The CJ Cup Picks to Win – Golfer Matchups
Event: The CJ Cup at Nine Bridges
When: October 18-21
Where: Nine Bridges Golf Course - Jeju Island - Korea
TV: The Golf Channel
If you are an early riser, or maybe just an insomniac, you have been treated to some live morning golf over the last few weeks. The Ryder Cup was pushed back to find a larger US viewing audience but it was still an early watch and last week’s CIMB accompanied your morning coffee on the Golf Channel. The PGA Tour is overseas again this week so you will have to set the alarm if you want to tune in for the first tee shots. The CJ Cup debuted on Tour just last year, but it has already attracted a strong field. Justin Thomas is back to defend his 2017 title, and he is joined by several US stars, including Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau. Paul Casey, Jason Day and Hideki Matsuyama highlight the international set in this 78-player field. The top-60 in last season’s FedEx rankings were auto-invites with Korean Tour invites included to round out the attendees.
While the CIMB Classic has a history of producing shootouts, the lone CJ Cup event proved to be a grind. The 7,200 yards, par-72 layout doesn’t appear overly tricky by looking at the card alone, but the winds on Jeju Island can make the course play much harder than in benign conditions. The winds were up over the weekend last season and players averaged 2.5 strokes higher than in the opening round. Thomas fired a course-record 63 on a quiet Thursday and never broke 70 after the winds kicked up. The Nine Bridges name comes in reference to the several actual bridges necessary to make it around this course, so water is a definitive feature here. The 18th hole is the signature of the course as players will be tempted to attack the par-5 first by utilizing a “short-cut” fairway to lead to a potential eagle. The drama at 18 comes in as the approach is to an island green that has sand surrounding the putting surface itself. With a little more familiarity and perhaps some kinder weather, the winning total should push past the 9-under Thomas won with last season but this won’t likely be a 20-under kind of event like many of the early season stops are.
Each week, we take a look at the online betting sites and highlight the best values on the board. We make a short, middle and long odds pick to win and break down a couple of popular head-to-head matches. Here are our picks for the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges.
The CIMB winner has made a cottage industry of the early Asian stops as he finished 2nd here last season, losing on the second playoff hole to Justin Thomas. It is always nice to have a player that has proven a winning form after taking a break and Leishman’s putter continued to produce as it did to end last year. He ranks in the top-25 in both overall putting average and putter per green in regulation, which helps net the 19th best birdie average. Marc isn’t statistically strong in the tee-to-green categories, but he uses his veteran experience to make the most out his overall game. He limits mistakes well, and it does not surprise anyone to see him do well in tough or foreign environments. Thomas won both the CIMB and CJ Cup last season so it may fit the mold that Leishman contends here again.
Alex Noren (33 to 1)
The Euro Ryder Cupper has to be riding high, and he has a history of playing well early with all three of his PGA Tour top-10’s from last season coming before March. If you agree that Leishman is a good pick this week, then Noren should be as well as he is cut from a very similar putting mold. Alex ended last season 13th in both overall putting average and total putting on Tour with a top-5 rank in strokes gained-putting. He gets everything out of each round by limiting mistakes, and his scoring average is much better than his birdie numbers would suggest. That efficient manner is very helpful in tougher scoring environments as is Noren’s 28th best scrambling game. The putter is going to keep him in this one, and he is good enough to wade through this shorter field to a win.
Abraham Ancer (66 to 1)
I tabbed Ancer as a potential longshot winner last week, and he flirted with paying off big but settled for a T5 finish. That makes four top-7 finishes in just his previous nine starts, so his trend remains firmly pointed toward gaining his first Tour win. Ancer has some decent pop to his driver but is more accurate than anything, ranking 41st in off-the-tee performance. He is somewhat close to Tour average with the irons, so this is the kind of event I see him winning as most of this field is bringing similar ball striking stats. He does have a really nice short game and ranks 27th in scrambling and is a top-40 player out of the sand. Like the two other picks this week, Ancer is good at limiting mistakes. That keeps the scorecard on the rails through the week and pars are going to be good at a course that saw only three holes play under par last year.
Picks to win based on the predicted score for all four rounds. Check with 5Dimes for single round matches and a variety of prop bets.
In one of the marquee match-ups for this week, we find two very similar records from last season. Koepka got much more love for his 2018 campaign as he won two Majors but Day was able to win twice as well and had fifteen top-25 finishes in his eighteen made cuts. Koepka was a top-25 finisher in ten of fifteen made cuts, so Day was next-level consistent, even if he didn’t have as many high finishes in big events. Making the other guy beat you is a real thing when you are picking a head-to-head, and there is no cake-walk wins against Day. Jason is also the Tour’s best putter from last season with Koepka over 100 spots back in that ranking. When everything else looks pretty close - as it does here - it is better to stick with the more efficient putter, especially on a tough-ish course. Day v. Koepka feels like a 50/50 call in many ways but Day’s putting edge sways that more in the 60/40 range and that is enough to pick against Koepka and all his Major success.
We are moving to a different course this week, but I like the fact that Oosthuizen won this match last week with a T5 finish against Schauffele’s T25. The best part for me is that Louis appears to be healthy and over the ailments that limited him toward the end of the 2018 regular season. If he is willing to play back-to-back weeks on top of a lot of travel, he should be considered 100%. Xander is the longer player of the two, but Oosty is more accurate off the tee. Schauffele is a better putter with slightly better birdie numbers, but he still loses the “scoring average” battle in this match at Oosthuizen is the much better scrambler and almost never train-wrecks in any round. Power is not the most significant skill necessary at Nine Bridges, so I am not worried about Xander out-bombing Louis, and the course and Oosthuizen should only gain a larger ball striking advantage if the winds blow like they did last year.
Good luck and good golf!