The CJ Cup preview with Skeeter McGillicuddy
The PGA Tour heads to South Korea for the first time this week for the CJ Cup. The second leg of three in Asia the event follows the same format as last week – 78 player field – no cut. No cut events have a certain charm as Grayson Murray might attest to given his performance last week. Ten over on day one Murray made steady progress to finish a creditable 69th. In a field of 78 it doesn’t sound that impressive but he did post a third round of 64 and he wouldn’t normally be around for a third round after an opening 82.
Murray’s performance not only illustrated the nuances of a no cut event it said a lot about conditions. At 99% humidity the CIMB was a sweat fest and I’m guessing Murray just hadn’t ever played in such oppressive heat / humidity. He won’t have that problem this week as the The Club at Nine Bridges is at altitude (3500 ft) which should mean some serious carry added to 20 mph winds and much lower temperatures. A bog standard par 72 playing around 7,200 it will be a totally different test than last week not least because of the expected winds.
The CJ Cup is a totally new event on tour and boasts a not insignificant $9.25m purse. This week precedes the third and final Asia swing event the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai which suggests some are here for the money for sure but also to warm up for next week.
Thomas heads the betting after his moderate effort to three-peat last week. He’s followed by Day after a month off, Casey, Finau, Schaufele and Leishman who was flying in the playoffs. We habitually death ride the market leaders and despite the aforementioned group containing two of our stable runners we’ll do the same this week. Prices aside this totally new venue for the players suggests an even stronger element of (considered) guesswork. Patrick is in the field and as a noted wind player with his lower flight he’d seem an obvious pick but I can’t have him at the price and his putting.
All with Betfair
Thomas Pieters 1pt win at $48
Cameron Smith 1pt win at $46
Russell Henley 1pt win at $46
Thomas Pieters gets another run out after being just 4 off the lead heading into Saturday last week. We wrote: he comes here with an interesting PGA Tour record and some course form. Pieter’s has made just two cuts on tour since a fine 4th at the Masters but he’s only played six events – the other three majors and a WGC where he finished 4th amongst them. This is the guy who scored more points than anyone in the last Ryder Cup as a wildcard pick (a theme this week) so we know he can really play. Pieters lost the plot on Saturday when the conditions seemed to get to him. As with Murray I can’t emphasise how oppressive 99% humidity is and on this basis and the fact he was -9 through 36 I am prepared to junk last weekend’s efforts and give him another chance.
Cameron Smith gets the nod on form, predisposition to wind (he’s an Aussie) and the fact he’s a superb putter (24 birdies last week). Leading last week he faded to an extent to finish 5th but this super talented 24 year old is a PGA Tour winner in waiting. Some moderate mid season performances preceded a stronger run of form with a T7 at the Wyndham and a T12 at the BMW. He won a mickey mouse team event but this is the real deal and with his upbringing, Asian experience, and current form, I don’t think the switch to wind and much lower temperatures will make any difference – rather he will relish it.
Russell Henley is, along with Tyrell Hatton and Jordan, one of the world’s best putters and he’s not in bad form to boot. Coming off an excellent third at the Tour Championship Henley is not the most consistent player out there but he sure can putt. Winner at the Shell this year, his third, Henley’s other wins have come in Honolulu and at the Honda Classic where it blew. Henley has one of those statistical profiles that is a license to print money with a full set of positive strokes gained against the field. Recent form suggests a purple patch tee to green so when you add in he is a world-class putter the combination is compelling. The odd action through impact suits a ball flight he can control and while we are pinning our hopes on his putting we’d certainly like to see those 20mph winds all day, every day.