This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
THE CJ CUP @ SHADOW CREEK
Winner's Share: $1.755M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: North Las Vegas, Nev.
Course: Shadow Creek Golf Course
2019 champion: Justin Thomas (The Club at Nine Bridges)
The Las Vegas Swing continues this week but it will definitely have more of a Carolinas feel, with a hint of Augusta. This was supposed to be the start of the Asian Swing with the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges, ZOZO Championship and WGC-HSBC Champions. The first two tournaments have been relocated to the United States and the WGC event has been canceled, all pandemic-related. So after the Shriners was played in Vegas last week, the top players in that field will stay in town for the 78-man, no-cut CJ Cup @ Shadow Creek.
Shadow Creek was made famous by the 2018 match between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. We'll get to the course in a minute, but first the loaded field. While it does not include either Tiger or Phil, it does include 33 of the top 40 in the world rankings, including the top four in Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy and seven of the top-10 [Editor's note: After this was posted, news broke that Johnson has tested positive for COVID-19]. But the focal point initially will be on another golfer. Brooks Koepka returns after a two-month absence (knee) and a lost 2020-21 season. Now outside the top-10 for the first time in more than two years (No. 11), Koepka was sidelined for the playoffs and U.S. Open. If his knee holds up, he likely will head to Los Angeles for next week's ZOZO. There, we WILL see Woods, the defending champion, as the run-up to the Masters takes on greater urgency with the third major of the year just five weeks away.
The field normally includes about a dozen Asian Tour players, part of the arrangement with the CJ Cup being played in South Korea. The pandemic largely curtailed the Asian contingent from coming stateside – teenage sensation Joohyung Kim is one of just a few Asia-based golfers on hand. That alone makes the field much stronger than in past years, but with it also being the United States, many more top guys are here. One other golfer to keep close tabs on is Tony Finau, who withdrew from last week's Shriners after testing positive [Editor's note: Finau has withdrawn]. Scottie Scheffler tested positive before the U.S. Open and in his two tournaments back his game has been nothing like it was beforehand.
Shadow Creek currently ranks 26th on Golf Digest's 100 greatest U.S. courses. It was the vision of hotel magnate Steve Wynn as his private club, designed by Tom Fazio and built at an exorbitant price. Opened in 1989, it now belongs to MGM Resorts International and, according to Wikipedia, is available to "a limited number of MGM hotel guests," technically making it a public course. (Just wait till John Q. Public finds out it costs $500 a pop.) It is far from a typical Vegas desert track; heading north out of the city, you'll feel as if you are in a different part of the country as Fazio turned flat desert into hills and canyons with lush foliage, trees and a lot of water – lakes, ponds, creeks, waterfalls, you name it. With water on half the holes, there are a lot of forced carries onto the smallish Bentgrass greens.
It is a stock par-72. Overall, the course is long, but at altitude. There are some short holes, including the drivable 324-yard 11th whose green is guarded by a deep front bunker. There's a bit of a twist at the end, as Nos. 16 and 18 are both par-5s, though they couldn't be more different; 16 is 622 yards and 18 is nearly a hundred yards shorter at 529, albeit with water the whole way. In between is the signature 17th, at 154 yards the shortest hole on the course with a green guarded by four bunkers and a pond. Here's how Fazio described it on the course's website: "On the short and majestic 17th hole, for instance, the green has three times the width than the depth, so yardage control becomes of paramount importance. Like the 12th at Augusta, any tee shot allowing use of a putter for a second shot is an accomplishment."
As for lineup construction, it's always a challenge to find low-owned guys in small, no-cut fields. We fully expect one of the top guys to win this tournament – they usually do. And with the chance for one of the low-priced guys to creep into the top-25, this sounds like a good week for a stars-and-scrubs approach.
Weather-wise, more of the same from last week at TPC Summerlin. Highs of around 90 every day with no chance of rain and little wind.
Fun but also important Shadow Creek factoid: Dustin Johnson holds the course record. It's a 66, which seems quite high for a non-tournament round. That means the course is really hard or we could see that record obliterated. Before a redesign lengthened the track, Woods and Fred Couples shared the record at 60. Now that's more like it.
Key Stats to Winning at Shadow Creek
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.
• Strokes Gained: Around the Green/Scrambling
• Strokes Gained: Approach/Greens in Regulation
• Strokes Gained: Putting
• Bogey Avoidance
We don't have much to go on in determining key stats at Shadow Creek and, therefore, a champion's profile. The 2018 match between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson doesn't really help. There does seem to be a lot of opportunity for things to go sideways with all the water on the course, plus the small greens, so golfers will have to be precise with their yardage. Missed greens in general sound like trouble at this track. And with the greens averaging only 5,500 square feet, greens surely will be missed, putting a premium on greenside wedge play. At 12 on the Stimpmeter, greens will be average speed, helping poor putters, as should the smaller size of the greens.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Jon Rahm - $11,300 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 10-1)
You would think Dustin Johnson ($11,100) would be the top guy on the DK board – he's the No. 1 golfer in the world, he's been playing as well or better than anyone else and he's more familiar with Shadow Creek – as noted, he owns the course record – than the rest of the field. So why is Rahm the top price and a co-favorite with Johnson on golfodds.com? We haven't heard anything abut DJ, but it sure seems as if someone has. [Editor's note: After this was posted, news broke that Johnson has tested positive for COVID-19]. So we turn to Rahm, No. 2 in the world. He's one of the best of the big names in SG: Around-the-Green, having ranked 24th on Tour last season. We think that will be a critical stat this week. He also ranked second in bogey avoidance last season.
Justin Thomas - $10,800 (12-1)
Thomas is the No. 3 choice on both DraftKings and golfodds.com, and that makes complete sense. His biggest weakness is putting, and we think that can be overcome this week. He ranked 18th on Tour in SG: Around-the-Green last season – even better than Rahm – and led the Tour in both SG: Approach and Tee-to-Green.
Xander Schauffele - $10,300 (14-1)
Matthew Wolff has been on a tear of late, recording consecutive runner-up finishes. But the people who set the prices/odds like Schauffele better, as do we. It's not an easy call, but Schauffele is the steadier player, not as likely to go super low but also not as likely to blow up. He wasn't elite around the green last season, but was was better than most of the big names with a ranking of 37th. Plus, he ranked seventh on Tour last season in SG: Tee-to-Green. He also was fourth in bogey avoidance.
Tier 2 Values
Hideki Matsuyama - $9,200 (30-1)
All the markings for a good week are there for Matsuyama. He's coming off a missed cut at the Shriners, but that birdie-fest was not a good fit for him. Before that, he finished in the top-25 in seven of his previous nine events. He ranked an elite fifth in SG: Around-the-Green last season, and the course should help mask his putting deficiencies.
Harris English - $8,600 (40-1)
Like Matsuyama, English missed the Shriners cut last week. It was only his second missed cut in a year. He repeatedly has shown his ability to compete in great fields on tough tracks – most recently, he tied for fourth at the U.S. Open. English ranked 27th on Tour in SG: Around-the-Green last season, 25th in Approach and 10th in Tee-to-Green. He was even 18th in putting. Further, he ranked third in bogey avoidance.
Louis Oosthuizen - $8,500 (40-1)
Oosthuizen has been playing great of late – tough tracks, birdies-fests, it doesn't matter. He's finished top-25 in five of his past six starts, with two of them doubling at top-6s. He was absolutely terrible in SG: Around-the-Green last season, ranked 176th. But it likely was an aberration. He ranked 28th the year before and eighth the year before that. And in the early going this season, he's 27th.
Tier 3 Values
Abraham Ancer - $8,200 (50-1)
Ancer still hasn't won on Tour, but he clearly is a player on the rise, now ranked 21st in the world. We don't think he'll win this week, but at this price he doesn't have to. He has shown he can hold his own in the smaller, loaded fields; he finished top-15 in both of this year's WGCs. The one concern is his play around the greens – he's been ranked outside the top-100 in SG: Around-the-Green the past three seasons. Ouch! But he still managed to rank 12th in bogey avoidance last season and is a good putter. Ancer is coming off a solo fourth last week at the Shriners.
Brian Harman - $7,200 (100-1)
Harman has a well-above-average short game, both wedge and putter. He's made eight straight cuts, including two majors and two playoff events, and is coming off a tie for 13th at the Shriners. He ranked 15th in SG: Around-the-Green last season.
Russell Henley - $7,100 (80-1)
There were two parts to Henley's season: the first part, which we should ignore, and the second part, which is why he's listed here. He had a couple of top-10s after the restart, then added a third at the Northern Trust before concluding his season with a top-25 at the BMW Championship. He ranked third last season in SG: Approach, 14th in Tee-to-Green, 38th in Around-the-Green and was an impressive fifth in bogey avoidance. The poor-putting Henley even tied for 27th last week at the Shriners birdie-fest.
Mackenzie Hughes - $6,800 (100-1)
Hughes is now ranked inside the top-50 OWGR, so finding that kind of golfer at sub-$7,000 is welcome. We've written before that he simply became a different golfer after the restart – actually, beginning with his runner-up at the Honda soon before the stoppage. He finished top-10 in all three playoff events. He has an elite short game, the only player ranked in the top-10 last season in both SG: Around-the-Green and Putting.
Byeong Hun An - $6,600 (125-1)
Yes, we're actually doing this – picking Ben An, someone who has missed four cuts in his past seven starts, including three in a row. But ... but ... in the three made cuts, An has tied for 12th twice at the WGC-Memphis and BMW, and for 22nd at the PGA. In other words, three harder tracks. Three of those four recent missed cuts came at low-scoring tournaments, where An's poor putter simply cannot keep up. This week, he has a better chance. He ranked 14th in SG: Around-the-Green last season and led the entire Tour the year before.
Lanto Griffin - $6,300 (150-1)
We wanted to identify at least one golfer $6,500 or lower; there's a chance that some of them can crack the top-25, especially with four rounds to deliver. Griffin is whom we like best. He finished top-20 at the PGA, top-10 at the BMW and made the cut at the U.S. Open. He ranked in the top-90 in every strokes-gained category last season – not many golfers can say that. Griffin has quietly moved into the top-70 in the world rankings.