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A limited field with less than 80 players presents itself this week at THE CJ CUP @ SUMMIT. Taking place at The Summit Club in Las Vegas, the Tom Fazio design will welcome some of the best players in the world.
As it was last year down the road at Shadow Creek where THE CJ CUP set up shop. Another Tom Fazio design, there could be some correlation despite being a different venue this go around. Other courses influenced by Fazio seen within the past year include: Quail Hollow, Caves Valley, Congaree, and Kasumigaseki in Tokyo.
I’ll likely try to draw some parallels to those courses in our first-round analysis, but the biggest factor going our way is the small field. Last coming through at the Olympic Games with Sepp Straka, this type of event has proved to be kind to us in the past.
With no wave advantage, we will stick to the basis of backing those players who typically get out to a fast start. Dustin Johnson leads the way at PointsBet Sportsbook at +2000, while last year’s first-round leader, Tyrrell Hatton, checks in at +5000.
Hatton came to this tournament last season off a big win at the BMW PGA Championship and is known to play well in spurts. Having finished runner-up at the Alfred Dunhill Links a couple weeks back, perhaps a similar start could be in store for the Englishman.
Odds to Lead After the First-Round (Odds Via PointsBet):
+2000: Dustin Johnson
+2500: Jordan Spieth
+2800: Rory McIlroy
To Lead After the First-Round (Odds Via PointsBet):
Gary Woodland (+6000):
A player well versed in Fazio designs is Woodland who checks in as our first selection this week. Now fully healthy after battling nagging injuries, the ball-striking looked on point in his season debut in Mississippi. Posting +1.1 Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and +1.6 SG: Approach in Round 1, the former basketball star at Washburn University carded an opening 5-under 67 at the Sanderson Farms Championship.
Gaining in each strokes-gained metric that Thursday, Woodland should fare even better this week at The Summit Club. Known for doing his best work on bent grass greens, the 37-year-old boasts single round performances of +2.7, +3.6, and +2.3 SG: Putting in recent memory.
With such a strong history not only in this tournament - capturing two podium finishes - not only on Fazio designs, but also during this time of year, Woodland is capable of repeating such a putting effort. If that proves to be the case, he should have no issues setting the pace at this year’s CJ CUP.
Keegan Bradley (+6000):
It’s been quite some time since we have gone to the well with Bradley, but I believe the timing could be right for the 35-year-old. After enjoying such a great spring, Bradley struggled mightily on the greens during the long months of summer.
Nothing new when it comes to the 2011 PGA Champion as he typically finds some trouble with the flat stick, but the ball-striking cannot be ignored. Continuously gaining strokes off-the-tee and on approach, Bradley is a competent putting round away from going low.
While his full-tournament putting statistics look poor, round-by-round, Bradley can spike. Specifically on bent grass as during the FedEx Cup playoffs he posted +0.8, +1.5, +1.8, and +2.0 SG: Putting in a four-round stretch. With the most recent of these performances occurring in the first-round at Caves Valley – another Fazio design – Bradley opened the BMW Championship with a 5-under 67.
Hudson Swafford (+10000):
Swafford’s affinity for Fazio designed golf courses is quite startling the more I dig into it. With his last four finishes on such courses reading T-17, T-2, T-6, WIN, the two-time winner on the PGA Tour should feel right at home at The Summit Club.
Outside of his first-round at Silverado Resort and Spa, Swafford’s ball-striking has looked steady since the beginning of August. Consistently finding his touch on the greens in the opening round, the 34-year-old's first-round chances will reside in his short-game.
Struggling around-the-green as of late, Swafford will need to lean on his irons in order to hide his weakness. At this number, I am comfortable chancing his scoring clubs can come through for us as the majority of his game looks to be in a solid spot.
Jhonattan Vegas (+10000):
For a player who finds his name near the top of the first-round leaderboard with regularity, I am surprised we are getting such a number. Even more so in a limited field as the last time Vegas teed it up in a similar event his number was nearly half of this. We’ll take it in stride as Vegas should continue to thrive on Thursdays in this new season.
While the putter betrayed him in the playoffs, over the course of the season, it was quite cooperative. Grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the 3M Open, the Venezuelan carried the momentum from his eventual runner-up finish to Tokyo for the Olympic Games. Opening his efforts at Kasumigaseki with a round of 5-under 66, he once again shot out of the gates.
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Keith Mitchell (+10000):
It has not been an ideal start to the season for Mitchell having missed the cut at the Sanderson Farms Championship and last week at the Shriners Children’s Open. Despite this, I reckon Mitchell found something in his game on Friday at TPC Summerlin.
Missing the cut by one-stroke, Mitchell posted +1.3 SG: Off-the-Tee, +1.4 SG: Approach, and +0.9 SG: Around-the-Green in his second round. Battling back to nearly make the weekend, Mitchell’s putter was his eventual downfall, as it has been thus far in the season.
However, while the valleys may be low, the peaks are equally as high. With performances of +5.4 SG: Putting at Liberty National, +7.2 SG: Putting at TPC Twin Cities, +3.4 SG: Putting at Congaree, and +3.5 SG: Putting at Quail Hollow, the 29-year-old has found success on bent grass and Tom Fazio greens before.
Lucas Glover (+10000):
After finding some form on the greens in the summer, eventually leading to his win at the John Deere Classic, Glover has looked lost with the putter in hand. Posting negative results in both of his outings this season, the former Clemson Tiger has been able to make consecutive weekend appearances despite the flat stick.
As the ball-striking has been quite solid, something we are accustomed to seeing out of the 2009 U.S. Open Champion. Giving himself plenty of scoring opportunities, it will be a matter of whether or not he can convert them at a decent rate on Thursday.
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