CJ Cup @ SUMMIT 2021: Fantasy picks, power rankings and analysis

This week at the CJ Cup marks the first week of the new, full-time partnership of Justin Thomas and caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay. Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s double down. For the second year in a row the PGA Tour is spending two consecutive weeks in Las Vegas, moving the CJ Cup from South Korea due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

This time the host course is another elite spot in the desert, The Summit Club, a Tom Fazio design that opened in 2017. The 7,431-yard par-72 layout welcomes a meaty 78-man field that includes 12 of the top 15 players in the world.

Observation and reports reveal The Summit Club is similar to other Fazio courses the Tour has visited such as Caves Valley and Quail Hollow. Broad fairways and large (avg. 6,800 square feet) undulating greens in impeccable condition. Bentgrass covers the putting surfaces, which are expected to roll around 12 on the Stimpmeter.

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More than half of the field played across town at TPC Summerlin last week. I don’t see those players having an advantage. The Summit Club presents a unique test and another good comp course may be TPC Scottsdale, home of the Waste Management Open, although it’s much flatter.

Once again expect a winning score of 20 under or better. There are two driveable par 4s, four reachable par 5s. The weather forecast is perfect – temperatures in the upper 60s and lower 70s – but because of the elevation, 10 miles from The Strip, wind could become a factor in the afternoon.

Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green seems like the right place to start on an unfamiliar course and Birdies or Better Gained also factored into the equation. Bentgrass putters and strong iron players in recent tournaments are worthy of weight in any model.

The young guns are coming. Players have been performing better at a younger age for a decade and recent weeks have confirmed the depth of talent in professional golf. Comfort in contention and secured status has enabled Max Homa and Sam Burns and Sungjae Im to pad their victory total. The recent Korn Ferry Tour graduates are accumulating points on their new tour just as they did on their old one. The field is a shade more experienced and older this week, but there are still rising stars to consider.

Bargain Bin

  • Keegan Bradley, Cameron Davis, Charl Schwartzel, Hudson Swafford, Jhonnatan Vegas

As always, good luck.

Golfer power rankings

15. Abraham Ancer – I’m not sure what happened to Abe last week. He lost 6.2 shots on approach and 5.4 shots tee-to-green in his worst ballstriking effort since the 2020 Memorial. Betting on a bounce back at The Summit. Top 10 in SG: Putting on bentgrass.

14. Maverick McNealy – A member at The Summit, who had his best chance to win on the PGA Tour last month at Silverado, gaining 9.3 shots Tee-to-Green. Prefer to play him at shorter golf courses but the altitude will make this one feel shorter than the scorecard yardage and his familiarity should be valuable.

13. Shane Lowry – Excellent value here on the board and in the fantasy pricing. He’s fourth in the field in SG: Tee-to-Green over the last 24 rounds. Strong on approach and capable of making enough birdies. Tied for fourth in the Dunhill Links the week after the Ryder Cup.

12. Sungjae Im – Put on a ballstriking clinic last week at TPC Summerlin (10.4 shots gained Tee-to-Green) and putted like Crenshaw on Sunday to claim his second Tour victory. Finished third at another Fazio design, Caves Valley, two months ago at the BMW Championship during the FedEx Cup playoffs.

11. Talor Gooch – Gained 5.6 shots on approach last week in a tie for 11th to climb to 11th in the FedEx Cup standings on the young season. Has gained at least 2.4 shots in that area in seven of his last eight starts and has strong putting numbers on bentgrass.

10. Sam Burns – The price keeps rising and you could do worse than ride a hot golfer until he cools off. Gained 8.2 shots Tee-to-Green at the Shriners but winning momentum faded in the pond in front of the 16th green on Saturday. Shot a 64 and 65 at Caves Valley in a top 10 at the BMW.

9. Harris English – Missed the cut last week at the Shriners because he lost six shots on the greens. That was his worst effort since the 2016 Sony. Still, he’s one of the best in the game on bentgrass and 2.2 shots gained on approach at TPC Summerlin makes him worthy of consideration this week.

8. Viktor Hovland – We’ve all had bad days, weeks, tournaments with our short game. The Norwegian Forest Cat lost 8.9 shots around the greens at TPC Summerlin in a T-44. He gained 5.2 shots on approach and 5.3 Off the Tee, though. No doubting his talent but needs to start performing against the strongest fields. Finished third at Wells Fargo and 17th at BMW.

7. Aaron Wise – This is the beginning to look like the season we’ve been expecting from the 25-year-old. He’s top 15 in the field in SG: Tee-to-Green and Birdies or Better Gained over the last 50 rounds. Has finished 26th or better in each of his last four starts and a T-8 at Caves Valley is included in that run.

6. Rory McIlroy – Loves the Tom Fazio designs. His record at Quail Hollow is outstanding and he shot 22 under to crack the top 5 two months ago at Caves Valley. Feels like this is a pivotal season for McIlroy, who is 32 years old. Does he still belong among the game’s elite or has the younger generation passed him by?

5. Dustin Johnson – Feels like DJ should be in the mix in Vegas at some point in his career and his sparkling performance at Whistling Straits proved he could be ready for another strong fall (It’s been less than a year since he won the Masters. Think about that for a minute). Top 5 in Birdies or Better Gained over the last 50 rounds and top 10 in moderate wind conditions.

4. Collin Morikawa – Will be a popular choice this week because he’s a member at The Summit and terrific at golf. Dominated the models we ran this week. Leads the field in SG: Approach and SG: Tee-to-Green. Only needs an average putting effort to contend.

3. Xander Schauffele – Although he excelled in the Ryder Cup and won Olympic Gold, he’s had only two top 10s in his last nine starts and hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since January 2019. But he’s historically strong in the fall and in limited field no-cut events. His all-around skill set, including 10th in SG: Approach and 11th in SG: Putting, should ascend at The Summit.

2. Tony Finau – Leads the field in SG: Total and SG: Tee-to-Green over the last 50 rounds on bentgrass greens. Making his 2021-22 season debut after helping the U.S. Ryder Cup team to victory.

1. Justin Thomas – Begins a new journey with Jim “Bones” Mackay as his fulltime caddie. They’ve already won together. Thomas is eager to rebound from a lackluster summer. A fresh relationship often ignites a talented player. Thomas has thrived in the fall, ranks third in the field in SG: Total in the last 50 rounds on bentgrass and second Tee-to-Green. He should be rejuvenated and ready to win again.

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