Best bets for PGA Tour CJ Cup, DP World Tour Mallorca Open

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Keegan Bradley broke a four-year winless drought (2018 BMW Championship) with a victory at the ZOZO Championship last weekend by one stroke over Rickie Fowler and Andrew Putnam. Bradley, a winner at 33-1, was pushed all the way by a resurgent Fowler, the 36- and 54-hole leader, on Sunday. But after bogeys on 14 and 16, the 36-year-old Bradley held his nerve to birdie the next and find par on the last hole to win by a stroke, despite his closest rival posting a birdie on the 18th.

The PGA Tour now returns to the stateside to hold the CJ Cup at Congaree Golf Club in South Carolina. Six of the OWGR Top 10 and 15 of the OWGR Top 20 are teeing it up this week and this is likely the last event of 2022 with this number of top players in one field.

Rory McIlroy (7-1) is the defending champion of the CJ Cup, which he won at the Summit Club in Las Vegas last year. Jon Rahm (9-1) won the Open de España in his home country two weeks ago. OWGR No. 1 Scottie Scheffler (12-1) and Justin Thomas (16-1), aside from the Presidents Cup, last played a full tournament two months ago at the Tour Championship. Matt Fitzpatrick (22-1) was runner-up in a playoff a few weeks ago at the Italian Open but missed the cut last week in defense of his title at Valderrama. Hideki Matsuyama (40-1) also failed to defend a title last week as he finished T-40 at the ZOZO Championship.

Collin Morikawa (33-1), who was the runner-up to McIlroy in this event last year, still seeks his first win of the 2022 calendar year.

Viktor Hovland (20-1) was this column's nearest challenger for a win in Japan last week but never made a move on Sunday and finished T-5. Sam Burns and Jordan Spieth (both 28-1) are knocking on the door of the OWGR Top 10.

The CJ Cup was initially established as an event held in South Korea from 2017 to 2019 and that nation's top two players — Tom Kim (28-1), a winner in Las Vegas two weeks ago, and Sungjae Im (22-1) — are both in outstanding form. Along with Thomas, Scheffler, Morikawa, Burns and Spieth, Max Homa (25-1), Cameron Young (28-1) and Billy Horschel (40-1) were part of the victorious Presidents Cup team last month in Charlotte.

The Event​

The CJ Cup began in 2017 and had been annually held at Nine Bridges Golf Club in Jeju Island, South Korea, but in 2020 was moved to Shadow Creek Golf Course in Las Vegas because of COVID-19 and stayed in Las Vegas at Summit Club for 2021 before moving to Congaree Golf Club in South Carolina this year. The field consists of only 78 players and is a no-cut event.

The players that make the field are based on the following criteria:

  • Top 60 available players from the previous season's final FedEx Cup standings
  • Winners of the KPGA Championship and Genesis Championship on the Korean Tour
  • Top 3 available players from the Korean Tour order of merit
  • Top available player from the Asian Tour order of merit
  • Top available Korean player from the Asian Tour order of merit
  • Top next 3 available Korean players from the Official World Golf Ranking
  • 8 sponsor exemptions (5 restricted to PGA Tour members;1 to the winner of a Korean amateur qualifier;2 unrestricted)

The Course

Congaree Golf Club was designed in 2017 by Tom Fazio. It is in South Carolina's Low Country (about 30 miles north of Savannah, Ga.) in the town of Gillisonville. The course is set on more than 3,200 acres of undeveloped forest and lakes, which was once a rice plantation. The architecture has touches of the famous Australian sandbelt courses, with the intention to have the track playing fast and firm. Congaree is certainly different from your standard Tour stop-off with masses of sandy waste areas and little rough, so players are either on the fairway or in the sand, with elevated greens featuring shaved run-off areas.

Congaree plays as a par-71 of 7,655 yards, which is the longest for a par-71 ever on the PGA Tour. However, it may play a little shorter with longer hitters being able to cut corners over the Oak trees, some of which are more than 300 years old. Plenty of shorter hitters were in the mix on the first page of the leaderboard at the one-off 2021 Palmetto Championship held at Congaree.

The TifGrand Bermuda fairways are very wide (51.4 feet on average, largest on the PGA Tour) but stray and you can become a victim of numerous fairway sharp edges like those found in the Australian sandbelt, with balls plunging into various hazards. All sandy expanses at Congaree are deemed natural areas, so players are permitted to ground their club on address at any point. Rough is virtually nonexistent.

The course is relatively flat, with a change of only about 30 feet from its highest to lowest points, but there are some deep bunkers and vast waste areas. Sand is all over the place. There are also 10 water danger holes on this Congaree track.

The Champion Bermuda green complexes are raised. Many are also pitched with slopes angled toward sand and water hazards. The layout does have some links features. The greens are an average of 6,150 square feet and will roll at a faster 12.5 feet on the stimpmeter.

The longest par-4s measure in at 475 (17th), 490 (11th), 510 (9th), 520 (6th), and 540 (8th) yards. The third (360 yards) and 15th (also 360 yards) offer risk-reward aspects. Congaree is a typical par-71 with three par-5s, with two on the front (the second at 595 yards and fourth at 645 yards), while the 12th is the shortest at 580 yards.

Congaree was voted Golf Digest's best new private course in 2018 and also was rated No. 39 by the same publication on the 100 Greatest Courses in America list.

Here are some other Tom Fazio designs that have been featured on the PGA Tour:

Tom Fazio designs

Original:

· Atunyote GC: Turning Stone Championship 2007-10

· Conway Farms GC: BMW Championship 2013, 2015, 2017

· Eagle Point: Wells Fargo Championship 2017

· Raptor Course Greyhawk GC: Fry’s.com Open 2007-2009

· Shadow Creek Golf Course: CJ Cup 2020

Redesigns and renovations:

· Riviera Country Club: Genesis Invitational

· Quail Hollow: Wells Fargo Championship 2003-2016, 2018, 2019, 2021 and 2017 PGA Championship

· Merion: 2013 U.S. Open

· Oakmont: 2016 U.S. Open

· Seaside Course at Sea Island: RSM Classic

Of the Fazio designs/renovations, Shadow Creek (Fazio once called Congaree a "low country Shadow Creek") and Quail Hollow would appear to have the most correlation to Congaree. Other non-Fazio correlations include Kiawah Island (Ocean Course), PGA National, Kapalua (Plantation Course), Memorial Park, Corales, and Vidanta Vallarta.

Recent History/Winners

2021: Rory McIlroy (-25/263); 22-1

2020: Jason Kokrak (-20/268); 100-1

2019: Justin Thomas (-20/268); 15-2

2018: Brooks Koepka (-21/267); 10-1

2017: Justin Thomas (-9/279); 8-1**

* playoff win over Marc Leishman

Note: The 2017-19 CJ Cup events were played at Nine Bridges Golf Club in Jeju Island, South Korea; the 2020 event was played at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas and last year's event was played at the Summit Club in Las Vegas.

Statistical Analysis

Last year's Palmetto Championship did not really indicate an advantage for Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee nor Strokes Gained: Approach (perhaps a slight lean toward approach), so Strokes Gained: Ball Striking combines SG: Off-The-Tee and SG: Approach.

Strokes Gained: Ball Striking (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Rory McIlroy 56.2
  2. Sungjae Im 50.3
  3. Brendan Steele 50.2
  4. Mito Pereira 47.2
  5. Scottie Scheffler 45.5
  6. Corey Conners 43.6
  7. Luke List 42.2
  8. Cameron Young 38.9
  9. Collin Morikawa 38.7
  10. Justin Thomas 38
  11. Russell Henley 35.8
  12. Tom Kim 35.1
  13. Hideki Matsuyama 34.7
  14. Shane Lowry 34.2
  15. Keith Mitchell 33.7

On a nearly 7,700-yard track, players will have plenty of long irons to the greens at Congaree.

Proximity Gained 200+ Yards (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Brendan Steele 24.3
  2. Sungjae Im 19.7
  3. Max Homa 19.6
  4. Collin Morikawa 19.2
  5. Gary Woodland 18.8
  6. Cam Davis 18.2
  7. Emiliano Grillo 16.4
  8. Trey Mullinax 15.8
  9. Justin Thomas 15.7
  10. Alex Smalley 15.6
  11. Mito Pereira 15.4
  12. Cameron Young 14.6
  13. Aaron Wise 14.3
  14. Wyndham Clark 14
  15. Shane Lowry 13.9

Note: Average feet gained per shot toward the hole.

Congaree rated as the eighth-most difficult course in 2021 to gain strokes around the green. With no rough, players are faced with chips on short grass with tight lies. The numerous runoff areas surrounding the greens can have your ball rolling 40-50 yards away from the green complex. Many of these slopes lead to waste areas or water.

Strokes Gained Around The Green (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Danny Willett 18.2
  2. J.T. Poston 15.9
  3. Billy Horschel 15.7
  4. Cameron Young 15.7
  5. Si Woo Kim 15.2
  6. Justin Thomas 15.1
  7. Jordan Spieth 14.7
  8. Brian Harman 14.7
  9. Bio Kim 14.6
  10. Andrew Putnam 13.4
  11. Kevin Kisner 13.3
  12. Rickie Fowler 13.1
  13. John Huh 12.8
  14. Max Homa 12.7
  15. Matt Kuchar 12

There are 130 acres of sand at Congaree. Players will have to get up and down out of the bunkers with more regularity than on average compared with other tour stops.

Sand Saves Gained (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Matt Kuchar 10.5
  2. Shane Lowry 9.4
  3. Matt Fitzpatrick 7.1
  4. Billy Horschel 7.1
  5. J.T. Poston 7
  6. Alex Noren 6.3
  7. Hideki Matsuyama 5.7
  8. KH Lee 5.6
  9. Tommy Fleetwood 5.2
  10. Tom Hoge 4.9
  11. Rory McIlroy 4.9
  12. Justin Thomas 4.8
  13. Seonghyeon Kim 4
  14. Danny Willett 3.9
  15. Andrew Putnam 3.5
  16. Denny McCarthy 3.5

Congaree had around 10% more difficulty in terms of three-putt percentage vs. the average PGA Tour stop during the 2021 season.

Three-Putt Avoidance (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Aaron Wise 8.59
  2. Tyrrell Hatton 7.59
  3. Keegan Bradley 7.72
  4. Alex Noren 7.15
  5. KH Lee 6.53
  6. Cam Davis 6.19
  7. Max Homa 6.19
  8. Chris Kirk 6
  9. Christiaan Bezuidenhout 5.54
  10. Hideki Matsuyama 5.36
  11. Sahith Theegala 5.11
  12. Russell Henley 4.84
  13. Andrew Putnam 4.55
  14. Davis Riley 4.51
  15. Sungjae Im 4.48

Congaree is designed to play firm and fast, especially on the greens.

Strokes Gained Putting on Fast, Bermuda Greens (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Sam Burns 34.3
  2. Kevin Kisner 29.4
  3. Scott Stallings 22.9
  4. Matt Fitzpatrick 22.6
  5. Brendon Todd 22.5
  6. Denny McCarthy 21.4
  7. Harris English 21.3
  8. Christiaan Bezuidenhout 20.3
  9. Troy Merritt 17.4
  10. Billy Horschel 16.1
  11. Alex Noren 15.1
  12. Wyndham Clark 12.7
  13. Matt Kuchar 11.7
  14. Davis Riley 11.5
  15. Sepp Straka 11.3

Selections​

Sungjae Im (22-1, BetMGM)

Im finished the 2021-22 PGA Tour season in terrific form, finishing runner-up three times in his final five starts, including in the season-ending Tour Championship.

Following a successful Presidents Cup in which he was the joint-top scorer on the International team with 2.5 points, he made his first start of the 2022-23 season at the Shriners Open two weeks ago, finishing seventh and responded to a slow start in last week’s ZOZO Championship to finish a solid 29th, signing off with his best round of the week on Sunday, a 66.

Bermuda greens are also historically his best putting surface.

Sam Burns (31-1, Circa Sports)

Burns went a disappointing 0-3-2 at the Presidents Cup four weeks ago, and finished T-30 at the Sanderson Farms Championship in defense of his title but did lead the field there for Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee.

The man from Louisiana has won four times in the last year and a half and all of the wins were in the South with three of the four coming on Bermuda greens.

Cameron Young (31-1, Circa Sports)

Young had a stellar rookie season on the PGA Tour. Starting with a second-place finish in the Sanderson Farms Championship on just his third start on tour at the end of last year, he added six top-3 finishes, including four more runners-up, with the best of them coming in major championships, finishing second in the British Open and third in the PGA Championship.

He is one of the bigger hitters off the tee in the golf world, ranking second on tour last season for Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee and third for Driving Distance.

However, it is the short game added to his strong game off the tee that can get him in the winner's circle for the first time. Young rates fourth in the field for Strokes Gained: Around The Green over the last 36 rounds.

Tyrrell Hatton (46-1, Circa Sports)

Hatton disappointed last week with a T-45 in Japan at the ZOZO Championship but had two top-10s before that on the DP World Tour.

He was one of the few top-end players to play in the Palmetto Championship at Congaree last year and finished T-2. Furthermore, he fits the Congaree-Shadow Creek correlation as he finished T-3 at Shadow Creek in the 2020 CJ Cup.

Taylor Montgomery (60-1, Circa Sports)

Montgomery's T-15 at the Shriners Open in Las Vegas two weeks ago broke a streak of six top-10 finishes, including his first two starts this fall as a full-fledged PGA Tour member.

While this field is a step up in class for Montgomery, he should fit the profile at Congaree considering Shadow Creek serves as his home course as his father, Monte, is the general manager of the exclusive Las Vegas course.

Mito Pereira (80-1, Superbook Sports)

After a T-4 at the Shriners in Las Vegas and a good round of 67 to start the ZOZO last week, it looked like Pereira was back. However, he shot a disastrous 7-over 77 on Friday to take himself out of contention. Nevertheless, he rebounded to shoot 6 under on the weekend.

Granted this is a better field, but he is now over double the price he was in Japan.

Brady Kannon’s selections

Justin Thomas (18-1)

Thomas is a past CJ Cup winner, but it did not come at this golf course. He won at Nine Bridges in South Korea. Congeree in South Carolina is a big, long golf course with some of the widest fairways these players will see all season. Thomas is plenty long but sometimes gets in trouble when missing fairways. That won't be a problem here. This Fazio design compares another, Quail Hollow Club, where Thomas has finished seventh, 21st, 26th and won the PGA Championship in 2017. His iron game is arguably the best in the field and he putts well on speedy, firm, Bermuda grass greens. Chapultepec in Mexico, the site of the WGC Mexico from 2017 through 2020, is also a golf course that sets up similarly to Congaree. In four trips to Chapultepec, Thomas has finished fifth, second, ninth and sixth.

Jordan Spieth (31-1)

Another course that’s similar to Congaree is Trinity Forest in Texas, which hosted the Byron Nelson Championship in 2018 and 2019. Spieth finished 21st and 29th there. He also has finished 12th and 14th in Mexico and was 28th at the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow. Spieth ranks fourth in the field over the last 24 rounds in proximity to the hole from 200 yards or farther. I mentioned that Congaree is long. and this is a common approach distance players will face. It is also an incredibly sandy course. Almost like a golf course was plopped down on top of a beach — similar to the Ocean Course in nearby Kiawah Island, S.C. Spieth ranks second in the field in Sand Saves.

Jason Day (70-1)

It has been a while since we have seen Day contend, but I think he has a shot this week. He finished eighth two weeks ago at the Shriners in Las Vegas. His approach play and ball striking have been excellent. We know he has wonderful touch on and around the greens and he can still bang it off the tee. Like Justin Thomas, he can sometimes struggle with accuracy off of the tee, but that shouldn’t be much of a problem on this course. Day never made the trip to play the WGC Mexico, but he's been magic at Quail Hollow with a win, a ninth and two Top 25 finishes. He also finished ninth at the 2017 PGA Championship.

Gary Woodland (150-1)

A long bomb on yet another player who can bomb the golf ball. With the length of this golf course and how wide the fairways are, I favor length this week far more than accuracy. Woodland is 10th in the field for Driving Distance over the last 24 rounds, 14th in Sand Saves and 18th in proximity to the hole from 200-plus yards. Woodland has two top-5 finishes at Quail Hollow, finished 22nd at the PGA and has taken 12th and 17th in Mexico. We've also seen him flourish on Bermuda grass greens in the past, at the Honda Classic and in Phoenix.

 

​Mallorca Golf Open

After Jon Rahm won the Open de España in a six-shot runaway two weeks ago in Madrid, fellow Spaniard Adrian Otaegui did the same thing last weekend at Valderrama, setting a record of 19 under par to win the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucia Masters (his fourth DP World Tour title) by six strokes over Joakim Lagergren and nab a 55-1 winner for this column. Otaegui's victory was our fourth win on the DP World Tour and our 14th outright (9 PGA TOUR, 4 DP World Tour, 1 LIV Golf Tour) win in 2022.

Otaegui (18-1) is also in the Mallorca Golf Open field this week, which closes out a three-week Spanish swing. Rasmus Hojgaard (12-1) finished fifth last week at Valderrama and is the tournament favorite in Mallorca. Ryan Fox (16-1) has two victories (Ras Al Khaimah Classic and Alfred Dunhill Links Championship) and a runner-up (Dutch Open playoff loss) in 2022 and ranks third on the DP World Tour Race to Dubai Standings behind only Rory McIlroy and Matt Fitzpatrick.

Eddie Pepperell (20-1) and Richard Mansell (25-1) have both had good comeback seasons on the DP World Tour but still seek their elusive victories in 2022.

Jeff Winther won the inaugural Mallorca Golf Open last year and is back to defend his title at 80-1.

The Event

The Mallorca Golf Open was initially a one-off event last year that took the schedule spot from the Trophee Hassan II event annually played in Morocco that was canceled because of COVID-19. Last year's tournament was the first DP World Tour event to be played in Mallorca since the Iberdrola Open in 2011.

The Course​

Last year's Mallorca Golf Open was played at Golf Santa Ponsa in Mallorca. Mallorca is the largest island in the Balearic Islands, which are part of Spain and located in the Mediterranean. It is a popular holiday destination, particularly for British and German travelers seeking sun, sand, sea and sangria. This year's event moves a few miles northeast to the outskirts of Palma, Spain, and will be held at Son Muntaner Golf Club.

Son Muntaner was opened in 2000 and plays as a par-71 of 6,952 yards. It is a Kurt Rossknecht design, and with fairways flanked with trees on some holes and water on others, this layout looks like a typical risk/reward resort-style test. A mixture of straight and dogleg holes will keep the players thinking and challenging, sloped greens will offer some challenge to the players who find the putting surfaces in regulation.

Nevertheless, the course is short and with par-5s measuring 573, 533 and 549 yards, birdies and eagles will be possible for those who keep their ball in play off the tee. Five par-4s of 400 yards or less also offer opportunities.

Greens were renovated a few years ago, with all putting surfaces updated to V8 Creeping Bentgrass, which allows for faster greens.

In terms of Kurt Rossknecht designs, we’ve seen a few on the DP World Tour in recent years, which may also offer some clues who can play well this week in Mallorca:

2020 Italian Open, Chervo Golf Club

2017 Paul Lawrie Match Play, Bad Griesbach

2015, ’16 Porsche European Open, Bad Griesbach

2022, ’21, ’19, ’17, ’15, ’13, ’11, etc. BMW International Open, Munchen Eichenried

Recent History/Winners

2021: Jeff Winther (-15/265); Golf Santa Ponsa; 80-1

Selections​

Andy Sullivan (30-1, DraftKings)

Sullivan finished 11th last week at Valderrama but ranked fifth for both SG Approach and SG Tee to Green over the four days.

Nicolai Hojgaard (35-1, BetMGM)

Twin brother Rasmus heads the betting this week with a top-5 at Valderrama last week; however, a lower-scoring track like this suits Nicolai a little better. Nicolai ranked first last week for Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee.

Connor Syme (50-1, DraftKings)

Syme, a Scotsman, is not too far removed from his mid-summer form of back-to-back runners-up in Wales and Northern Ireland.

Sebastian Garcia Rodriguez (70-1, DraftKings)

Garcia Rodriguez finished T-5 last year in Mallorca and also T-8 in Tenerife. He also finished runner-up in Cadiz in 2019 on the Challenge Tour, so the Spaniard gets up for home games.

Sebastian Soderberg (100-1, BetRivers)

Soderberg has missed six of his last eight cuts but finished T-2 last year in Mallorca.

Niklas Lemke (130-1, DraftKings)

Lemke was T-7 last year in Mallorca and has gone well in Spain before with a T-4 in the Spanish Challenge on the Challenge Tour back in 2018.

 

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