This article is part of our FanDuel PGA series.
THE CJ CUP @ SHADOW CREEK
Course: Shadow Creek Golf Course (7,527 yards, par 72)
Winner: $1,755,000 and 500 FedExCup points
The CJ Cup has been one of the better events added to the PGA Tour schedule in the last five years. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic will break up the typical Asian Swing that draws out some of the best players in the world. In its place for this season, is the first of two West Coast swings. The CJ Cup will be the middle event of that newly-formed swing out west, after the Tour just wrapped up an exciting week at TPC Summerlin just across town. The 78-man, no-cut field is still stacked this week, featuring five of the top six players in the OWGR. 2018 CJ Cup winner Brooks Koepka will be making his return to competition after having not played since the Wyndham Championship in early August due to knee and hip injuries. Tyrrell Hatton will be making the long trip in this week from Wentworth where he wrapped up his BMW PGA Championship last Sunday. Shadow Creek is one of the most exclusive clubs in the world and was most recently on the national radar back in 2018 when Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson played for $9 million in "The Match." The weather will be perfect once again this week, with temperatures around 90 degrees and relatively light winds outside of round one. Birdies and fantasy points should be plentiful.
Key Stats to Victory
Shadow Creek tips at over 7,500 yards, but it should play much shorter considering the desert heat. The greens are pretty average in size with a decent amount of undulation. Much like last week, the biggest key will be giving yourself enough birdie/eagle looks to keep up. A high ranking in SG: Approach and GIR percentage this week should equate to a strong result. Unlike TPC Summerlin, however, the rough will be prepped to reach four inches, which will affect approach shots more than we saw a week ago. Bentgrass greens should run about 12 on the stimpmeter, which is pretty much Tour average. If you keep the ball in play off the tee, strike your irons well, and have a decent conversion percentage on the greens, that should be the formula to taking home the fourth edition of the CJ Cup.
FanDuel Value Picks
Jon Rahm ($11,800)
Rahm might be only 25, but he knows desert golf. The Arizona State product has finished inside the top-25 in eight of nine starts at the Shriners Open, The American Express, and the Phoenix Open, the three main desert tournaments on the PGA Tour. With limited course knowledge among the field this week, that should give Rahm even more of an advantage. He has two wins and six top-25's in his last seven starts overall. Rahm finished last season No. 1 in SG: Total with impressive numbers across the board.
Justin Thomas ($11,700)
Thomas has won two of the first three CJ Cups. He clearly had a handle on Nine Bridges and I see him adapting quite easily to Shadow Creek. Thomas has gone T2-T8 at the TOUR Championship and U.S. Open. He also ranked top-two on Tour last season in SG: Approach, SG: Tee-to-Green, SG: Total, and birdie average. When there are birdies to be had, Thomas just has a knack for taking it lower than the rest.
Matthew Wolff ($11,200)
A runner-up at the U.S. Open followed by a playoff defeat last week at the Shriners Open, certainly isn't a bad way to begin the new season. Wolff really has established himself as an elite fantasy option every week. He should be motivated after coming up just shy at across town at TPC Summerlin. The Oklahoma State product is currently gaining over 2.8 strokes per round from tee-to-green this season and is converting over 92 percent of his putts inside of 10 feet.
Viktor Hovland ($10,100)
From one Oklahoma State prodigy for another, Hovland has been just as strong as a ball-striker as his counterpart. He ranked top-three in the field at the U.S. Open in FIR and GIR for the week en route to a T13. Hovland has made the cut in all 12 of his starts since the COVID-19 break, with eight top-25's mixed in. Putting was one of the few concerns with Hovland coming out on Tour, but he turned it around an finished 16th in putts per GIR and 32nd in three-putt avoidance last season. That second PGA Tour win is coming very soon for these Oklahoma State teammates.
Longer Shots with Value
Louis Oosthuizen ($9,700)
Oosthuizen is playing his best golf in years, having made the cut in his last nine starts with five top-25's in that stretch, including a solo third at the U.S. Open. The South African currently ranks top-35 in SG: Approach, SG: Around, SG: Putting, and SG: Tee-to-Green early in the season. Oosthuizen closed with a 64 at TPC Summerlin to finish top-20, so he should be ready to attack this week in virtually the same conditions.
Abraham Ancer ($9,400)
Ancer quietly has three top-5 finishes in his last five starts on desert courses, including a strong fourth-place showing last week at TPC Summerlin. The 29-year-old is not long off the tee, but he is very accurate and won't make silly mistakes. Last season Ancer ranked top-45 on Tour in all of SG: Off-the-Tee, SG: Approach, SG: Putting, and SG: Tee-to-Green. His putter is red hot right now after that performance last week.
Joaquin Niemann ($8,800)
Niemann is coming off a T13 last week at the Shriners Open in which he was top-10 in SG: Off-the-Tee, scrambling, and GIR. That was preceded by another top-25 at the U.S. Open when he had a tremendous week with the putter. The 21-year-old is among the best young players on Tour from a ball-striking perspective, and if he finishes anywhere around where he is now in terms of SG: Putting on Tour (18th), Niemann is going to deliver monster results.
Russell Henley ($8,500)
If you're looking for a very strong ball-striker with value this week, look now further than Russell Henley. Last season he ranked top-15 on Tour in SG: Approach (3rd), SG: Tee-to-Green (14th), GIR percentage (5th), and proximity to the hole (13th). Henley has also been one of the most accurate drivers out there since he came on Tour. He finished a solid T27 at TPC Summerlin last week, knocking off the rust after having taken nearly a month and a half off. Henley is going to have a surplus of birdie opportunities this week, it's just a question whether or not he can convert on a solid percentage of them.
Strategy Tips This Week
Based on a Standard $60K Salary Cap
With this being a new venue, we can cross course history off things to think about this week. As I've highlighted in the value picks, players who have played well at other desert courses should be considered. It's also important to realize that a number of these players have only played once or twice in the last month plus, so rust is a very real possibility. Players that were in the field a week ago at TPC Summerlin could have a slight edge considering this is the second week in a row they will see the exact same conditions, albeit at a little tighter course. Ball-striking numbers should still tell the story at Shadow Creek, however. Other good values I considered this week were Brendon Todd ($8,900), Brian Harman ($8,300), Ryan Palmer ($7,800), and Adam Long ($7,600). Please note that pre-tournament favorite Dustin Johnson has withdrawn after a positive test for COVID-19 and Tony Finau had to withdraw again this week after a positive COVID-19 test prior to last week's Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.