THE CJ CUP is in its fifth year, and with its move to the mainland U.S., it’s become the second stop in a two-week stay in Vegas for the PGA TOUR. But while the event is staying in Vegas, it will played at a different venue than 2020 — the Summit Club has taken over hosting duties. Numerous big names return action here as the limited field, no-cut event features a $9.75 million prize pool with some big FedEx Cup points at stake.
Former champions of this event in the field include Justin Thomas (twice), Brooks Koepka and Jason Kokrak, who broke through here last season for his first career win. Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth all return to action here, as well — though after competing in the Ryder Cup a couple of weeks ago. The 78-man field has no Friday cut attached to it and will see all players in the field get in four rounds for DFS.
The Summit Club—Las Vegas, Nevada
Par 72, 7431 yards; Greens: Bentgrass
Like its predecessor from last year (Shadow Creek), the Summit Club is a pure Las Vegas indulgence that’s set in between Red Rock Canyon and the strip. Despite being set in the middle of the desert, the venue doesn’t necessarily look like a typical desert course and has plenty of lush fairways with different sorts of trees and vegetation strewn throughout. Like last year’s venue, it was also designed by Tom Fazio, who has designed numerous courses on TOUR, including the recently seen Caves Valley at the BMW Championship and Congaree (which hosted the Palmetto Championship earlier this season).
By all accounts, the Summit Club should play at least somewhat similar to last year’s venue. It’s a longer par 72 at over 7,400 yards, but the bigger expansive fairways mean most players won’t have issues off the tee. Positional play can be key given the contours of Fazio greens, and we saw many less powerful players, like Russell Henley and Tyrrell Hatton, compete at the Shadow Club last season — despite the longer yardage.
The venue features plenty of bunkers (64). Many of them are of the larger variety and will act as main defenses around the greens. Despite being in the middle of the desert, there are four water hazards involved, and the fairways here are Bermuda. Overall, expect this to play a little closer to some of Fazio’s other designs found in the southeastern states (Quail Hollow, Congaree) than the venue last week, which was also in the desert.
If we look at stats from last season, the leaders here all had decent weeks ball-striking but really set themselves apart on approach and on the greens. Three of the top-five finishers gained +6.5 or more strokes putting for the week while two of the top-five finishers here gained less than a stroke off the tee (Jason Kokrak, last year’s winner, gained just 0.7 strokes OTT last year). Expect the Summit Club to play somewhat similarly, and look for players with great approach games and solid recent putting form to excel.
2021 Outlook: While there are some high winds expected in and around Vegas early in the week, it looks like most of the poor weather will have cleared up by the time the event starts. Winds are to hover in the eight to 10 mile per hour range for the first two days but should die down as the week progresses. The biggest factor here might actually be the cold. Highs in the morning are expected to be around 55 degrees Fahrenheit and could make the course play a little longer and tougher than expected. For showdown purposes, given the lack of wind, the afternoon wave may get to deal with slightly easier conditions this week simply because of the better temperatures. Either way, there isn’t much to worry about here this week, as we have mostly mild conditions and a shortened field.
Last 5 winners and Winning Trends
*the event was held at Shadow Creek last year
2021—Jason Kokrak -20 (over Xander Schauffele -18)
**the previous events were all held in South Korea at The Club 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. That win marked his third win in seven starts.
· Brooks Koepka was also coming off a solid playoff stretch when he won this event, but had also won the PGA Championship five events prior.
· Three of the last four winners of THE CJ CUP had just landed wins in their prior five starts against elite fields, and each of the last four winners here had landed at least one top-10 finish in a FedEx Cup playoff event (Kokrak was T6 at the BMW Championship in 2020).
Finding Values (DraftKings Sportsbook)
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful putting 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.
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
1. Sam Burns ($9,800; T14-win-T18): Burns continued his fall series assault last week with a T14 finish at the Shriners. Burns looked like he might go back-to-back for a moment last week, but his putter failed him down the stretch. He continued to rip the cover off the ball, though, gaining over +5.5 strokes ball-striking (after gaining +14.4 the week before).
2. Sungjae Im ($9,500; win-T31): Im is another young player who has shown remarkable consistency over the last few months or so. He broke through for his second career win last week, gaining over +5.0 strokes on approach and putting. Im ranks first in strokes gained total stats over the last six weeks, and as a high volume player (who is used to playing a lot), shouldn’t be discounted here just because he won last week.
3. Marc Leishman ($8,600; T3-T4): Leishman has shown some spark in the fall series after a relatively disappointing 2020-2021 season. He has now gained over +7.0 strokes putting in his last two starts but gained strokes throughout the bag at the Shriners, as well. Perhaps his putter regresses here, but his game is on the uptick.
4. Talor Gooch ($7,200; T11-T4): Gooch comes into this week’s event having made the cut in 11 of his last 12 starts. He’s come out of the gates hot, finishing T4 and T11 in the first two fall series events. Gooch’s approach game is one to watch as he’s now gained +2.6 and +5.6 strokes on approach in his last two starts. There’s no reason to think he falters here and makes for a nice long-shot betting target.
5. Harold Varner III ($7,300; T11-T16): Varner enters this event off a week of rest (he also experienced the birth of his first child last week). He actually rates out third in strokes gained total stats over the last six weeks and has finished T11 and T16 in two fall series events. Despite his routine getting interrupted here, he’s in great form and a not a player to discount this week.
DRAFTKINGS DFS STRATEGY
Cash Games: Tail Thomas and Tony
This field features a lot of Ryder Cup players returning to action after a week off, and the player who was starting to heat up the most prior to that event was Justin Thomas ($11,100). Thomas is expensive, but as I’ve outlined below, there are lots of reasons to like him this week. Tony Finau ($9,600) showed a lot of moxie in the playoffs, too, and we’ve seen players at THE CJ CUP ride that momentum to big weeks here. He’s also a great birdie maker, and in a no-cut event, on a course that isn’t overly penal to wayward hitters off the tee, it’s hard to argue against him. Louis Oosthuizen ($9,300) remains remarkably consistent and has the advantage of playing in Vegas last week. For under $9.5K he looks like someone you can rely on here for 50/50’s and HU’s games. For value, the likes of Talor Gooch ($7,200), Charley Hoffman ($7,200), Cameron Tringale ($7,000) and Jhonattan Vegas ($6,300) all stand out as solid options.
Tournaments: Makeup with Matsuyama
Hideki Matsuyama ($9,400) was the apple of many people’s eye at the Shriners but faltered to a T67 finish. He was in great form just a few weeks ago, though, and will be playing in Vegas for the second week in a row (unlike many of the top players). Take the lower sentiment and ownership in GPPs here. Shane Lowry ($8,300) is another player who could be headed for lower ownership given he’s yet to play in a fall series event. He has been doing a lot of travel but is coming off a T4 over seas and has been looking ready to breakthrough for some time now. Some other names to consider for bigger field tournaments include the likes of Cameron Smith ($9,200), Harold Varner III ($7,300) and Rasmus Højgaard ($6,100).
MY PICK: Justin Thomas ($11,100)
THE CJ CUP has traditionally seen a lot of big-name winners, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see one of the handful of top-10 players in this field take down the title. For me, the man with the best chance of coming in and blowing the proverbial doors off this field is Justin Thomas. Thomas’ last win came last March at THE PLAYERS, which isn’t a huge gap for most players, but is an increasingly long one for Thomas. He went through a dip in play mid-summer last year but has recently shown the elite iron form he’s become known for. Thomas enters this event having finished T4 in two of his last three starts (both of which were playoff events) and has gained +3.0 or more strokes on approach in three of his last four starts.
Typically, when we start seeing Thomas heat up with his irons like this the wins aren’t too far behind. His putter failed him for large parts of 2021, but he’s now gained over +2.0 strokes on the greens in two if his last three starts. The Summit Club is a Tom Fazio design, the same designer who helped redesign Quail Hollow for the 2017 PGA Championship, the site of JT’s biggest triumph. I won't be shocked if he gets back on track here with a monster week, and I like paying up for him the most of all the elites in DFS as a result.
MY SLEEPER: Aaron Wise ($7,400)
Wise will be making his third fall start in a row this week, and the Las Vegas native will certainly be entering this event confident with his start to the year. A T26 at the Sanderson Farms was followed up by a T8 at the Shriners, which had him hovering just below the lead most of the week. Wise showed improved ball-striking at the Shriners last week, as he gained over +3.0 strokes on approach for the first time since last June. When Wise gets confident with his irons we generally start to see him compete, as he accomplished a similar feat on the back of similar stats at the Memorial (T9).
That all brings us to this week, where Wise will now be able to compete in very similar conditions to last. We’ve seen the 25-year-old do some solid work against strong fields in the past (T17 PGA Championship last year, T5 Northern Trust 2018), and he’s also got some great form at other Tom Fazio designs, grabbing a T2 at Quail Hollow in 2018 and a T17 at Caves Valley (BMW Championship) just last month. Wise looks like a good value given his momentum and is a nice top-10 target at +450 this week on the DraftKings Sportsbook.
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