Wednesday, September 27, 2023

CJ Golf Championship – Event Preview


There is a new course hosting the CJ Cup this week and there is not a lot of data to get stuck into. But as ever, let’s break down the key stats to provide the best chance of success.

A total of 78 players will fight for the tournament and over recent years this event has seen the world’s best ball strikers flourish with wins for Rory McIlory, J T Poston, and Mark Brooks.

Congaree Golf Club is not your typical golf club as it is located in the lowlands of South Carolina. The Tom Fazio-designed course, which opened in 2018, is located on more than 2,000 acres of former rice plantation land with lakes and untamed woodland. It should prove the stiffest challenge of the fall season so far for players. The famed Australian sand belt courses are referenced in the architecture and with any luck, after all the recent birdies fests the course will play fast and firm as designed. With a lot of sand waste areas and little rough, this course is undoubtedly different from your typical Tour stop-off.

Although fairways are generous in width, straying can result in balls crashing into hazards of all shapes and sizes. One thing to note for those tuning in this week is that players will be allowed to ground their club on address at any time on any sandy stretches at Congaree because they are all considered natural areas. The greens this week are in the main raised from the fairways and have little to no rough surrounding them, meaning lots of run-off area which will test the short games of all players teeing it up. Think of links-like greens and run-off areas and that’s what the players will have in front of them.

Let’s break down those key skill sets and reveal those all-important outright picks.

Event & Course Details

  • Course: Congaree Golf Club
  • Location: South Carolina
  • Date: Oct. 20-23, 2022
  • Par: 71 / Yardage 7,650
  • Purse: $10.5 Million
  • Fairways/Rough: Bermudagrass
  • Greens: Bermudagrass
  • Past Winner : Rory Mcllroy 2021

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Key Skill Sets Required

SGT2G – A proper test of golf faces the players this week. A long demanding track with a winning score expected in the mid-teens means the T2Ggame must be firing on all cylinders if you wish to compete. This test of golf requires all the clubs to be working and there is no better indicator than T2G performance both short-term and long-term.

SG Off The Tee – With a course playing over 7,500 yards as a par 71 it will be imperative to gain strokes off the tee box. Doing that will take the pressure of the long approach shots. Looking at the top 5 of the Palmetto Championship in 2021 this track showed the importance of gaining strokes off the tee.

SG Approach play 175+ – The majority of second shots will take place from this distance this week, significantly more than the average at a PGA Tour event. You may want players onside who have good long iron games as this test is not for the faint-hearted.

GIR – On a challenging test like this week it makes sense to consider players who are hitting plenty of greens in regulation and therefore giving themselves plenty of outside birdie looks and the chance to roll in plenty of putts. The winner here in 2021 finished 3rd for GIR gained and the runner up finished 5th for GIR gained. Expect a similar trend this week.

SG Scrambling – Along course with a high percentage of approach shot over 175 yards means the greens are missed regularly here at Congaree Golf Club.Scrambling well protects the scorecard and making pars on the difficult holes here is not a bad thing. It will be so important to get up and down at least 70% of the time throughout the week as without doing so puts victory out of reach.

Putting – It is Bermudagrass greens that the players are facing this week and that will be to the liking of many, especially the world’s elite like Rory McIlroy, JT Poston, and Jordan Spieth to name a few. These players have more than 15 combined wins on these surfaces alone. When making your final portfolio this week pay particular attention tothose who excel on this grain of grass.

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Best Outsiders

1. Cameron Davis 70/1

  • One of the longest players on tour, who isn’t the most accurate but he should be well suited to the layout this week.
  • Ranks 6th for SG approach play from 200+ yards over the past 24 rounds on tour.
  • Ranked 3rd for SG approach play from 175-200 yards, a superb long iron player.
  • Ranks in the top 10 for driving distance, something to favour over accuracy this week.
  • Gained strokes with the flat stick in 11 of his last 14 events.
  • At a big price Davis has huge upside in his game.

2. Keith Mitchell 70/1

  • Ball striking and shot shaping seem to be the combination to look for this week and a hard test is what brings the best out in this man.
  • He has gained strokes off the tee in each of his last 10 events.
  • Ranked in the top 5 for GIR gained over the past 50 rounds on tour, hitting GIR this week will be a crucial factor.
  • Putting is often his weakness; he statistically putts best on the Bermudagrass he faces this week.

Best Outright Picks

1. Justin Thomas 14/1

  • A poor 2022 by JT’s standards, he will be raring to go this week after 4 wins from 5 at the Presidents Cup a few weeks back.
  • A wide-open course with little rough will negate the weakest part of his game off the tee.
  • Ranked 2nd for SG Approach play over the past 24 rounds on tour.
  • Ranked 1st for T2G performance over the past 24 rounds on long demanding tracks like he faces this week.
  • Ranked 2nd for Ball Striking over the past 24 rounds on tour on tough tracks over 7,400 yards.
  • A 6-time winner on the Bermudagrass putting surfaces he faces this week.

2. Viktor Hovland 22/1

  • A top 10 last week means Viktor arrives with a spring in his step.
  • A course that could suit his game perfectly, he is one of the best on tour off the tee.
  • A top 10 player with iron in hand over the past 36 round on tour.
  • Has form on other Tom Fazio designs, won in Punto Rico and a top 5 finish at Congressional.
  • Gained strokes putting in his last 5 events despite it being a perceived weakness in his game.

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3. Sung-Jea Im 20/1

  • It’s hard to ignore Sung-Jea this week with 6 top 20’s in his last 7 and 4 top 10’s during that particular period.
  • A superb T2G player, ranked 1st over the past 24 rounds on tour.
  • Ranked 1st for SG Off the Tee over the past 24 rounds, driving is an important asset this week.
  • Ranked 2nd for GIR gained over the past 24 rounds, demonstrating the comfort he has in his iron game right now.
  • Putts his best on the Bermudagrass greens he faces this week.

4. Jordan Spieth 25/1

  • 5 from 5 at the President’s Cup a few weeks back, Spieth will be excited about this week’s test.
  • This course won’t punish erratic driving like many on tour, and that sets up well for him.
  • Proven on fast and firms tracks all around the world, he also has proven himself on links-like tracks which he faces this week.
  • Ranked in the top 10 for SG around the green.
  • Has 5 wins to his name on the Bermuda greens he encounters this week.

Top 20 Finish

1. Jordan Spieth 22/25

2. Cam Davis 7/4