In normal times, this week the PGA TOUR would be halfway-around-the-world, for the CJ Cup, which is usually hosted at the stunning Nine Bridges course on Jeju Island, South Korea.
However, due to all the changes in schedule that we have seen this year with the coronavirus, we are faced with another “anomaly” tournament this week. After hosting the Shriners last week, the state of Nevada is pulling back-to-back duty as this years version of the CJ Cup will be held at the highly-regarded Shadow Creek Golf Course in Las Vegas stepping in as a “one-year only” host.
For those who have not personally played Shadow Creek (Originally it was only available to guests of the MGM Resort, and at $500 a round it remains as one of the most expensive layouts to play in North America), it might be familiar as the site of the infamous ‘The Match’, held between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in 2018.
Shadow Creek was built and designed in 1989 by Tom Fazio as a shining example of top-notch resort golf, but as far as how this track will come across as a tournament course is anybody’s guess, although we do know that it has has been extended to around 7,560 yards for its Par 72, and so it will show some of the length necessary to thwart today’s game.
Shadow Creek is actually quite lush despite its desert location (on purpose, as it has a very much oasis-type feel), and there are many large trees lining the fairways and it has a green, almost parklands feel to it, but it can play quite dry because of the desert, leading the Bentgrass greens to run sometimes as fast as 14 on the stimpmeter, making them amongst the slickest around, and a stern test for the players this weekend. The fairways are quite wide but the rough can be left to a nasty length, and with slick, undulating greens the players could be in for a decent test this week, and a premium will be on keeping the ball in play off the tee and on approach.
This is also a no-cut event, as 77 golfers will go four rounds to see who takes home the Cup. It will be quite hot in the desert this week, but it doesn’t seem that the wind will be much of a factor, and that could help to lower scores, depending on how the players navigate the tricky green complexes.
Must- Have #1: Daniel Berger
In a no-cut event we are always looking to guys who have shown an exhibit in class for quite some time, and who have also shown the ability to go low and create scores over a four-day period, and few come to mind more so than this former Florida State Seminole and Jupiter resident.
Berger has just been on a tear for what seems like most of this year, carding nine Top-15s in his last twelve starts, with a form-line of 34-15-25-3-13-2 reaching back to mid- July. Few golfers have been consistently hotter, and we figure this trend will continue in the desert.
As we stated above, in the no-cut sector, we always look for those who can score, and over his last 24 rounds Berger ranks 7th in Birdie or Better % in the field, as well as 3rd in Strokes Gained: Par 5, 17th Off The Tee, 17th in Strokes Gained: Approach, and 20th in Ball Striking.
Those seem to suggest that Berger, who has played well in high-profile events so far this season, will be in for another solid week at Shadow Creek for the CJ Cup.
Must- Have #2: Russell Henley
On the weekend that UGA faces off against Bama in a high profile football game, it is only behooving that one of UGA’s finest golf alums gets a nod from DFI in a high-profile PGA Tour event.
Hence we turn to the mercurial Russell Henley, who at times over his career has been as good as anyone, followed by long spells of mediocrity or bouts of injury, which is a shame given the talent that we all know him to possess.
Fortunately, something has turned for this Macon, GA native as of late, making 10 out of his last 12 cuts, with four Top-10s in that stretch, and a really solid formline of 27-25-8-9-37 going back to the PGA Championship. For him to be priced as low as he is on both sights is a welcome sign for those in the DFS community.
On paper, he fits the bill for Shadow Creek as well, coming in over his last 24 rounds 2nd in the field in SG: Approach, 6th in Ball Striking, 2nd in Bogey Avoidance, and 17th in SG: Par 4. We look for Henley to have a good run of it this weekend in the desert.
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