyama may have missed the cut last week but ranks second in this field in SG:TTG play over the last 50 rounds. Other potential cash game targets for this no-cut event include Joaquin Niemann ($7,500), Russell Henley ($7,100) and Lanto Griffin ($6,300).
Tournaments: We have quite a few of the top players coming in here off larger breaks and could see one or more get off to good starts on this new season. Rory McIlroy ($10,600) likely intrigues me the most from that group. Rory was beginning to look sharper towards the last few events of last season and if he takes a step up with his irons here, he could break that winless streak this week. Rickie Fowler ($8,100) also stands out as a potential bounce-back candidate. He looked fine in the first round of last week and won’t have to worry about getting through a weekend cutline here. Other potential GPP targets here include the likes of Bubba Watson ($7,300-see below), Matt Kuchar ($6,900) and Adam Long ($6,600).
My Pick: SungJae Im ($8,700)
Im has now finished inside the top 30 in three straight starts and posted his best finish ever at a major championship just three weeks ago, when he landed a T22 at Winged Foot. The results may not sound like anything special, but the stats bear out that the South Korean’s ball-striking has gone to another level of late. The winner of the Honda Classic back in March has gained over +2 strokes off the tee in his last three events and even led the field in that stat at the Shriners last week. His approach game—which was lagging badly in the summer—has also looked much better over the last month or so and he’s now gained over +2 on approaches in three of his last four starts.
The only thing holding Im back from contending of late has been sharpness around and on the greens, but the 22-year-old should gain confidence from a solid week around the greens last week where he gained strokes ATG for the first time in four starts. Im challenged on the Asian swing last year and with his new found confidence off the tee, he should be able to take advantage of the longer scoring holes on Shadow Creek—which will certainly demand solid ball-striking to take advantage of. He’s a solid value for me here at under $9K.
My Sleeper: Bubba Watson ($7,300)
Watson hasn’t been seen on the PGA TOUR since the U.S. Open a month ago but his performance at that event and leading up to it should be cause for optimism on his chances this week. Bubba has gained strokes on Approach and Off the Tee now in six of his last seven starts and his numbers in those areas put him up with the elites in this field in terms of ball-striking. Shadow Creek and its unique design, which features plenty of left to right doglegs, should cater to his creativity off the tee and it’s worth noting that Bubba’s best results have often come at more classic venues like Augusta National and Riviera where longer Par 4’s and Par 5’s tend to put more of an emphasis on Off the Tee play.
Bubba’s putting is an every week concern but on a tougher course that weakness should at least be mitigated (a little). The no-cut nature of this event also guarantees us that a Friday putter blow-up won’t sink our lineups. At just $7,300, he makes for a solid mid-tier target this week in big field GPPs on DraftKings.
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