Welcome back RotoBallers and PGA DFS fans! We expected the Houston Open to be rather 'ho-hum' with its less-than-stellar field, but we actually got a pretty wild tournament with the Texas winds and weather wreaking havoc during the first couple of rounds. If your players survived the cut, there was some firework-type scoring over the weekend and newcomer Lanto Griffin held off a host of chasers for his first PGA Tour win at 14-under par.
All the signs were there for Griffin to play well, as he headed to Houston in trending form. He wasn't featured in last week's article (though he did receive a mention), but we did nail not one, but two top-five finishers last week, with Harris English and Xinjun Zhang both playing great golf over the weekend!
This week we turn our eyes to the 'Asia Swing' portion of the fall schedule, as the PGA Tour heads to Korea for the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges. It's a small, but strong field...let's dive in!Editor's Note: Golf is back! Come join the fun and win big with RotoBaller. Get our full-season PGA and DFS Premium Pass for 50% off! Our exclusive DFS Lineup Optimizer, Research Station, DFS Projections and weekly DFS/betting articles! Sign Up Now!
The CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges Overview
After several weeks of surprisingly-strong golf during the fall season, we're changing things up a bit this week as we leave the United States and head to Korea for the first leg of the 'Asia Swing'. The CJ Cup is a WGC-lite type of event, in that it's a limited field with no cut that features some really strong players.
Defending CJ Cup champion Brooks Koepka is back to defend his title along with his little brother Chase (are they a package deal now?), and the Koepkas will be joined by former CJ Cup winner Justin Thomas. Some of golf's true elites will be in action this week, with players like Hideki Matsuyama, Jason Day, and Jordan Spieth set to tee it up. The 'young star' contingent will also be well represented, as Viktor Hovland, Collin Morikawa, Joaquin Niemann, and Matthew Wolf will all be in attendance.
As you can see, this is a pretty heavyweight lineup of players, but it is also a small field with only 78 players expected to tee it up (with lots of young Korean players on sponsor's invites). Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you view things), just like WGC events there is no cut this week, so everybody in the field is guaranteed a nice payday, which brings factors like motivation and pure competitiveness into the equation. With no cut (and barring a WD) players are locked in for four rounds, so we can definitely build more aggressive lineups if we so choose and will want to target players that can rack up DK points over the course of the tournament.
You can also find out who the smart money is on by checking out Spencer Aguiar's PGA DFS: Vegas Report every week.
The Course: The Club at Nine Bridges
Par 72 - 7,196 Yards, Greens: Bent
There are actually only eight bridges at Nine Bridges...so there's that. The Korean club opened in 2001 to almost universal acclaim and quickly began hosting an LPGA Tour event. For the last two years it's served as the kickoff event for the PGA Tour's 'Asia Swing'. Nine Bridges has produced two elite-caliber winners in that time, with Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka grabbing victory in the first two editions of the tournament. The course is situated literally on an island (Jeju Island) near the base of Mount Halla and offers some breathtaking views. The locale presents some unpredictable weather, which has led to the course playing to varying degrees of difficulty over the past two years (and makes it tough to pinpoint what characteristics to target). With the weather expected to be calm for most of the week and no cut to worry about, I'll be focusing on players that can make birdies, have strong tee-to-green games, and have some experience on this unique layout.
Justin Thomas (DK - $11,700)
Notable Course History: T36 ('19), Win ('18)
I'm content to ride the 'JT Horse' until it bucks me. I realize this isn't a groundbreaking pick, but Thomas has been featured heavily both in this article and in my DFS lineups since the latter part of last season, and I just see no reason to shy away at this point. A wrist injury derailed what I expected to be a huge year for JT in 2019, but he's been unbelievably impressive since getting his wrist straightened out midway through 2019.
Thomas hasn't finished outside of the top-12 in any tournament he's played since June, including a win at the BMW and two subsequent top-five finishes in his most recent starts. Over his last 24 rounds, Thomas leads this week's field in Strokes Gained: Total, Tee to Green, and Approach...while also leading the field in DK Points scored and Birdies or Better Gained over the same time frame. Not only is he an elite player, but he's also an elite competitor, which is one reason that I always like rostering him in WGCs and no-cut events.
In addition to his fire form, JT should be very comfortable on this Nine Bridges layout on which he won two years ago. It's no surprise that he sits atop the salary scale, but this week's no-cut format makes us feel better about taking a 'Stars & Scrubs' approach to lineup building.
Viktor Hovland (DK - $10,500)
Notable Course History: None
My reasoning behind Viktor Hovland is very similar to the thought process with the aforementioned JT...why jump off him when he simply continues to produce? The youngster is a ball-striking prodigy and has started the fall season with a top-10 at the Greenbrier and a T11 at the BMW Championship in Europe last month, not to mention his torrid close to last season's PGA Tour and Korn Ferry Tour finals.
Hovland heads to Korea either trailing Thomas or leading in most of the important statistical categories...he's first in the CJ field in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking and Off the Tee, and second in the field in SG: Total, T2G, and Birdies or Better Gained, while ranking third in SG: Approach and fourth in DK scoring. His short game is considered his weakness, but he's still second in this field in Bogeys Avoided over his last 24 rounds.
There's a lot to love with Hovland this week, with his lack of experience at Nine Bridges being almost the only drawback here. We've seen his price tag steadily increase and it's no surprise that he comes in at over $10k in this spot. You can start your rosters with either Hovland or Thomas, or pair the two together if you're feeling really frisky! If your read this article frequently then I'm probably starting to sound like a broken record when it comes to V-Hova, but I'll reiterate that a win is coming soon.
Sungjae Im (DK - $9,700)
Notable Course History: T41 ('19)
It wouldn't be out of the ordinary to see Sungjae listed here on any given week, but I had to highlight the young star this week due to his connection with this tournament. Im is actually from Jeju Island and Nine Bridges IS HIS HOME COURSE! So, while we would certainly have Im in consideration many of the 51 times in a year that he tees it up, he gets bumped to the top of the list this week.
The young Korean didn't disappoint during his rookie season on the PGA Tour. After dominating on the then-Web.com Tour in 2018, Im embarked on a wildly successful rookie campaign in the big leagues last season, racking up an impressive seven top-10s in his ridiculous 35 starts. He doesn't necessarily blow you away in one category statistically, yet he ranks second in DK points and third in Birdies or Better Gained over his last 24 rounds.
I don't want you guys to think Sungjae is getting lazy on us just because he didn't tee it up on the PGA or Euro Tours last week. No, our noble grinder was busy winning something called the Genesis Championship on the Korean Tour. That's right, Sungjae NEVER QUITS PLAYING. Sometimes I wonder what he does in December, but I'm sure that he's teeing it up in some random Member-Guest in Daejeon.
Cam Smith (DK - $9,000)
Notable Course History: T7 ('19), 3rd ('18)
I like Cam Smith well enough as a player, but I honestly can't stomach rostering him very often. I've found in DFS that I prefer targeting sharp ball strikers with weak short games in hopes that they catch a hot putting week. Smith is basically the polar opposite of that, as he's an unbelievable putter with a silky short game that often struggles tremendously tee to green. However, every now and then the stars align just right and I find myself pulling the trigger on the Aussie. I'm leaning in that direction this week due to a couple of factors: he's been tremendous in his two previous starts at Nine Bridges, notching a T7 and a solo third; and we are catching him in fairly sharp form, as he's logged two top-25 finishes in three 'Swing Season' starts and surprisingly gained strokes T2G in all three.
Matthew Wolff (DK - $8,800)
Notable Course History: None
Some of you might be wondering why Viktor Hovland and Collin Morikawa are both priced above $10k while Matthew Wolff is 'only' $8,800. I don't have a great answer for you, because I've been wrestling with that same question myself. I suppose Wolff hasn't been as consistently elite as Hovland and Morikawa, but he has routinely shown the ability to make birdies in bunches and ranks fourth in this week's field in Birdies or Better Gained over his last 24 rounds. With the weather expected to remain calm for the majority of the week, we'll need scorers in our lineups. I love Wolff's chances of racking up DK points with four guaranteed rounds and if we're attacking this tournament purely from an "ability to go low" perspective he's a tremendous play.
Pat Perez (DK - $7,500)
Notable Course History: T7 ('19), T5 ('18)
I'm gonna try to ride the hot hand here with Pat Perez. He's coming off a top-three outing at the Shriners and has played extremely well in his two previous CJ Cup starts. Perez reminds me a little bit of Bubba Watson...he's extremely streaky and repeatedly plays well on the same courses, with Nine Bridges being one of his favorite tracks. We can't expect him to gain eight strokes putting like he did at the Shriners, but his four strokes gained T2G (2.7 OTT & 2.8 APP) is an encouraging sign that his ball striking is trending in the right direction. Perez is normally a little too volatile and inconsistent for my taste, but I'm willing to roll the dice on his upside in this no-cut format.
Adam Long (DK - $6,700)
Notable Course History: None
This is a week that we can feel comfortable taking some shots on the lower end of the salary scale. My favorite sub-$7k player is Adam Long. It's easy to classify Long as a "one-hit wonder" after he came from absolute nowhere to win the 2019 Desert Classic, but the journeyman is quietly exhibiting that he has some game. He's played very well in three fall starts on the PGA Tour, logging two T23s and a T14 at the Greenbrier that featured a second-round 62. If we narrow our focus down to a player's most recent 12 rounds (basically Long's fall season to this point), he stands third in the field in Birdies or Better Gained, second in DK Points scored, and fourth in SG: Ball Striking. It's a great week to implement a 'Stars & Scrubs' attack and Long is a player that is in sneaky-good form at just $6.7k.