Table of Contents
By Alex Lauzon from the “Course of Life” podcast
From Las Vegas to Japan to… South Carolina? Frequent flier points EARNED!
JET LAG IN LOW COUNTRY
While last week’s ZOZO Championship began a swing of events in Asia and Australia that are an absolute treat for golf fans, the PGA Tour has different plans as they roar through a messy globetrotting fall schedule with a return back to the states for the CJ Cup.
The CJ Cup had previously been hosted at Nine Bridges in South Korea. Now it has a home at Congaree in South Carolina (we’ll see how long). You may remember Congaree for hosting the 2021 Palmetto Championship, won by lefty South African Garrick Higgo.
Congaree is going to be a beauty of a track this year. The question is: who’s still brave enough to make a Japan-to-South-Carolina flight on such little rest? This is a confusing blip on the schedule, and absolutely part of the inspiration for what’s going to be a revised (and shortened) PGA Tour calendar in years to come. Still, based on this year’s strength of field a lot of players stayed stateside and are ready to roll.
NEW COURSE VIBES
As it pertains to this event Congaree, the first impression in 2021 was impressive, and it was a stern test that yielded a 10 under par winner. The CJ Cup sits in a much more precarious position, forcing a lot of players to either start their Asian swing and miss it, or delay it to play out the string stateside on Tour. Well, the world’s best have spoken with their presence, as 15 of the top 20 are in the CJ Cup field – most of whom did not make the trip to Japan.
Players like Tyrrell Hatton and Matt Fitzpatrick who had top 10’s at the 2021 Palmetto Championship here are in the field. The usual big names: Rory, Rahm, Scottie, JT and Jordan Spieth are all making their first starts in a bit and sit atop the board as betting favorites.
FORECASTING THE CJ CUP
For the four days of PGA Tour golf we saw at Congaree last year, it presented itself as a classic flat terrain Low Country track, with devilishly placed hazards and the purest of firm and fast greens. Higgo won the event with precision and par saves, so we are likely not in for a birdie fest type of week. One of the last packed fields on the 2022 calendar is going to deliver a top tier winner that has a hot putter and ability to stay out of trouble.
MAKING YOUR PICKS
I’m prefacing my weekly picks based on exactly what I value the most. With every play I make, I’m always taking into account these factors and for the CJ Cup at a fairly new PGA Tour track, it’s hot putters and smart drivers of the golf ball that have a chance to shine.
1. Who’s hot and trending – recent high finishes, top 10 streaks and consistent play are never a bad thing.
2. Horses for courses – players love certain courses and course familiarity and experience are invaluable in a field of the world’s best.
3. What the numbers tell you this week – while I’m far from analytical, there’s always a tournament darling or two scattered across the golf talk stratosphere that stuns on paper.
4. Intangibles – while this allows for theater of the mind, there’s a mysterious optimism surrounding that feels “due” or if the price looks just right for buying.
At the ZOZO in Japan, I loved being there for the Viktor Hovland top 5, but outside of that there were no other high finishes in the top 25 on my card. For that reason it’s a C- for the picks this week.
THE SIX PACK OF PICKS
(Wanna start a Pick-X pool with your friends? Learn more here! Or, if you’re looking to start your own PGA One-and-Done pool, check those out here) (Hint: the main difference between the two is how many players you’ll pick each week)
1: Scottie Scheffler – Back to the well with the world’s number 1, he’s been quiet this fall but always a threat on a rather neutral track against the world’s best.
2: Max Homa – Riding with statistically one of the best putters recently, it seems like even off weeks for Homa produce a decent four rounds.
3: Tyrrell Hatton – Sneaky pick of the week. He had a top 10 here at this course last year and knows it well. Due for a hot putting week if only he can keep his attitude in check.
4: Taylor Montgomery – Our best kept secret is back, fresh off of a week relaxing and regrouping after a solid start to his rookie campaign.
5: J.T. Poston – The North Carolinian should be comfortable on a track like Congaree with venomous greens set up for patient putters.
6: Andrew Putnam – Came close to winning the 2021 Palmetto Invitational at this course, he’s undervalued and going off at a great number this week
RYP One and Done Pick: Tyrrell Hatton
Where to watch: Golf Channel and ESPN+ all weekend – with a million references to this golf course’s buzz and national prestige.
Why to watch: The CJ Cup has what is likely the last “loaded” field of the world’s best in 2022, appointment viewing for fans of the game.
What to eat: In the Low Country we’ll go with a pulled pork plate and some fried okra.
Purse: $9.5 million
Winner’s Share: $1.75 million