2022 CJ Cup in South Carolina Fantasy Golf Power Rankings and Picks
The PGA Tour comes to rural South Carolina this week, attracting the strongest field of the fall schedule to the CJ Cup at Congaree.
You may remember Congaree from last summer when it was a late replacement for the Canadian Open the week before for the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. It’s the same layout but the other important details have changed.
Not only is the field much, much stronger – 15 of the top 20 in the world – but a year ago the golfers dealt with a soft golf course doused by heavy rains in the weeks prior to that event. In the fall, in the middle of the club’s season, Congaree is expected to be firm and fast. Tee shots will careen down the wide fairways demanding players to control their shot shape to avoid the copious sandy waste areas. The fast firm Champion Bermuda greens require impeccable distance control with iron shots.
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Turf conditions and the aesthetics of the 7,655-yard, par-71 Tom Fazio design are similar to the Australian Sandbelt and the tightly mown areas around the greens enable players to create shots. Putter from off the green is often the correct choice.
The weather forecast calls for cool mornings and beautiful afternoons with high temperatures in the upper 60s and 10-15 mph breezes. Scoring is expected to be a chore. Garrick Higgo – who didn’t qualify for this 78-man, no-cut field – outlasted a crowded leaderboard at 11-under par on a receptive course in June.
We identified players who have been strong Tee-to-Green, excellent with their long irons (28 percent of approach shots were struck from outside 200 yards last year) and in command of their bunker game. Expect a mixture of styles on the leaderboard as the shorter, accurate hitters with a deft touch have a blueprint for success.
As always, good luck.
CJ Cup in South Carolina Fantasy Golf Power Rankings
20. Christiaan Bezuidenhout – A sharp short game is essential to solve Congaree and Bezuidenhout is the latest South African pro to have an excellent bunker game (third in field). He’s also top 15 in bogey avoidance on difficult courses and thrives on Bermuda greens.
19. Jason Day – The resurgence is real. Day gained shots on approach in the last five tournaments and closed with a 63 in Vegas two weeks ago to finish T-8. He’s also gained shots Off the Tee in six of the last eight starts.
18. Corey Conners – After a sluggish opening round, Conners rallied to finish T-25 last week in the Zozo Championship. He leads the field in Greens in Regulation on difficult courses and ranks third in SG: Tee-to-Green on longer courses.
17. Emiliano Grillo – One of the hottest players in the game with two top 5s to show for it in his last three starts. He’s top 10 in Greens in Regulation and eighth in proximity outside 200 yards.
16. Aaron Wise – He’s top 20 in SG: Tee-to-Green on longer courses, 17th in proximity outside 200 yards and sixth in scoring on SG: Total on difficult layouts. Feels like a good combination for another strong finish.
15. Sam Burns – Hasn’t finished in the top 10 since the Canadian Open last summer but his long game looked good three weeks ago in Jackson, gaining four shots Off the Tee and 1.2 shots on approach. Loves to putt on Bermuda greens.
14. Brian Harman – Ranks fourth in the field in SG: Tee-to-Green over the last 36 rounds, is an elite bunker player and historically putts great on fast Bermuda greens. Gained 13 shots on approach in his last four starts with a trio of top 25s.
13. Tommy Fleetwood – On the short list of players who appeared here last year (T-35) and the linksish feel should feel familiar. Ranks third in bogey avoidance on difficult courses and ninth in greens in regulation on longer courses.
12. Rickie Fowler – Looks like he’s back after finishing runner up last week and coach Butch Harmon said he’s made 75 percent progress in his swing rebuild. Top 20 in bogey avoidance, greens in regulation and putting on fast Bermuda greens.
11. Jordan Spieth – Played great on Champion greens last month at Quail Hollow during the Presidents Cup and won in South Carolina earlier this year. Ranks eighth in SG: Tee-to-Green over the last 36 rounds and seventh in scoring on difficult courses.
CJ Cup in South Carolina Fantasy Golf Best Bets
10. Hideki Matsuyama – Landed in the top 10 only three times since he won the Sony in January and the last was a T-4 at the U.S. Open. Love his long game prowess, creativity and sand game acumen this week, though. Ranks fifth in SG: Tee-to-Green on longer courses and ninth in scoring.
9. Tyrrell Hatton – Shared second place at Congaree last summer but will find a much firmer, faster test this time around. Recorded back-to-back top 10s on the DP World Tour before a 45th last week. Excellent long iron player (fifth in proximity 200-plus) and solid Bermuda putter.
8. Jon Rahm – Prone to 3-putt on fast Bermuda greens and a poor bunker player over the past year (72nd in the field) but nobody is more accurate outside 200 yards and has four top 8s and a 16th in his last five worldwide starts.
7. Matt Fitzpatrick – Fifth in scoring and bogey avoidance on difficult courses and has gained as much distance off the tee as any pro over the last 12-18 months. Also an excellent Bermuda putter and phenomenal bunker player.
6. Viktor Hovland – The friendly Forest Cat finished fifth in Tokyo and his long iron play should allow him to attack the long par 4s and reachable par 5s at Congaree. Some concern about his bunker play but he’s making progress.
5. Shane Lowry – Another excellent bunker player with a strong links pedigree who arrives in good form, defeating an elite field in the BMW PGA Championship last month. Top 10 in scoring on difficult courses.
4. Sungjae Im – Endured an early mishap at the ZoZo and settled for a T-29 but that shouldn’t discourage anyone from putting Im on a roster this week. Each portion of his Tee-to-Green play has been on point since April.
3. Rory McIlroy – Probably will hit a 400-yard drive this week. Can climb to No. 1 in the world with a victory. Finished in the top eight in 11 of his last 14 starts, a run that started in Augusta. Leads the field in SG: Tee-to-Green and bogeys avoided on longer courses.
2. Max Homa – Slotted in the top 30 of every meaningful statistic this week, including 11th in proximity outside 200 yards and 10th in putting on Bermuda. Growing more comfortable on the leaderboard each time he tees it up.
1. Justin Thomas – Not only does the course fit his skill set, he’s also due to win again and has a strong record of collecting Tour trophies in the fall. Fantastic bunker player, second in SG: Tee-to-Green on longer courses and 12th in 3-putt avoidance on fast Bermuda.
CJ Cup in South Carolina Fantasy Golf Picks: Bargain Bin
Chris Kirk, Matt Kuchar, Keith Mitchell, Taylor Moore, J.T. Poston, Webb Simpson, Alex Smalley, Gary Woodland.