The PGA Tour begins a three-week swing through Asia with this week’s CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges. Here, we look at the 78-man field competing for the $9.75 million prize purse and highlight the best sleepers and values among this week’s betting picks for the CJ Cup. This and the ZOZO Championship (Oct. 24-27 in Chiba Japan) are tied as the 2019-20 season’s most-lucrative tournaments outside of the four majors, The Players Championship, and the four World Golf Championships events.
This week’s tournament is sure to be a break from an early-season schedule trend which has produced three first-time PGA Tour winners through the first five events. The field is fronted by Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas. They enter the week ranked No. 1 and 5, respectively, in the Official World Golf Ranking and are also the two previous winners of this event. The scheduled participants are rounded out by the next-best 58 available golfers from last season’s FedExCup standings, eight sponsor exemptions, and 10 of the top golfers from the Korean and Asian Tours. Reigning FedExCup champion Rory McIlroy is not in attendance. This is a no-cut event with all 78 golfers playing four rounds, pending withdrawals.
The course: Nine Bridges Golf Club
The Club at Nine Bridges on Jeju Island, South Korea measures 7,196 yards and will play as a par 72. Koepka fired a four-round aggregate score of 21-under par a year ago to win by four over Gary Woodland. His final score blew out Thomas’ winning mark of minus-9 in 2018 when he defeated Marc Leishman in a playoff.
Three of the four par 3s are under 200 yards in length, ranging from 176 to 218. The par 5s vary from 550 to 589 yards. The par 4s play to an average of 420 yards with a range from 353 (two) to 495. Three of the par 4s are under 400 yards and only two top 450. Nine holes played to a scoring average below par last year. The easiest was the 554-yard, par-5 12th at a stroke average of 4.487. The most difficult was the 471-yard, par-4 10th with an average of 4.141 strokes. Thirty-three birdies were carded over four rounds compared to 71 bogeys and three doubles. The 568-yard, par-5 finishing hole saw 25 eagles over the course of the tournament. There were also 123 birdies with 27 bogeys, four doubles and two ‘others’.
Water is a factor on the fifth, seventh, 11th, 15th, and 18th. The 428-yard, par-4 11th forced 44 bogeys, 16 doubles and three “others” in 2018-19. No other hole saw more than nine doubles.
Key stats to consider for the CJ Cup
With only two runnings of this event, there is little historical data on which to rely. The weather was also quite different from the fall of 2017 to last year, leading to much better scoring a year ago. Based on the length and design of Nine Bridges Golf Club, the key stats to consider for this week are Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green, Birdies or Better Gained, Proximity from 100-125 Yards, and Par 4 Efficiency: 400-450 Yards.
My model at Fantasy National is set to the most recent 36 rounds on courses with Bentgrass greens for each golfer in the field. Previous experience here, and in strong-field, no-cut events is also important. Be sure to check the weather Wednesday morning and give preference to those scheduled in the better draw.
CJ Cup betting picks: Sleepers and value bets
Pan is one of 23 golfers in the field slated to play this event for the third straight year. The 57th-ranked golfer in the world by the OWGR collected his first PGA Tour win last year at the RBC Heritage in April. He climbed as high as 47th in the world following a T3 at the Charles Schwab Challenge. The 27-year-old ranks ninth by the stat model but is third in the field in SG: Around-the-Green and eighth in SG: Tee-to-Green. Pan improved on a T47 in 2018 with a T23 finish last year. He can also be bet to finish inside the top 10 at +1200 at DraftKings.
Frittelli is a great value at DraftKings while being given +4500 odds at FanDuel. The 2018-19 champion of the John Deere Classic ranked as high as 44th by the OWGR in 2018 but enters this week ranked 94th. He missed the cut at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open as his last event, but he was T7 the week prior at the Safeway Open and T6 the previous week at the Sanderson Farms Championship. He’ll debut at Nine Bridges this week, but he ranks third by the stat model, including ranks of third in SG: Around-the-Green and Par 4 Efficiency from the key distance. His putter was hot to start the year before losing 0.96 strokes per round on the greens at the Shriners to fall short of the weekend.
Hatton makes his 2019-20 PGA Tour season debut. The No. 49 golfer in the OWGR tied for 18th at the European Tour’s Italian Open last week. He broke par in three of four rounds to finish at minus-6. He finished T14 in this event last year, shooting 68-66 over the weekend after ending his third round at plus-1. The Englishman ranks sixth by the stat model with his strengths in his tee-to-green and around-the-green games. He has never won on the PGA Tour, but he was T6 at The Open Championship last year for his third top-10 in a major since 2018. He competes well in loaded fields.
CJ Cup betting picks: Our winner
We generally like better value, but in a small field and with no cut, the talent usually rises to the top; as we’ve seen in the last two leaderboards at Nine Bridges. Matsuyama was T18 last year after not participating in 2018. He finished T9 at last year’s Tour Championship. He then missed the cut in his season debut at the Safeway Open but followed it up with a T16 at the Shriners. No other golfer in the field ranks in the top 10 in each of the five key statistics. Matsuyama is first in SG: Around-the-Green, second in both SG: Tee-to-Green and Par 4 Efficiency, third in Birdies or Better Gained and eighth in Proximity. His five PGA Tour wins include two victories in the no-cut WGC format.