As the season slowly starts to gather momentum, the PGA Tour stays in Las Vegas this week. Following a superb event at TPC Summerlin, an event that culminated in victory for South Korea’s ever-impressive Sungjae Im, it’s onto the Summit Club, where the CJ Cup will be hosted for the first time.
Usually part of a three-event-swing in Asia, the CJ Cup will this year take place in the states, thanks to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. Last year’s winner Jason Kokrak will be looking to defend his title, while those players who’ve made pleasing starts to the campaign, such as Sam Burns, who followed up his win at the Sanderson Farms with a solid T14 last week, will be looking to keep things going.
The format of this tournament is a little different from usual, in that there will be no cut, so players will go into the week knowing that it’s a 72-hole shootout. On that basis, a promising start is important.
Many of the big-name Ryder Cup players return to action this week. Tommy Fleetwood, Rory McIlroy, Tyrell Hatton, and Ian Pouter are among the European contingent in Vegas, while Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Tony Finau, and Xander Schauffele will all be in action too. After featuring on the European Tour in his native Spain last week, world number one Jon Rahm won’t be involved. Dustin Johnson, who currently sits second in the world rankings, will be the highest-ranked player involved at the Summit Club.
The field will primarily be comprised of the top 60 players from last season’s FedEx Cup standings, with sponsorship exemptions going to the likes of big-name players outside of that, meaning that the likes of Rickie Fowler, Gary Woodland, Jason Day, and Justin Rose will be teeing it up in Vegas.
The Summit Club
Las Vegas, Nevada
One of many courses in the Tom Fazio cannon, The Summit Club is located near the famed Las Vegas strip and has the beautiful Red Rock Canyon for a backdrop. Though it looks somewhat like a typical desert course in places, the track plays more like a parkland course. From the tee, the fairways, which are quite wide, should be simple to find, but plenty of cleverly placed bunkers make second shots tricky, while typically undulating greens won’t be easy to hit either, increasing the importance of accuracy and shot selection on approach.
What will it take to thrive at The Summit Club?
As is always the case with new courses, the recipe for success is unknown. However, with tough greens, both in terms of layout and position, sharpness in terms of approach, short game, and putting is likely to be a necessity. Meanwhile, length and accuracy off the tee could take something of a backseat this week. As mentioned above, the fairways are wide and shouldn’t be hard to find. There are some quite scorable Par 5’s in play, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if a player well versed in scoring low on Par 5’s does well.
Below are five stat categories that based on the course should be important this week, followed by the top 15 in those categories on the PGA Tour last season. Only players in this field have been included.
Strokes gained: tee-to-green: Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas, Keegan Bradley, Paul Casey, Viktor Hovland, Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Sergio Garcia, Hideki Matsuyama, Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Tyrell Hatton, Shane Lowry, Russell Henley, Scottie Scheffler.
Strokes gained: approach: Collin Morikawa, Paul Casey, Justin Thomas, Keegan Bradley, Russell Henley, Emiliano Grillo, Tyrell Hatton, Xander Schauffele, Viktor Hovland, Hideki Matsuyama, Shane Lowry, Abraham Ancer, Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau, Louis Oosthuizen.
Strokes gained: putting: Louis Oosthuizen, Ian Poulter, Patrick Reed, Jason Kokrak, Sam Burns, Cameron Smith, Harris English, Alex Noren, Mackenzie Hughes, Xander Schauffele, Cameron Tringale, Adam Scott, Webb Simpson, Brian Harman, Dustin Johnson.
Strokes gained: around-the-green: Kevin Na, Si Woo Kim, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, Ian Poulter, Louis Oosthuizen, Rickie Fowler, Brian Harman, Shane Lowry, Jason Day, Matt Jones, Tony FInau, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Cameron Smith.
Par 5 Scoring Average: Cameron Smith, Xander Schauffele, Harris English, Webb Simpson, Sergio Garcia, Brooks Koepka, Sam Burns, Viktor Hovland, Max Homa, Joaquin Niemann, Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama, Louis Oosthuizen, Brian Harman, Jason Kokrak.
|Odds To Win +1200|
|Draft Kings $10,800|
|In events full of top-tier talent, you want the best of the best on the side, and they don’t get much better than double major winner Collin Morikawa, who is currently the world number three, and the second highest-ranked player in this field. He’s won at desert altitude before, claiming the 2019 Barracuda Championship, which also took place in Nevada, so we know he’s equipped to deal with this sort of challenge.|
As far as recent form goes, if we scratch beneath the surface, there’s plenty to latch onto. In terms of strokes, at the recent Ryder Cup, only one player scored better than Morikawa, show converted more birdie putts per hole than any other player in the competition. Combine this with his precision approach game and it’s hard to see a better option from those with the biggest price tags.
|Odds To Win +3300|
|Draft Kings $9,200|
|Must-have pick, because for me, if there’s one player to be on this week, it’s Cameron Smith, who has the game to thrive on the course of this nature. The Par 5’s will likely be important this week, and no player on the PGA Tour played the Par 5’s better than the Aussie last season.|
With tough greens, the putter is going to play a big part this week too, and just like he’s the man on the Par 5’s, Smith is hot with the flatstick. Last season, only five players outranked the 28-year-old in terms of strokes gained: putting.
Moreover, this is generally a time of year when Smith finds his feet, finishing no lower than 11th in four appearances at the CJ Cup. The man who posted six top-ten finishes last year is one to have on side in fantasy this week, that’s for sure.
|Odds To Win +2500|
|Draft Kings $9,800|
|The current season may only be a few weeks old, but Sam Burns has impressed massively, rating as the best player on tour in terms of strokes gained: tee-to-green, picking up a pleasing average of 2.873. The fact that he’s gained 1.379 strokes on approach across the last two tournaments bodes well too, as approach should be key in Vegas.|
As mentioned above, the Par 5’s will be big this week, and that shouldn’t a problem for Burns, who scored well on the Par 5’s last term, ranking as the seventh-best in this field. He’s also generally hot with the putter too, gaining more strokes on the green than all but four players in this field last season.
At the end of the day, we’re talking about a player that is going through a clear purple patch, and while he’s hot, he’s hard to abandon, so get Burns in the team.
|Odds To Win +4500|
|Draft Kings $8,600|
|It’s been quite a while since the big Aussie got over the line in first place, but his recent form makes him easy to take at the current prices.|
Historically, this is the time of year when Leishman has done well, with lots of his high finishes coming around October, November, December, while as mentioned above, he’s in hot form right now having finished fourth and third in the last two weeks. The season is still in its infancy but it’s a real positive that the in-form man rates as the second-best player on tour in terms of strokes gained: total, while he’s also rank two for strokes gained: putting, which really ought to hold him in good stead on the tricky Fazio-designed greens at The Summit Club.
|Odds To Win +6600|
|Draft Kings $7,100|
|Last week, Henley led the field in strokes gained: approach, and with a similar dialed-in short-iron game, the Georgia native can thrive here. We know that he’s tidy from tee to green, while he comes here in good form, which is not something that can be said for too many in the field.|
After warming up in the first leg of this desert doubler-header, Henley, who finished the previous campaign as the sixth-best player on tour for strokes gained: approach, is expected to go well. After all, he’s another who tends to thrive in the fall, finishing T27, T3, T4 T29, and T30 between mid-October and late November last season.
|Odds to Win +|
|Draft Kings $6,600|
|The final pick this week is another Georgia native, who is yet to get going this season, missing the cut last week, but this could be a good place to start finding some form for a man who, on paper at least, ticks plenty of boxes.|
Brian Harman ticked along nicely last season, and although he didn’t win, he earned himself plenty of respectable finished, posting five top-tens and five other top-20’s. Such form shouldn’t be ignored, nor should the fact that he’s a strong Par 5 player, who can really dig in and save shots around the green. With the putting surfaces not the easiest to hit this week, the ability to scramble and do well when around the greens is likely to be important, which bodes well for the 34-year-old, who finished the previous campaign as the eighth-best player in this field for strokes gained: around-the-green. A good putter too, Harman is a worthy fantasy addition at a bargain price.