The CJ Cup, traditionally played at Nine Bridges in South Korea, will be moving to Shadow Creek in Las Vegas, Nev., for a one-year stint. The course hosted the original Tiger vs. Phil match in 2018, but it’s virtually unknown for the most part. The Tom Fazio-designed course measures over 7,500 yards and will feature tree-lined, lush fairways, waterfalls and tiered bentgrass greens.
The past three winners of this tournament in South Korea include Justin Thomas (twice), who hit on +750 and +800, respectively, and Brooks Koepka at +1000 in 2017. The course will be new to most of the 78-player field, and there’s some positive expected value (+EV) plays in a strong field in a no-cut event. Four out of the top five in OWGR are playing, with Dustin Johnson withdrawing on Tuesday after testing positive for COVID-19.
The DJ withdrawal shifted most of the odds and although I still like Justin Thomas at +1000, the “value” is with McIlroy. Rory hasn’t played his best since the restart and he’ll be the first to admit it. His approach was inconsistent, which wasn’t the case between the 2019 TOUR Championship and the 2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational last season when he rattled off five consecutive top-5 finishes and won twice. McIlroy’s game was rounding into form toward the end of last season, finishing with back-to-back top-8s at the TOUR Championship and the U.S. Open, gaining 7.4 strokes tee-to-green at Winged Foot. When Rory is on, his driver sets him apart, even from the world’s best. His putting has improved since the four-week streak of losing on the greens in August, which is a sign his entire game is coming together. Rory’s won multiple no-cut events from WGCs to the TOUR Championship and could be in line for another one this week.
Hopefully, you guys snagged Scottie at +4500 or even at +4100 before the DJ news, but Scheffler is still fair-market value at this number. His missed cut last week was disappointing, but he shot 69-67 en route to missing the weekend by one stroke. Scheffler’s played in two tournaments since testing positive for COVID-19 and should feel back in a routine this week. Three top 5s from the PGA Championship to the TOUR Championship last season is no easy feat, and if the CJ Cup becomes a birdie fest we should want the guy who shot 59 less than two months ago.
Believe it or not, Conners has gained strokes putting in his past two events, which hopefully is a sign for things to come and not an outlier. The ball-striking is elite with Conners, and with limited data to draw from this week, backing ball-strikers may be the prudent strategy. With only 78 players in the field, a top-20 should be in the range of outcomes for Conners, who ranks second in SG: Ball-striking since the restart.
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