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  • Writer's pictureNate (@WeKnowFantasy)

Out of the Rough: THE CJ CUP Byron Nelson (2024)


With just two weeks shy of the PGA Championship, the PGA Tour turns its attention to TPC Craig Ranch and THE CJ CUP Byron Nelson in McKinney, Texas.


THE CJ CUP Byron Nelson was first played in 1944 and won by legendary five-time major champion Byron Nelson in which the event is now named after.


The event used the name Texas Victory Open from 1944 to 1968 when it was renamed the Byron Nelson Golf Classic. The tournament has been associated with Nelson’s name ever since.


THE CJ CUP Byron Nelson had played within the limits of Dallas County for all of its existence but until 2021 when it was moved to TPC Craig Ranch. This will be the fourth year that TPC Craig Ranch hosts this event and will be the host until 2025.


This event too changed spots in the PGA Tour schedule from a season ago, although by just two weeks. 


The Field

With the second Major event of the season just two weeks away and an elevated event in the Wells Fargo Championship taking place next week, this week’s field will reflect that.


It is headlined by Texas native Jordan Spieth who is desperately looking to find some form on the season.


Jason Day used this event a season ago to win for the first time on the PGA Tour since 2018. He is back this year to defend his title. Day also won this event back in 2010 as well.


Other notable names teeing it up this week include Will Zalatoris, Si Woo Kim, Sungjae Im, Alex Noren, Adam Scott, Tom Kim, Min Woo Lee and Byeong Hun An.


Other past champions of this event in this week’s field include K.H. Lee (2022 & 2021,) Sung Kang (2019) and Scott (2009.)


One of the biggest storylines this week is 16-year-old English amateur Kris Kim who will be making his PGA Tour debut. Kim will be heading to Texas for the week before heading back to the UK to take his GCSE exams.


The list of accolades for Kim is extensive. In 2023 he won the Boys’ Amateur Championship, European Boys’ Individual Championship and the McGregor Trophy. The icing on the cake however was his undefeated performance at the Junior Ryder Cup that included a 5&4 routing of American rising star Miles Russell.


Kim is playing under a sponsor invite this year via the CJ Group. Kim became the first amateur player to join the world-class roster of professional golfers within the CJ Group. He joins names such as Sungjae Im, Si Woo Kim, Byeong Hun An and KH Lee.


The Course

TPC Craig Ranch plays as a par 72 at just shy of 7,500 yards.


The course was funded by McKinney businessman, David Craig, who spent $30 million in 2004 to develop a golf course that one day would host the Byron Nelson tournament. Along the way, PGA legend Tom Weiskopf was the one who designed the track.


TPC Craig Ranch is one of the easiest courses on all of the PGA Tour. The last three events held at TPC Craig Ranch were won by K.H. Lee at -25 and -26 and Day at -23, to put into perspective the ease of this course.


Rowlett Creek serves as one of the only defenses that this course offers as it is intertwined with 14 holes on the course. Although, water doesn’t have much of an impact this week unless drives get away from golfers.


Along with Rowlett Creek, the course's main line of defense is the wind and if it is blowing, the importance of accuracy increases.


The 17th hole here at TPC Craig Ranch has been revamped and now features bleachers behind the green along with 41 hospitality units that can now host 6,000 spectators. The goal of the additions is to create a similar atmosphere to that of the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale.


Distance off the tee will give those bombers a slight advantage. The average driving distance at TPC Craig Ranch over the past three years has been 299 yards, which is over the PGA Tour average.


Accuracy off the tee isn’t much of a concern as this course too boasts a 63-percent hit fairways percentage, adding to the importance of distance off the tee.


Long irons are one of the most important things however as almost 35-percent of approach shots have come from 200-plus yards.


Despite the importance of long iron play, hitting the greens isn’t much of a challenge. Greens in regulation percentage here too is over the PGA Tour average at 70-percent.


If a green is missed, golfers could be in a bit of trouble as the greens are surrounded by bunkers. Over the last three years, golfers who have finished in the top five have more than doubled the field in sand saves. This goes to show how difficult the bunkers can be around the green.


The three par fives this week play at an average of a modest 558 yards. Hole 18 plays as the longest of the par fives at 569 yards. There are plenty of scoring opportunities on the par fives this week and they must be taken advantage of.


In all, this is a relatively bland course that is set up to allow for some very low scores. The ability for multiple golfers to go very low adds to the excitement of the event.


The Weather

To put it lightly, the weather does not look great for this week. As of the time of writing this, there is currently a flood warning for the area. On top of that, Tuesday is currently calling for an 100-percent chance of precipitation with thunderstorms. Saturday is currently calling for a 60-percent chance of precipitation as Friday and Sunday both call for a 50-percent chance. Each day from Friday through Sunday is also calling for scattered Thunderstorms. Temperatures are set to range from 76-to-78 degrees and winds are set at 11-miles-per-hour to 14 miles-per-hour across the four days as well. In all, it doesn’t look too promising this week.


Key Stats

  • Strokes Gained: Tee to Green (SG: TTG)

  • Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: APP)

  • Strokes Gained: Putting (SG: PUTT)

  • Average Driving Distance

  • Approach Shots from 200+ Yards

  • Sand Saves Percentage

  • Birdie or Better Percentage

  • Bogey Avoidance

  • Par Five Average Scoring

  • Scrambling

  • Greens in Regulation Percentage


DFS Suggestions

$10,000+

There are just three options in this price range so skipping it all together is probably the move but for the sake of this article, I’m going to roll out Jordan Spieth ($10,900.) If you fear his ownership will be too high, simply take a look at his recent form combined with his price point. He shouldn’t come with a high ownership at all. Either way, there’s a reason Spieth is in this week’s field. He’s in desperate need of finding some form with the PGA Championship just two weeks away. Spieth comes into this week missing the cut in three-of-his-last-five tournaments. He had some flashes in that run however with a T10th at the Valero Texas Open. Earlier this season he showed a bit of form with a third place finish at The Sentry Tournament of Champions and a T6th at the WM Phoenix Open. His game does line up well here though, which is apparent in a runner-up finish in 2022. Spieth is currently eighth on Tour in birdie or better percentage, 14th in SG: PUTT, 43rd in both approach shots from 200-plus yards and sand saves percentage, 47th in SG: TTG, 49th in average driving distance, 69th in GIR%, 96th in bogey avoidance, 100th in SG: APP, 103rd in scrambling and 124th in par five average scoring. I think the important aspect of his game is that he is still an elite putter on Tour. Putting is the most mentally demanding aspect of a golfer’s game. It would be very easy for him to lose his putting stroke through his recent struggles.


$9,000-$9,900

Tom Hoge ($9,100) is actually my overall favorite per my model this week despite his lack of distance off the tee. Hoge ranks 141st in average driving distance but is 11th in approach shots from 200-plus yards so he makes up for that there. He is also second on Tour in SG: APP, sixth in birdie or better percentage, 12th in bogey avoidance, 13th in par five average scoring, 23rd in GIR%, 30th in SG: APP, 42nd in SG: TTG, 49th in scrambling and 50th in sand saves percentage. Hoge is also in some great form coming into this week. Dating back to The American Express, he made the cut in ten consecutive events. In those ten events he has seven top 20’s and two top tens, highlighted by a T6th at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and an eighth place finish at The Genesis Invitational. Hoge also placed T17th here in 2022 and made the cut a season ago. I’m playing two units on him at +2800 as well. Also consider Byeong Hun An ($9,300.) If there was ever a course on Tour crafted to suit Hun An’s play style, it’s TPC Craig Ranch. There is a reason three-of-the-last-four winners of this event have been Korean. Hun An is currently seventh on Tour in average driving distance and birdie or better percentage, 18th in GIR%, 24th in approach shots from 200-plus yards, 31st in SG: TTG, 36th in sand saves percentage, 61st in SG: APP and 64th in par five average scoring. Now, he does have some red flags this week, including a 130th placement in SG: PUTT, 141st in bogey avoidance and 150th in scrambling. I’m banking on his elite distance off the tee combined with elite long irons and an above average approach game to carry him this week. He also gets birdies in a hurry. Although he’s missed the cut in two-of-his-last-four events, he also has a T16th recently at The Masters. On the season he has six top 25’s, three top tens and a top five in 11 events. Hun An also placed T14th here a season ago. I’m also playing a unit on him at +3500.


$8,000-$8,900

Keith Mitchell ($8,800) has burned me once this season but I’m not playing him on an outright this week, just in my DFS lineups. Mitchell matches up well here as he is currently seventh on Tour in both SG: TTG and GIR%, 11th in SG: APP, 15th in approach shots from 200-plus yards, 22nd in birdie or better percentage, 25th in par five average scoring, 30th in average driving distance, 42nd in bogey avoidance, 79th in sand saves percentage and 123rd in scrambling. We know the downfall to Mitchell’s game comes on the greens as he ranks 145th in SG: PUTT. However, he did gain over 1.3 strokes putting in his last outing at the Valero Texas Open. In 11 events on the season, Mitchell has six top twenties and two top tens. He placed T14th recently at the Valero Texas Open and T17th at the Valspar Championship. Also consider Aaron Rai ($8,000.) Rai has been a bit up-and-down this season. He has missed four cuts this season but also has three top 25 finishes including a T7th recently at Texas Children’s Houston Open. Rai is currently 13th on Tour in GIR%, 23rd in SG: APP, 24th in approach shots from 200-plus yards, 27th in SG: TTG, 35th in bogey avoidance, 64th in sand saves percentage, 65th in birdie or better percentage, 72nd in scrambling, 103rd in par five average scoring and 106th in SG: PUTT. He does come without any distance off the tee but like the aforementioned Hoge, he makes up for that white elite long irons. I’m also playing a unit on him at +6000.


$7,000-$7,900

My two suggestions in this price range were actually teammates at last week’s Zurich Classic. First up, we have Andrew Novak ($7,400.) Novak has played this event in each of the last two seasons where he made the cut. He also has missed just one cut in his last eight events. In those eight events he has five top 25’s and three top tens. Novak is currently eight on tour in sand saves percentage, tenth in approach shots from 200-plus yards, 12th in SG: APP, 18th in SG: TTG, 31st in scrambling, 42nd in GIR%, 46th in bogey avoidance, 71st in average driving distance, 83rd in par five average scoring, 111th in SG: PUTT and 141st in birdie or better percentage. The last stat does scare me but if we look back to the string of top tens he put together between the WM Phoenix Open and Cognizant Classic, he was able to keep pace just fine. I’m also playing a unit on him at +11000. Also consider Davis Thompson ($7,900.) Thompson played this event last year where he made the cut. Thompson has two top 25 performances in his last three outings, with a T21st at the Texas Children’s Open and T18th at the Corales Puntacana Championship. He has five total top-25 performances on the season. Thompson is currently 27th on Tour in sand saves percentage, 30th in birdie or better percentage, 40th in bogey avoidance, 44th in GIR%, 50th in SG: TTG, 52nd in both SG: APP and average driving distance, 61st in SG: PUTT, 64th in par five average scoring, 69th in scrambling and 127th in approach shots from 200-plus yards. In other words, Thompson is currently top 69 in ten-of-the-11 statistical categories I took into consideration this week.


$6,900-

Finding value in this price range in these types of events and fields is always a challenge. The fields aren’t as deep and therefore, there is a drastic drop off in talent. Either way, I believe my two suggestions in this price range have the ability to offer some value in your DFS lineups. First up we have Rico Hoey ($6,700.) Hoey is currently 18th on Tour in par five average scoring, 28th in average driving distance, 30th in GIR%, 33rd in SG: TTG, 47th in SG: APP, 65th in birdie or better percentage and 117th in approach shots from 200-plus yards. Of course being in this price range he has some red flags. Those come in the form of a 151st placement in bogey avoidance, 153rd in both sand saves percentage and scrambling and 181st in SG: PUTT. He is statistically one of the worst putters on Tour but did gain 2.509 strokes putting at the Valero Texas Open en route to a T14th. He also placed T33rd at the Corales Puntacana Championship. A repeat of his flat stick at the Valero will put him over the cut line this week. Also consider Matt Wallace ($6,900.) Wallace has not been in the best of form recently, missing the cut in three-of-his-last-four outings. In the cut he made however, he placed T17th at the Valspar Championship. Wallace is currently 13th on Tour in par five average scoring, 19th in sand saves percentage, 30th in approach shots from 200-plus yards, 51st in SG: PUTT, 57th in birdie or better percentage, 71st in GIR%, 78th in average driving distance, 95th in SG: APP, 126th in bogey avoidance, 131st in scrambling and 145th in SG: TTG. 


Betting Card

  • Tom Hoge (+2800) - 2u

  • Byeong Hun An (+3500) - 1u

  • Tom Kim (+4000) - 1u

  • Aaron Rai (+6000) - 1u

  • Mark Hubbard (+7000) - 1u

  • Andrew Novak (+11000) - 1u

  • Robert MacIntyre (+12000) - 1u


Tom Kim (+4000)

This is a value play above anything. Kim has since moved to +3000 at the time of writing this but at +4000 that put him around names such as Adam Schenk, Thomas Detry, Keith Mitchell and Mackenzie Hughes. No disrespect to them, but Kim is twice the golfer of anyone I listed. Also, as previously mentioned, this is an event and course recently dominated by Korean golfers. The stats aren’t necessarily there to back up Kim but in his last two outings he placed T18th at the RBC Heritage and T30th at The Masters. He also placed T34th here last year and T17th in 2022.


Mark Hubbard (+7000)

Hubbard does lack the plus distance I’d like to see for this course and is trending around Tour average when it comes to approach shots from 200-plus yards. However, he is still elite on the Par 5’s which is absolutely crucial here at TPC Craig Ranch as he ranks sixth in par five average scoring. He’s also 18th on Tour in birdie or better percentage, 24th in SG: APP and 40th in SG: TTG. Hubbard has also made the cut in each of the 12 events he’s played this season with four top 25’s and two top tens, including a T4th at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. He placed T32nd here in 2022 and T34th in 2021.


Robert MacIntyre (+12000)

When it comes to longshots, we like to pinpoint one stat (or a few) and find a guy who excels there. For me, that is MacIntyre. He is currently the Tour’s best when it comes to approach shots from 200-plus yards. He combines that with plus distance off the tee and around Tour average in terms of overall approach. He’s also elite from the sand and is above average in SG: TTG, par five average scoring and GIR%. He also made the cut in four-of-his-last-six events, highlighted by a T6th at the Mexico Open at Vidanta.

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