For a second straight week, the PGA Tour hosts a limited 78-player field in Asia with the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges. Defending champion Justin Thomas is again the betting favorite at the same odds as last week (5-1). There's more starpower at the top of the board this week with Brooks Koepka (9-1), Jason Day (12-1) and Hideki Matsuyama (12-1) teeing it up on Jeju Island.
You might consider this the offseason, but there is more on the line this week than you probably realize. The tour's biggest purse outside of the majors and WGCs ($9.5 million) will be up for grabs this week as well as a huge $1,665,000 winner's check. Last week, our statistician expert, Lou Riccio, a Columbia University professor who teaches analytics and data modeling, correctly included Marc Leishman in his DFS lineups. On the whole, our group of experts struggled somewhat with an unfamiliar course (TPC Kuala Lumpur) and lack of ShotLink stats at these Asian tournaments, which limits the amount of data we can pile over to determine who should win.
That just means we have to rely on our expert handicapping skills—as we did two weeks ago, when one of our pickers correctly nailed Kevin Tway's 55-1 win at Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa, Calif. Here's who our group likes this week.
To Win: (odds per Sportsbook.ag)
Pat Mayo, DraftKings analyst, 14-time fantasy sports-writers association finalist, and board of governors at www.fantasynational.com: Tyrrell Hatton (28-1)— These odds seem like a fair bit of disrespect for the world’s No. 24-ranked player. Fresh off a solid run through the FedEx Cup, an impressive Ryder Cup, and a near miss at the Alfred Dunhill (T-2), Hatton now gets a course where his ball-striking and short game can really excel. Per, www.fantasynational.com, Hatton ranks sixth in the field over his past 24 rounds in Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green, coming in second to Alex Noren in scrambling over that time frame. Additionally, while the weather doesn’t appear as if it'll be as gusty as 2017, it’s not going to be hot in Korea over the weekend. We’re not talking freezing temperatures or anything, but it’ll be cool. Conditions the Brit is very familiar with.
Mayo: Byeong-Hun An (35-1): The prices are far too short among the very top end players, let’s dig down the list a little and find the best values. You don’t have to drop too far to see Ben An leaping off the page. Coming off a T-13 at last week’s CIMB Classic, the Korean gets to tackle a course that seems tailored to his skills and deficiencies. The giant and undulating greens will mitigate the impact of poor putting, which is always great news for An, while putting an emphasis on ball-striking and short game. in his past 24 round, per www.fantasynational.com, An sits fifth tee-to-green, 11th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking, and a lofty 5th in Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green. He finished T-11 at this site a year ago, and he enters with far better form this time around.
Brandon Gdula, Senior Writer, FanDuel/numberFire: Gary Woodland (30-1) — If not settling on Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka, I like Woodland at his odds. He enters with some of the best ball-striking in the field and can score on the par 5s. Scoring should go lower this year than last year on Juju Island, so Woodland could be in the hunt.
Gdula: Joaquin Niemann (60-1) — Niemann is one of three golfers in the field to rank top-10 in both strokes gained: off the tee and strokes gained: approach over the past 36 rounds, per FantasyNational.com. That ball-striking can get him going, and he’s been a plus putter on bentgrass to start his career.
Dr. Lou Riccio, Columbia University professor: Justin Thomas (5-1) — In this limited field, the chalk will rise to the top. I like Thomas more than Koepka due to his course history and bogey avoidance, so I'm staying away from Koepka in my daily fantasy lineups, too. And my optimization model shows Thomas warrants these odds with the far-and-away best odds to win.
PGA Tour Caddie No. 1: Emiliano Grillo (35-1): When will this kid get the respect he deserves? Coming off a T-2 last week, it's a matter of time before Grillo gets Win No. 2. He's hitting the ball great, and I think that will continue this week.
Brady Kannon, VSIN.com golf specialist and golf sales at TeeTimesUSA.com: Cameron Smith (26-1): Smith has been playing well for a couple of months now and is an excellent putter. He gets big, undulating, bent grass greens like Augusta National this week, where he finished 5th back in April. He also took 3rd here last year.
Tyrrell Hatton (28-1): He has to be fired up off of the European's Ryder Cup victory and it showed when he took 2nd at The Alfred Dunhill two weeks ago. The man can really putt and I get the feeling he's going to win again soon.
Kevin Na (60-1): This price is just way to high for a guy that has really been improving in the past six months, going from strong player to a threat to win player - and has moved to the 42nd ranked player in the world. He was born in Korea, so there is that familiarity and he currently lives in Las Vegas, where playing in the springtime, will teach one quite well how to play in the wind.
Austin Cook (110-1): A great putter, very accurate off of the tee, and an up and comer on Tour. Excellent value here on a guy that already has a win under his belt, finished 13th last week, and who I'm seeing priced as low as 60-1.
Alex Myers, GolfDigest.com senior writer: Sungjae Im (40-1): The PGA Tour rookie returns home to a Nine Bridges course he honed his skills on growing up. Only 20, Im led the Web.com Tour money list wire-to-wire last season and he began his first season on the PGA Tour with a T-4 in Napa. On a course that ranked the most difficult on tour in putts per greens in regulation, three-putt avoidance, and one-putt percentage in its first year of hosting the event, Im's local knowledge gives him a big leg up on the rest of a field.
Joel Beall, GolfDigest.com staff writer: Xander Schauffele (30-1) — Schauffele avoided the dreaded sophomore slump in 2018, highlighted by top-six finishes at Carnoustie, Sawgrass and Shinnecock. Though his overall stats from the season (66th tee-to-green, 57th in strokes gained) don’t convey the prowess of a top-tiered player, the 24-year-old’s consistency in every aspect of the game make him a threat every week. That includes at the CJ Cup, one of the few events where the score board isn’t painted in red. The X-Man struggled mightily at last year’s tournament, but don't be surprised to see his name among the weekend contenders.
Christopher Powers, GolfDigest.com assistant editor: Kyle Stanley (50-1): Last year’s leader board at the inaugural CJ Cup was littered with great ball-strikers, including Stanley, who was still able to finish top 20 with rounds of 73 and 74 on the weekend. As always, it’ll come down to whether or not he can make putts, something he did a decent job of last week at the CIMB Classic. He’s coming in with plenty of momentum, finishing with rounds of 68, 66 and 64 at TPC Kuala Lumpur. I’ll take Stanley as a bit of a long shot to earn his third career win.
Steve Hennessey, Golf Digest associate editor: Jason Day (12-1) — These are the sort of odds you'll see for Day in a full-field event in the U.S. So with just three other players on his level of skill, I consider this a value play. Day's killer short game and putting prowess give him the edge over the rest of the field. I could see Day and JT duking it out—wouldn't that be fun?
(Powers 1 for 2 with winners this year, successfully picking Kevin Tway at the Safeway Open. Nobody correctly predicted Leishman's win last week.)
Top 5: (odds from DraftKings Sportsbook)
Myers: Sungjae Im (+750): For the reasons I like him to win, I'd also consider hedging with a top-5 bet. With his local knowledge, he seems like he'll definitely be a contender on the weekend. If he doesn't lift the trophy, the top-5 bet seems like great value.
Powers: Paul Casey (+500): A no-cut event with a huge purse for a top-5 machine like Paul Casey (9 top-5 finishes in the last two seasons)? Sign me up.
Hennessey: Rafa Cabrera Bello (+750): The Spaniard checks off three boxes for me this week: 1) He plays tough courses well, like he did at Shinnecock this year, finishing in the top 5; 2) He plays well in the wind, with his long-iron play being one of his strengths; and 3) Bello had a T-11 here last year, so he feels somewhat familiar on this layout. If conditions get tough again this year, expect to see Bello hovering around the top of the leaderboard.
(Results on top-5 picks last week: PGA Tour Caddie: 1 for 1; Myers: 0 for 1.)
(Results on top-5 picks year to date: PGA Tour Caddie: 1 for 1; Kannon: 0 for 1; Powers: 0 for 1; Myers: 0 for 1.)
Mayo: Kyle Stanley (+250) — If the wind doesn’t pick up, Nine Bridges won’t repeat as the fourth most difficult course on TOUR this time around, but it’s not going to be a cakewalk either. So, any time you can fuse a tough track on bentgrass, where ball striking reigns king, always dial up Stanley. Despite not coming close to qualifying, Stanley actually would have been perfect for the Ryder Cup set up in France.
Gdula: J.B. Holmes (+500) - Holmes struggled here last year, finishing 67th, but he didn’t putt well, something you can always account for in his range of outcomes. However, he ranks sixth in strokes gained: off the tee and fifth in strokes gained on par 5s over the past 36 rounds, so he could score well enough to contend for a top-10 at good value.
Riccio: Gary Woodland (+225): My optimization model gives Woodland a strong chance of winning—with four par 5s, the bomber should be able to take advantage of his length. And his improved putting led to a strong finish last week at the CIMB Classic. I like the form, and I like Woodland at these odds.
Beall: Abraham Ancer (+500).
(Results on Top-10s last week: PGA Tour caddie: 0 for 1 (Kyle Stanley's T-13 missed by one stroke); Gdula: 0 for 1; Myers: 0 for 1; Powers: 0 for 1; Hennessey: 0 for 1.)
(Results on Top-10s year to date: Mayo: 1 for 2; Gdula: 0 for 3; Riccio: 1 for 2; Hennessey: 0 for 4; Beall: 0 for 1; Powers: 0 for 1; Myers: 0 for 1; PGA Tour caddies: 0 for 1.)
Top-20: (Odds per FanDuel SportsBook)
Gdula: Joel Dahmen (+470): Dahmen has one of the best overall statistical profiles in the field over recent rounds, and he just finished 26th at the CIMB. Not many golfers offer better value for a top-20.
Mayo: J.B. Holmes (+210) — Already with a pair of Top 15 finishes to kick off the new season, JB actually gets a course best suited to his game in Korea. There are four Par 5s to generate eagle opportunities, and three Par 4s measuring under 400 yards to generate easy birdie looks as well. Just behind Justin Thomas, Hideki Matsuyama and Brooks Koepka, Holmes actually averages the fourth placement in my statistical model this week, too, ranging from the past 12 rounds through the last two years.
Kannon: Brian Gay (+430): — In a field of less than 80-players, it is hard to find a great price on many players to finish in the top 25 percent, but I'll take a shot with Brian Gay. Excellent putter and he played all four rounds last week at The CIMB for a nice warm up. He also played college golf at University of Florida and has fared well all over the state. This tells me he knows how to play well in wind.
Powers: Joaquin Niemann (+165): You’re not going to ever get great odds on these top 20 bets, especially for an event with just 78 players, but Niemann at +140 seems pretty strong to me. In 16 career PGA Tour starts, the 19-year-old has finished inside the top 20 five times. I smell a sixth this week.
Beall: Joaquin Niemann (+165) — I also like Niemann in this limited field and no-cut to get going with some birdies.
(Results on Top-20 picks last week: Mayo: 0 for 2; Gdula: 0 for 1; Hennessey: 0 for 2.)
(Results on Top-20 picks year to date: Mayo: 0 for 3; Gdula: 0 for 2; Riccio: 0 for 2; Kannon: 0 for 1; Powers: 0 for 1; Hennessey: 0 for 2.)
Kannon: Kevin Na (-100) over Kyle Stanley: I spoke about Na as a shot to win and I think Stanley's putting holds him back on greens like these this week.
Alex Noren (-115) over Adam Scott: Scotty has the tremendous ball-striking game, but I like the added confidence Noren likely has from the Ryder Cup along with his excellent tee to green game and putting stroke.
Powers: C.T. Pan (+105) over Ryan Moore (-125): Following his T-2 at the Safeway, Moore came crashing back to earth at the CIMB Classic, finishing T-66 and failing to break 70 at a course that yielded nothing but low numbers. Meanwhile, Pan just got his season underway in Malaysia and showed some flashes of brilliance with a first-round 65 and a final-round 68 to finish T-30. I like Pan to build on that at Nine Bridges and edge out Moore this week.
Hennessey: Jason Day (+105) over Brooks Koepka — Slight edge here to J-Day in the short game and putting. And J-Day should be fresh and well-rested, not having teed it up since the Tour Championship three weeks ago. Koepka has still been grinding after an exhausting Ryder Cup week and the Alfred Dunhill Championship in Scotland. I'll take the well-rested J-Day over Koepka.
Joel Dahmen (-110) over Jason Dufner: Sorry, Duf, but any course where putting is going to be emphasized, I'm going to fade you. Dahmen's stat models track out well here at the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges, and Dahmen is trending up. Dufner finished T-43 at TPC Kuala Lumpur. Give me the golfer trending in the right direction with solid putting over Duf, perennially shaky on the greens.
Ryan Armour (-120) over Ryan Palmer. In this battle of the Ryans, I'll take the superb putter with Armour over Palmer for the same reasons I'm taking Dahmen over Dufner.
(Matchup results last week: Hennessey: 2 for 3; Powers: 2 for 2; Kannon: 2 for 5.)
Matchup results year to date: Hennessey: 2 for 3; Powers: 2 for 3; Kannon: 3 for 8; Beall: 0 for 1.
Gdula: With value options such as Joel Dahmen ($7,400) and Keith Mitchell ($7,900), it’s possible to roster both Justin Thomas ($13,100) and Brooks Koepka ($12,300). However, a balanced lineup in a no-cut event could maximize your chances to get a full wave of golfers inside the top-25. Here are some golfers who will make up the core of my rosters and can be used in either type of lineup build:
Billy Horschel ($10,300)
Joaquin Niemann ($9,900)
Byeong-Hun An ($9,700)
Abraham Ancer ($8,700)
Joel Dahmen ($7,400)
Riccio: Justin Thomas ($13,100)
Jason Day ($11,900)
Hideki Matusyama ($11,600)
Austin Cook ($8,400)
Andrew Putnam ($7,700)
Patton Kizzire ($7,100)
Beall: Paul Casey ($11,300)
Xander Schauffele ($10,900)
Alexander Noren ($10,500)
Cameron Smith ($10,000)
Abraham Ancer ($8,700)
Sungjae Im ($8,400)
Mayo: Here's who I prefer to build my lineups around this week. I like Jason Day out of the upper-tier of players for his exceptional putting and short game. You read why I like Hatton, An and Stanley—I also like Cink, who's solid for the price, still a top iron player, and has the short game to compete if the wind picks up. For my full CJ Cup breakdown, click here.
Jason Day $10,600
Tyrrell Hatton $9,500
Byeong-Hun An $8,700
Kyle Stanley $8,200
Stewart Cink $7,000
Riccio: Justin Thomas ($11,600)
Jason Day ($10,600)
Austin Cook ($7,400)
Stewart Cink ($7,000)
Brian Harman ($7,000)
Patton Kizzire ($6,300)