Out of the Rough: The CJ Cup (2022)
As COVID restrictions continue to be tight in South Korea, the CJ Cup will take place in the United States for the third straight season.
Last year the event was held in Las Vegas. This year’s installment will take place at the Congaree Golf Club in Ridgeland, South Carolina.
Just above Savannah, Georgia in the lowlands of South Carolina, this Tom Fazio design will host its second PGA Tour event.
The idea of the course’s design was to bring an Australian sand belt style golf course to South Carolina.
Congaree is a wide open course with no rough on a firm and fast sandy base.
Off the tee golfers have a wide open canvas to play their ball with the wide fairways that are seamlessly unending.
With no rough, the course offers waste areas. Like we saw Patrick Cantlay endure on Hole 18 at the Shriners Hospital for Children Open the lie in a waste area could put a golfer behind a plant with no option but to take an unplayable. Additionally, some of the waste areas play below the greens.
On the other side, ending up in the waste area off the fairway could give golfers a wide open, unhindered approach to the green.
Green sides play tight as well and feature hard-sand bunkers that play as some of the toughest on tour.
As previously mentioned Congaree Golf Club is hosting just its second PGA Tour event, previously hosting the Palmetto Championship in 2021.
Last year this course played over par as one of the few non-major PGA Tour events to play as such. That attests to the overall challenge of this course.
Bombers will get a leg up this week with these wide open fairways. Not only are the fairways wide open, if conditions are dry, the ball will seamlessly run forever and therefore the course held the longest average drive of any course last season.
These Bermuda Grass greens are larger than the Tour average but also played at a hit rate of 69.5-percent last year, which was below the Tour average. Some of that has to do with the roll-off rates that come when the course plays dry and fast.
That’s where these hard-sand bunkers and tight green side conditions come into play. Getting up-and-down from around the green is no joke at Congaree Golf Club.
The green side bunkers at Congaree actually have played the toughest of any non-major event dating back to 2015.
To make matters even more difficult, this course has played as the sixth toughest approach shots from within 150 yards since 2015. Additionally, on average, golfers typically lose strokes on approach shots over 200 yards.
Simply put, there’s nowhere to hide at Congaree.
The only non-above average challenging aspect of Congaree is putting. Although the greens could run really fast, they don’t offer a ton of elevation changes.
This is also the best field we’ve seen thus far this season by far. A handful of the world’s top ten golfers will tee it up in South Carolina this week along with several other big names.
This field includes Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, Justin Thomas, Matt Fitzpatrick, Sungjae Im, Sam Burns, Victor Hovland, Max Homa, Collin Morikawa, Tom Kim, Jordan Spieth and Hideki Matsuyama just to name a few.
As for weather for this weekend, temperatures will not be what you think of when you think of South Carolina. On Thursday and Friday the highs are set at 68 and 71-degrees respectively. Highs will get into the mid-to-high 70s over the weekend however. As of the time of writing this, there is a little-to-no-chance for precipitation this week.
Important statistics to consider this week include Strokes Gained: Tee to Green (SG: TTG,) Average Driving Distance, Greens in Regulation Percentage (GIR%,) Approach Shots from 125-150 Yards, Approach Shots Greater Than 200 Yards, Sand Saves Percentage and Strokes Gained: Around the Green.
My favorite this week aligns with the Vegas favorite as well, which is a bit promising when developing my weekly module. That just so happens to be Rory McIlroy ($11,100.) This will be Rory’s 2022-2023 season debut. Rory’s placements in the key statistics for this event during last year’s season puts him in first place in our module. He finished second in both SG: TTG and average driving distance. He also finished sixth in approach shots from 200-plus yards, ninth in approach shots from 125-150 yards and twelfth in GIR% and sand saves percentage. On top of that he was 43rd in SG: ATG. Although this is his first event of the season, McIlroy is fresh off a FedEx Cup victory. Also consider Justin Thomas ($10,200.) Thomas always scores high in our modules as one of the best statistical golfers on Tour. Last season he finished third in SG: TTG, eighth in sand saves percentage, tenth in approach shots from 200-plus yards, 14th in average driving distance, 15th in SG: ATG, 16th in approach shots from 125-150 yards and 34th in GIR%. Like McIlroy, this will be Thomas’ first event of the season.
Leading off this price range is Max Homa ($9,100) who already has a victory on the season at the Fortinet Championship. On the season, Homa is tenth in SG: TTG, 25th in SG: ATG, 26th in approach shots from 200-plus yards, 39th in average driving distance, 42nd in GIR% and 94th in approach from 125-150 yards. The knock to his game is his 137th placing in sand saves percentage. With the rest of his game and his recent run of form to start the season, including the win at the Fortinet, a victory at the Presidents Cup and a T20th placement at the Shriners Children's’ Open, I wouldn’t worry too much about the sand saves. Also consider last year’s U.S. Open Champion Matt Fitzpatrick ($9,800.) This will be his first event of the season along with the likes of McIlroy and Thomas. Last season he finished sixth in sand saves percentage which played greatly in his win at the U.S. Open. He also finished seventh in both SG: TTG and SG: ATG, 58th in approach shots from 125-150 yards, 70th in average driving distance, 72nd in approach shots from 200-plus yards and 78th in GIR%. In other words, he was above average in each of the statistical categories we’re taking into consideration this week.
As normal, this is the toughest price range to gauge week-in-and-week-out and this week is no different. Leading off this price range we have Jordan Spieth ($8,800) who at this price, you can’t get much better. Statistically Spieth often doesn't score high in our module but the way he plays the game with his “Spieth Magic,” you can’t put a number on. Like many of the golfers we’re going with this week, this is his first event of the season. Last year he finished 18th in SG: TTG, 27th in SG: ATG, 37th in average driving distance, 62nd in GIR%, 76th in sand saves percentage, 94th in approach shots from 200-plus yards and 103rd in approach shots from 125-150 yards. I can never be mad at being able to play Spieth in this price range. Also consider big bomber Cameron Young ($8,600). Young had a great season last year with second place finishes at The Open, Wells Fargo Championship, Rocket Mortgage Classic, The Genesis Invitational and Sanderson Farms Championship. He had a handful of runner-up finishes last year so why not jump start his 2022-2023 campaign with a victory in his second event of the season. Last year he finished third in average driving distance, 15th in SG: TTG, 28th in approach shots from 200-plus yards and 71st in SG: ATG.
The third highest ranked golfer in my module this week can be found in this price range. Mito Pereira ($7,600) already has a top five this season with a T4th at the Shriners Children’s Open. He’s also tops on tour in this early season in SG: TTG, the most important statistic I’m taking into consideration this week. He’s also 20th in both GIR% and approach shots from 200-plus yards, 22nd in approach shots from 125-150 yards, 26th in sand saves percentage, 29th in average driving distance and 49th in SG: ATG. He’s also at +5000 this week to win so a few of my dollars will be invested there. Also consider Kurt Kitayama ($7,100.) Kitayama hasn’t had the best of starts to the season through two tournaments but his statistical performances line up for a good week. He’s fourth on tour in SG: ATG, sixth in SG: TTG and eighth in approach shots from 125-150 yards. He’s also 37th in average driving distance and 42nd in GIR%. His approach shots from 200-plus yards are near the bottom of the entire tour thus far this season however. Hopefully he doesn’t have to have many looks from that distance this week. He’s also at +11000 to win and last year I played him on similar odds at the Genesis Scottish Open that he led going into the final day before I cashed out.
Now for the price range that sets you apart from the rest. Leading the way is Byeong Hun An ($6,500) who actually scores rather high in my module this week. He’s third on tour in SG: ATG and fifth in average driving distance. He’s also tenth in sand saves percentage, 27th in SG: TTG and 52nd in approach shots from 125-150 yards. He does have a top five already on the season with a T4th at the Fortinet Championship and made the cut at the Shriners Children’s Open. Also consider Gary Woodland ($6,400.) Woodland withdrew from the Shriners Children’s Open but is all set to return to action this week. Through two tournaments this far this season he’s 12th in approach shots from 200-plus yards, 31st in average driving distance, 32nd in GIR% and 37th in SG: TTG. He ranks rather well in the more important statistics we’re considering this week.