The CJ Cup at Shadow Creek betting preview

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The PGA tour stays out West in Vegas this week for the CJ Cup, an event that is normally hosted over on Jeju Island in South Korea. With the Covid-19 situation still a major concern, worldwide, the PGA moved the event over to mainland USA this year to coincide with its other Vegas event and make it a two week stay for the PGA players in Nevada. 

This year the CJ Cup will be hosted at one of Vegas’ most exclusive courses in Shadow Creek, a venue that, up until 2000, was fully private and almost impossible to play (without the right invite). Times have changed though and the club is now open to be booked for a large green fee by most MGM guests. As exclusive as the venue is, it still hadn’t hosted any type of pro golf event until 2018, when Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods staged their first version of “The Match” there. This year though the 78-man field of the CJ Cup will all get to experience four rounds at Shadow Creek as the event continues its tradition of being a limited field, invitational event that features no cut line. 

Despite being held in the Fall, this event has a small and prestigious list of winners already with Justin Thomas (2017 and 2019) taking the title here in two of its three years in existence. Riding the momentum train was big for both Thomas and this event’s other winner, Brooks Koepka (2018), as both men had gained huge wins in the late summer, prior to winning here. The form of those two past winners is worth noting as this year’s version has drawn out more elite players than normal. 

World number one Dustin Johnson is making his CJ Cup debut and is coming off a solid, albeit disappointing T8 at the US Open. Both the aforementioned Thomas and Jon Rahm will be here too, meaning all three of the world’s top-three players at the moment will be in attendance. In all, the event will have 16 of the world’ top-20 players in the field making it similar to most World Golf Championship events in terms of strength of field. 

The CJ Cup at Shadow Creek course details

Shadow Creek (Las Vegas, Nevada)

Par: 72, 7527 yards

  • Greens: Bentgrass 
  • Design: Tom Fazio (1990)
  • Past Champions (*different venue)
    • 2019 (20-under par) Justin Thomas
    • 2018 (21-under par) Brooks Koepka 
    • 2017 (9-under-par) Justin Thomas

This will be the first time in the event’s history that the tournament is played outside of the Club at Nine Bridges in Jeju Island, so looking at past stats from those events are pretty irrelevant for any research. Adding to the difficulty this week is the fact that its current host, Shadow Creek, has never hosted an official PGA Tour event–outside of the exhibition match between Tiger and Phil a couple years ago. The venue is shrouded in secrecy in a lot of ways and how it will play will likely be a big source of debate this week.

At its core, the Tom Fazio designed venue measures in as a fairly lengthy Par 72 at 7520 yards. That puts it in the same kind of territory as other classic Par 72’s on the Tour schedule like Quail Hollow and Augusta National. From a design standpoint these two courses may be good comparables for this week and it’s worth noting that Fazio did have some hand in the recent redesign at Quail Hollow. Despite sitting in the middle of the Vegas desert, Shadow Creek’s fairways aren’t really surrounded by much sand and instead include trees, man made creeks and other water hazards that are typical to many parkland courses. Overall the venue has water in play on nine holes with a healthy dose of sand (74 bunkers) throughout as well. 

If Shadow Creek’s comparisons with other classic venues bear any resemblance to how the aforementioned courses are played by the pros we should expect most of the scoring here to be done on the Par 5’s this week. Typically at Augusta the four par 5’s in play there will be played as the easiest four holes for the week and with three of the Par 5’s at Shadow Creek measuring in at under 600 yards expect that be the case here this week too. 

Elevation change is also a factor with lots of rolling fairways and approach shots that will lead into elevated greens. Bentgrass greens are in play and how those are setup will likely go a long way to deciding how the course was played. With the elevation and rolling nature of the course, lightning fast greens could easily make this venue play a lot tougher and more diabolical than it looks in the pictures. 

Good weather is in the forecast this week with highs expected to be in the low 90’s most days so there should be some scoring available here. That said, this venue has a lot of money behind it and has been prepping for the PGA for over a month now. We should expect that it will be ready for the players and will want to make a good first impression to the public when it’s seen on camera. Expect some tough/tricky conditions, especially on and around the greens, with the winning score somewhere in the low-to-mid teens for the week. 

2020 CJ Cup betting discussion and picks

From an odds perspective, here are where the last three winners of this event generally went off, from an outright perspective, pre-event for the year of their win:

  • 2019- Justin Thomas +700
  • 2018- Brooks Koepka +800
  • 2017- Justin Thomas +700

As you can see from the past incarnations of this event, the favorites have absolutely dominated this one. Brooks Koepka was actually second favorite to Justin Thomas back in 2018 but still went off well under +1000. It’s worth noting that each of the past three years the winners here had either won the PGA Championship or won a PGA playoff event, prior in the year, and were coming in with extremely good momentum and form.

Betting favorites to win the 2020 CJ Cup

Jon Rahm +1000

The Spaniard will certainly be disappointed with his T23 finish at the US Open last month, especially after he’d just beat out the world’s best in a playoff a couple weeks prior at the BMW Championship. Rahm’s performance dipped a little at the last major, where he lost strokes around the green for the first time in five starts, and his putter has dipped a touch over his last two starts as well. A quick rebound could be in store here but the small drop in form is enough for me to skip him this week in the outright department.

Justin Thomas +1200

Thomas is coming in off his best-ever finish at a US Open (T8). The American was extremely sharp on and around the greens at Winged Foot but didn’t have his usual consistency off the tee there as he lost a stroke in that area for the week. Thomas hasn’t been as elite with his ball-striking of late and was relying more on his scrambling to get him around at the last major. He obviously loves this event and has now seen 9 of his 13-wins on Tour come in no-cut fields. However, he’s not bringing quite the same form in this season that we saw prior to his 2017 and 2019 wins. 

Xander Schauffele +1400

Schauffele has had an insanely consistent 2020 so far but a frustrating one for anyone who has been chasing him in the outright betting market. The highlight of his season was arguably when he was able to post his fourth top-10 finish at the US Open (in four career starts) when he landed a T5 at Winged Foot. Overall, Xander has now landed four top-10 finishes in his last six starts. His ball-striking hasn’t been as consistent of late, but he’s got things done with a superb around the green game and putter that sees him rank 3rd in SG: Putting stats over the last 50-rounds. The number here keeps getting shorter but he’s a proven winner who has already won three limited field events in his short career, making him a pretty rational target for this week. 

Patrick Cantlay +1800

Cantlay saw a solid return to form last week, landing a T8 in the Shriners event. Despite the solid finish, Cantlay is still seemingly struggling to find that elite level of ball-striking that he’s become known for, as he lost over a stroke on his approaches in the final round last Sunday, struggling to a 73. This one is an easy pass for me as his outright number doesn’t mesh with his overall performances of late.  

Brooks Koepka +2500

Koepka is returning to action this week after a two month hiatus from the game to rest and rehab an injured knee. Koepka had arthroscopic surgery on his knee at the end of last year but reinjured it at some point in 2020. Either way, he’s apparently got himself back to a place where he feels comfortable enough health-wise. He’s absolutely capable of coming in and challenging right away but low expectations should probably be had here given this will be his first competitive action since the Wyndham Championship back in Augusta. 

Favorite bets (each-ways and outrights)

For more info on types of golf bets available each week, be sure to check out more info here. Each way bets refer to bets that include a bet to win and a bet to place (usually to at least top-5 but sometimes are available up to top-8 or more). 

Rory McIlroy +1400 or better (outright)

While these kinds of betting numbers are starting to get more common on McIlroy, it’s still worth noting that just a few months ago, he was going off under +1000 nearly every event and was still offered around +1600 at most sportsbooks at the US Open just a month ago. When you figure in the smaller field of this week (and the fact we are missing a couple of elite players like Bryson DeChambeau and Adam Scott) the odds here still seems solid for a player who has won at least once on the PGA in every year since 2014, except one (2017). 

Form-wise, McIlroy is starting to show some signs of really breaking out too. He gained +5.5 Off the Tee at the US Open in his last start and has now gained strokes putting and around the greens in his last two. His recent venture into fatherhood undoubtedly had some impact on his level of play but more recently he’s been touting increased swing speed on social media.

As mentioned previously, Shadow Creek really should set up well for players who can blast it off the tee and give themselves great looks into the long par 4’s and Par 5’s. With his mind back on his game and his stats showing signs of something big, I like taking a shot with Rory at these prices here. 

Matthew Wolf
Jul 7, 2019; Blaine, MN, USA; Matthew Wolff greets the crowd after winning the 3M Championship golf tournament at TPC Twin Cities. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Matthew Wolff +2500 or better (outright)

Wolff’s betting price is at almost the exact same spot it was at last week when I featured him here… last week. While losing to Martin Laird is a tough pill to swallow, there’s nothing but positives to take from his performance at the Shriners. Despite taking over three weeks off, Wolff came into the weaker field event and again dominated Tee to Green–like he was supposed to–gaining over +6 strokes for his second event in a row on his approaches. 

Wolff’s stats are really starting to jump off the chart too as the 21-year-old now ranks second in this field over the last 24-rounds in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green metrics and sixth in Off the Tee stats. Of the top 20-players in the world right now, only Jon Rahm has been more consistently great than Wolff in that area of late and, with Shadow Creek featuring four gettable Par 5’s and a drive-able Par 4, you have to love the setup here for players like Wolff who can consistently crush it with their driver.

The well-roundedness of Wolff is also starting to build as he’s now gained over a +1-strokes around the greens in each of his last four starts. It’s also worth noting that he found some confidence with the putter last week too, making several key par saves on Sunday. With him being such a prolific winner in college, and with the confidence building every week, staying on him here at this price for one more event seems worth the investment. 

Louis Oosthuizen +4000 or better (each-way)

Oosthuizen didn’t make the article last week but he’s been firmly on the radar for some time now. The South African really started to excel in the latter part of the summer, putting up a T6 at the last WGC event in Memphis and a solo 3rd-place at the US Open. There was no precipitous dropoff from him last week either as a T19 finish at the Shriners included the round of the day on Sunday as he shot 64–gaining +3.1 strokes on approach–to close out his week. 

Oosthuizen’s ball-striking has been trending well for over a month now but he’s shown signs that his putter and short game may be ready to break out, as he’s gained strokes putting in four straight starts now and has displayed his usual finesse around the greens of late, gaining +2 or more strokes ATG in his last two starts. Like Wolff, his price this week is very similar to what we saw at the Shriners and with a week of solid prep in Vegas already under his belt, I like taking a shot with King Louis in the each-way department once again here. 

SungJae Im +4000 or better (each way)

Im suffered through a tough summer which saw him miss–uncharacteristically–three cuts in five starts at one point. He’s turned things around pretty quickly though, landing a T13 last week, a result which marked his fourth event in a row inside the top-30. The run may not sound like much but this is a player who had missed three cuts in five starts at one point this summer. Also, while Im hasn’t really got himself in contention yet this Fall, the signs are there that a breakthrough may be coming soon. The South Korean has now gained +2 or more strokes Off the Tee in three straight starts and actually led the field in that category last week at the Shriners, an impressive feat considering Off the Tee powerhouses like Matthew Wolff and Bryson DeChambeau were in the field. 

Im’s been posting solid results lately and it’s worth noting that he did show a little more life on the greens two weeks ago when he gained +4.4 strokes putting at the Sanderson Farms event. This is the type of field that you’d eventually expect the talented Im to be able to compete in, over time, and with him starting to showcase some of the best ball-striking numbers of his career, the time seems right here to back him. 

Bubba Watson +8000 or better (each way) and +225 top-20

I don’t want to delve too far down this field in the odds department, especially considering that the prior three winners here have all been among the top-2 in the odds. Still, the numbers we’re getting to take on Bubba Watson, on a classic Par 72 setup, just seem too good to pass up. Bubba has showcased crisp ball-striking most of the last Summer and early Fall, gaining +10.9 strokes Tee to Green at the US Open alone. Unfortunately, his performance on the greens at most stops have been enough to keep him pinned down and outside the top-10 in most cases–including the US Open where he lost an enormous -6.6 strokes putting for the week.

Watson has always done his best work at longer, classic designs though and, like Augusta National, Shadow Creek and it’s elevation changes should give him a great chance to practice some of the creative shot-making he’s become known for. In need of a couple big weeks to reassert himself into the top-50 players in the world, I’d expect Bubba to come out firing here and love the price we’re getting for an each-way or top-20 bet on him this week. 

Matchups (72-holes)

Rory McIlroy +105 over Justin Thomas 

  • Rory’s off the tee play should give him a pretty solid advantage here. Thomas had been getting away with solid results due to his around the green play but Shadow Creek’s hazard guarded fairways feel like they could be trouble for him.
  • Despite Thomas being favoured here, Rory tied him at the US Open and vastly outperformed him from a Tee to Green perspective
  • McIlroy was building confidence around the greens in his last couple starts and he feels discounted here at plus-money 

SungJae Im -106 over Tommy Fleetwood

  • SungJae has really been coming on with his ball striking (as mentioned above) while Fleetwood has been all over the place of late and ranks just 50th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking stats over the last 50-rounds
  • While he’s posted some solid results over in Europe, Fleetwood has had trouble getting on track in the States (for whatever reason) losing strokes on approach here in his last four starts
  • Im’s ball striking should shine through here and the fact he played in Vegas last week is a big plus for him given the altitude adjustment
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