The DFS preview and picks for the CJ Cup
Course: Nine Bridges Golf Club (Jeju Island, Korea)
Yardage: 7,196 – Par 72
Purse : $9.5 million
Field: 78 Players
Recent CJ Cup
Shubhankar Sharma and Gary Woodland both stalled last Sunday, allowing Marc Leishman to come away with a dominating five-shot victory at the CIMB Classic. Leishman (and, frankly, most of the field) made easy work of Kuala Lumpur. Fueled by a 10-under 62 on Friday, Leishman finished with a final score of 26-under, matching Justin Thomas’ 2015 winning score for the lowest in CIMB history. The victory is the Aussie pro’s fourth career PGA title and third in the last 18 months.
The majority of last week’s field will make the trip from Malaysia to Jeju Island, off the mainland in South Korea, for this week’s event, the CJ Cup. Just like last week, this will be another event with a shortened 78-man field and no mid-week cut. Of the 78 players, 60 players in the field will be from the FedEx Cup points list, and the other 18 players will be allowed in on various exemptions.
While the bulk of the field from last week’s CIMB Classic will be traveling from the Malaysia to Korea, there are a few notable players this week that didn’t play at Kuala Lumpur. Brooks Koepka, Jason Day and Hideki Matsuyama will join Justin Thomas as this week’s headliners, making for a more top-heavy field than we had last week. Making their 2018-19 season debuts this week and adding some fire to the field are Adam Scott, Charley Hoffman, Tyrrell Hatton, Brian Harman, Alex Noren, Ian Poulter and Charl Schwartzel. The 19-year-old Chilean sensation Joaquin Niemann will join the field this week as well, although he played a few weeks ago at the Safeway Open, so this is not his season debut. The past two tournament winners Kevin Tway and Marc Leishman will be their attempting to collect their second win early in the 2018-19 season. Other notables who were in the field last week, like Paul Casey, Xander Schauffele, Gary Woodland, Louis Oosthuizen, Jason Dufner, Branden Grace, Emiliano Grillo, Chesson Hadley, Billy Horschel, Ryan Moore, Kevin Na, Pat Perez, Brandt Snedeker and Cameron Smith, will all be teeing it up on Jeju Island this week.
Now that I’ve gone through the field, let’s talk about what they are going up against at Nine Bridges Golf Club. Nine Bridges is a Par 72 course that is built into the side of a volcano on Jeju Island. Playing out to 7,196 yards, length won’t be a disadvantage for shorter hitters, as this is about as short as a Par 72 gets in the PGA world. With length being a less important factor, the precision of drives and approaches is where there’s value this week making strokes gained: Tee-to-Green a valuable stat for players this week. The first edition of the CJ Cup (last year) saw some very high scores as it wound up being one of the toughest courses on the PGA Tour schedule last year. On Par 72 tracks, we usually point to the Par 5s as a key stat since there’s a full complement of them. However, the Par 5s are very scorable for everyone this week, so we’re looking more at Par 4 scoring as a key factor for success. With Nine Bridges being located on an island, the wind can whip through at any given moment on this open layout course. Simply take a look at the scores from last year to see how variable the conditions can be there. Funny things like Justin Thomas following a 63 with a 74, Xander Schauffele following a 69 with an 82, or Grayson Murray shooting +25 for the tournament are examples of the difficulties this course presents. Players who are both efficient in bogey avoidance and birdie average per round will need to exhibit those behaviors this week to gain every edge they can get.
CJ Cup DFS Picks
Justin Thomas ($11,600) Justin Thomas is as chalky as it gets this week, but there’s no real conceivable reason to go against him. The most talented player in the field, Thomas showed no Ryder Cup hangover, finishing T5 last week at the CIMB. He’s the reigning champion of this event and has absolutely dominated this Asian swing over the years with two CIMB titles, and a CJ Cup Title to his name. For whatever reason, Thomas steps his game up the further he travels for an event. Of his nine career wins, three have been in Asia and two have been in Hawaii. As if there wasn’t enough reason to go with him, Thomas also comes in as the number one value on DailyRoto’s value optimizer.
Louis Oosthuizen ($8,600) Louis Oosthuizen reminded us what he can do last week, shooting the same score as Thomas and finishing T5 at the CIMB. Oosthuizen was dominant on the Par 4s last week, shooting a combined 10-under par on them. Oosthuizen comes in on the DailyRoto value optimizer as the 12th-best value overall. His signature win at the British Open in 2010 suggests that he knows how to handle any conditions that come his way, something that may be very relevant this week.
Kyle Stanley ($8,200) Perhaps the most correlated stat for success this week is strokes gained: tee-to-green. When I think tee-to-green, I think Kyle Stanley. Stanley is known as one of the best tee-to-green players on Tour. As usual with great tee-to-green players who aren’t Top 10 in the world, he tends to struggle with putting. While putting is always important, Stanley can negate his disadvantage with his stellar tee-to-green play. Lastly, Stanley’s win in 2017 at the Quicken Loans saw him win with a final score of seven-under par, evidence that it’s to his advantage when guys aren’t pouring in birdies left and right. Last year, Justin Thomas won here with a final score of nine-under par.
Rafa Cabrera-Bello ($7,900) I always love grabbing Cabrera-Bello when he’s in the mid-high 7K range, especially in a field that isn’t overly stacked like this one. Cabrera-Bello tends to get slightly underrated since he mostly stays on the European side of the pond. Cabrera was Top 60 (top third) in birdies bogey avoidance and top 25 in strokes gained: tee-to-green and Par 4 scoring last season. He finished 11th last year at the CJ Cup and comes in right behind Oosthuizen as the 13th-best value this week.
Jimmy Walker ($6,800) While Jimmy Walker wasn’t great last year, he had a semi-bounce back run where he reeled of four Top 20 finishes in five tournaments while rebounding from his recent battles with Lyme Disease. It was only two calendar years ago that Walker won the PGA Championship for his sixth title in a three-year stretch. While Walker isn’t that player anymore, he is still a solid player who can provide value, especially at this price tag. When looking at Walker’s game, I just want to see improvement and proof that he is feeling well enough to contend. Walker did that last week at the CIMB, improving every single round, a rare-feat in a four-round golf tournament. He opened with a 73, followed that with a 71 on Friday, a 68 on Saturday and closed with a 66 on Sunday. So by my math, Walker should be shooting in the mid 50s or so by this Sunday….OK maybe not, but he’s not a bad value play this week.
Andrew Putnam ($6,700) The fellas at DraftKings are forgetting that Andrew Putnam had a career year last year. I’m aware that the Barracuda Championship is not the pinnacle of PGA tournaments, but Putnam proved himself last year with his first career victory and a runner-up finish to Dustin Johnson at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. Putnam was one of the best Par 4 players last year, ranking inside the Top 20, and he ranked 16th in bogey avoidance last season as well. He comes in as another Top 20-value play, according to DailyRoto.com’s value tool.