PGA Tour Picks: CJ Cup at Shadow Creek

Normally at this time of year, the PGA Tour would be headed to Asia for the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in South Korea and the Zozo Championship in Japan.

Instead, because of precautions over the Coronavirus pandemic, the CJ Cup will be played this week at Shadow Creek Golf Course in Las Vegas and the Zozo will be held next week at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks.

“The PGA is truly appreciative of CJ Group’s commitment to bring the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek to the United States,” said Ty Votaw, the PGA Tour’s executive vice president of international operations.

“While our players have always looked forward to visiting Korea, the current circumstances provided this new opportunity to bring the event to Las Vegas, which will also provide brand exposure and awareness to the viewing audience in the United States and around the globe.”

The CJ Cup has lined up a top field that includes second-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain, defending champion and third-ranked Justin Thomas, fourth-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, sixth-ranked Collin Morikawa of La Canada Flintridge and Cal, eighth-ranked Xander Schauffele of La Jolla and San Diego State and 10th-ranked Tyrrell Hatton of England.

Top-ranked Dustin Johnson also committed, but tested positive for Covid-19 on and withdrew from the tournament on Tuesday.

Other big names who will tee it up include Sergio Garcia of Spain, Tommy Fleetwood of England, Shane Lowry of Ireland, Tony Finau, Paul Casey of England, Matt Kuchar, Rickie Fowler, Ian Poulter of England, Gary Woodland, Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose of England, Bubba Watson, Keegan Bradley, Patrick Cantlay, Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, Adam Hadwin of Canada, Si Woo Kim of South Korea, Brandt Snedeker and Mackenzie Hughes of Canada.

Also in the field is 10th-ranked Brooks Koepka, who has not played since the Wyndham Championship some 10 weeks ago to recover from a lingering knee injury that required surgery late last year.

“I’m excited to get back out there at next week’s the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek,” said Koepka, who has seven PGA Tour victories, including four major titles in the last three seasons.

“It’s been a challenging but productive two months of rehabbing my injury. Looking forward to starting the new season in Vegas. As a past champion, I commend everyone at the CJ Cup for moving forward with the tournament during this difficult time.”

Among the growing list of young guns as the PGA Tour plays for the second straight week in Las Vegas following the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open last week are Scottie Scheffler, Sebastian Munoz of Colombia, Cameron Champ, Abraham Ancer of Mexico, Matthew Wolff, Dylan Frittelli of South Africa, Viktor Hovland of Norway, Cameron Smith of Australia, Joaquin Niemann of Chile, Lanto Griffin, Carlos Ortiz of Mexico, Talor Gooch, Andrew Landry, Adam Long and Tom Hoge.

For those who are playing for the second straight PGA Tour event, there are worse places to form a two-week bubble than Las Vegas.

BEST BETS

  1. Justin Thomas, United States – Captured the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges for the second time last year by two strokes over Danny Lee of New Zealand, also beating Marc Leishmann of Australia in a playoff three years ago. Thomas has won twice this year, giving him 13 PGA Tour victories, and tied for eighth in the U.S. Open at last month.
  2. Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland – Rory was in the hunt much of the way in the U.S. Open at Winged Foot before closing with a 75 to finish tied for eighth. He won four times in 2019 and has 18 victories on the PGA Tour and 30 in his professional career, but will be trying to win for the first time in 2020 when he plays the CJ Cup for the first time.
  3. Jon Rahm, Spain – Following a disappointing tie for 25th in the U.S. Open last month, Rahm will try to bounce back when he tees it up for the first time in the CJ Cup. He captured the Memorial and the BMW Championship last season en route to finishing fourth in the FedEx Cup standings, after winning four times around the world in 2019.
  4. Tyrrell Hatton, England – After missing the cut in the U.S. Open, Hatton flew home to England and claimed a four-stroke victory in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. It was his fifth European Tour victory and ninth as a professional. He tied for sixth in the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges last year after tying for 14th the season before.
  5. Patrick Cantlay, United States – Opened with a 63 last week and made a strong bid to win the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open for the second time in four years before closing with a 73 to tie for eighth. Yet another one of the top players in the world who is sticking around in Las Vegas to play in the CJ Cup for the first time at Shadow Creek.
  6. Tommy Fleetwood, England – Headed back to the U.K. after missing the cut in the U.S. Open, and lost in a playoff at the Scottish Open before tying for 13th in the BMW PGA Championship. Fleetwood’s best finish on the PGA Tour last year was third in the Honda Classic. Tied for 20th in only appearance in the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges last year.
  7. Xander Schauffele, United States – Recorded a solo fifth in his last start in the U.S. Open at Winged Foot after finishing in a tie for second behind Dustin Johnson in the Tour Championship to wrap up last season. Schauffele tied for 72nd in the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in 2018 and tied for 48th last year, but looks for better at Shadow Creek.
  8. Shane Lowry, Ireland – The reigning British Open champion, who will get an extra year with the Claret Jug because of the pandemic, tied for 43rd in the U.S. Open before starting 67-65 in the BMW PGA Championship last week at Wentworth but faded to a tie for 13th. Best finish in U.S. last year was a tie for sixth in the WGC-FedEx St. Jude.
  9. Collin Morikawa, United States – After winning the PGA Championship and tying for sixth in the Tour Championship, Morikawa had a bit of a letdown and missed the cut in the U.S. Open and the Shriners, but should be ready for a bounce back. He was in the top 10 in the CJ Cup last year after a third-round 65, but closed with a 75 to tie for 36th.
  10. Louis Oosthuizen, South Africa – The 2010 Open champion at St. Andrews was solo third in the U.S. Open at Winged Foot and closed with a 64 to tie for 19th last week in the Shriners. Oosthuizen, who finished in the top 10 of two WGC events last season, played in the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges for the first time last year and finished in a tie for 29th.

OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Brooks Koepka, United States; Justin Rose, England; Sergio Garcia, Spain; Hideki Matsuyama, Japan; Bubba Watson, United States; Rickie Fowler, United States; Adam Hadwin, Canada; Brandt Snedeker, United States; Sungjae Im, South Korea; Jordan Spieth, United States.

SLEEPERS

  1. Matthew Wolff, United States – Second on the FedEx Cup points list after finishing solo second in the U.S. Open and tying for second in Shriners to start the new season.
  2. Viktor Hovland, NorwayWon the 2020 Puerto Rico Open, also was third in the Workday and T-20 in the Tour Championship. Coming off a T-13 in the U.S. Open.
  3. Scottie Scheffler, United States – Two-time winner on 2019 Korn Ferry Tour finished in the top-10 on the PGA Tour seven times last season and was fourth in FedEx Cup list.
  4. Cameron Smith, Australia – T-3 last year in CJ Cup after a T-7 the year before and solo third in 2018. T-34 in U.S. Open, T-24 in the Shriners to start the 2020-21 season.
  5. Abraham Ancer, Mexico – Winner of 2018 Australian Open posted four scores of 67 or better to T-4 last week in Shriners after T-18 in Tour Championship to end last season.

For first-round tee times, visit: https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html

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