Xander Schauffele
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Odds and Ends

Picks and Tips: Xander tops loaded Vegas field

Updated On: October 12, 2021, 1:20 pm ET

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For the second year in a row, the PGA Tour heads to a new venue in the Las Vegas area to host the CJ Cup.

After three years at Nine Bridges in South Korea, the event was relocated last year to Shadow Creek where Jason Kokrak broke through for his first career victory. This week it shifts to The Summit Club, a relatively new venue in Summerlin where Collin Morikawa is a member and frequent visitor.

Morikawa is among the betting favorites this week and for good reason, given his strong approach figures and local knowledge. But I'm looking in a different direction near the top of the board in this loaded field, with several recent Ryder Cuppers and 60 PGA Tour winners among the 78 participants:

To Win (odds via PointsBet Sportsbook)

Xander Schauffele (+1200): He is basically the first place I look when a limited-field event rolls around. Schauffele has won four times on Tour and three of them have been in small fields like this: Kapalua, East Lake and the WGC-HSBC. Throw in the 2020 Tour Championship, where he had the low 72-hole total, and his Olympic gold medal from this summer, and you get the general idea: this guy rises to the occasion in these small-but-stacked fields.

This week should be no exception for a man who, like Morikawa, spends plenty of his spare time in Las Vegas. Schauffele finished third in the gross division at East Lake in his most recent individual, start, then was out-shined only by Dustin Johnson at Whistling Straits. Two weeks off should have been enough time for him to recover from his Ryder Cup celebrations, and this will be a chance for him to once again display a well-rounded skill set against a strong field. The market has shifted toward Morikawa because of the perceived home course advantage, perhaps too much, but Schauffele deserves his standing among the pre-tournament favorites.

Scottie Scheffler (+3000): I am breaking my own rule here. In recent months I have avowed myself to avoid both Scheffler and Will Zalatoris, unless and until they get their hands on a trophy. I have no interest in burning through a series of well-handicapped near-misses just to be holding the winning ticket at a short price in the end. But this combination of price and field size has piqued my interest given Scheffler has posted some of his best results in this type of event: second at the WGC Match Play, fifth at Concession, etc.

Scheffler missed the cut last week at TPC Summerlin which may help explain his price, but that early exit included a second-round 67 so it's not like all hope is lost. Instead there should still be plenty of good vibes remaining from his Ryder Cup debut - not to mention approach figures that have been steadily on the rise since May. He slipped in that department last week but had a positive week on the greens, and I'm optimistic that his iron play will return to recent form with a fresh slate. If the putter continues to cooperate, he could be knocking on the door of win No. 1.

Tyrrell Hatton (+4000): Hatton didn't take long to brush away any lingering sense of disappointment from Whistling Straits, finishing T-2 at the Dunhill Links the very next week. It's an event where he has feasted in the past, but this is also his time to shine: of his six European Tour wins, four have come in the month of October (with one more in November and January). Hatton can sometimes be hot or cold at the big summer events, but this is the part of the calendar where he often excels.

Such was the case last year, when he followed his win at Wentworth with a T-3 finish at this event in Vegas the very next week, shooting bookend rounds of 65 at Shadow Creek. While it's a different venue this week, there are plenty of similarities (including a common architect in Tom Fazio). Hatton also has a strong record in desert golf, having won in Abu Dhabi on the European Tour earlier this year. Over the last 30 PGA Tour rounds he's fifth in the field in SG: Tee-to-Green, and that doesn't take into account his strong showing two weeks ago in Scotland.

Top Finishes (odds via PointsBet)

Sam Burns (+260 top-10): When in Vegas, ride the heater. Burns headed west after an emphatic win at the Sanderson and didn't miss a beat, opening with rounds of 66-63 en route to a T-14 finish. While he faded a bit on Sunday his opening 36 holes was another reminder that he's a player who continues to keep his foot on the gas when things are clicking, as seen in the spring when he followed his breakthrough win at the Valspar with a runner-up showing at the Byron Nelson. He was slowed shortly thereafter by an injury, but with a clean bill of health in tow there's reason to believe that his ball-striking wizardry will continue for another week in the desert.

Justin Rose (+450 top-10): Remember him? When last we saw the Englishman, he was contending at Wentworth but still came up short of a last-minute Ryder Cup bid. That T-6 finish came on the heels of a T-10 in Greensboro, and now Rose turns the page to a new season eager to ensure he'll be a part of the 2023 Ryder Cup festivities in Rome. The former world No. 1 endured a prolonged slide but is starting to see an uptick in his stat line, notably his work on and around the greens. It's still a far cry from his heights of 2018-19, but Rose got to Vegas a week early to begin prep for this event and should have plenty of motivation to return to the discussion of the world's best. A strong showing this week will go a long way toward reminding his peers that at age 41 there's still plenty left in the tank.

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Byeong-Hun An (+900 top-20): This is a huge week for An, who played poorly enough last season to lose his PGA Tour card and failed to gain it back at Korn Ferry Tour Finals. He's in this week's limited field as one of the highest-ranked Koreans in the world, given the event is normally played in South Korea, so it's a big opportunity to gain some valuable points toward earning back his status for 2023. An has seen his SG: Approach numbers implode this year after a recent union with swing coach Sean Foley, and while his putting stats have improved it remains a weak spot in his game. The reason for optimism, though is the venue: An is a really solid desert player, having posted strong showings at The American Express and Phoenix Open among several desert highlights in the European Tour's Middle East swing. This event will have his full attention, and it's a tempting price considering he only has to finish in the top quarter of the field and doesn't have to worry about a 36-hole cut.

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