Steve Bamford Golf Tips

Steve Bamford's CJ Cup Tips 2020

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Congratulations if you were on-board Martin Laird at anything up to 275/1 pre-event last week at the Shriners Open. He defeated the popular 28/1 shot Matthew Wolff, as well as Austin Cook who was available at 500/1 pre-event. So that gives us a non-Major PGA Tour winners list since the new season started at the Safeway Open of Stewart Cink, Hudson Swafford, Sergio Garcia and now Martin Laird at odds of 200/1, 200/1, 70/1 and 275/1 respectively.

We enter the part of the PGA Tour schedule which should have seen us travel to South Korea, Japan and China across consecutive weeks. Covid has stopped that, however the CJ Cup and ZOZO Championship will both still go ahead, but on US soil. The CJ Cup @ Shadow Creek is the result, which in essence sees the fourth CJ Cup and the same 78-man field with no cut again in operation format. Justin Thomas defends the title at this exclusive Las Vegas venue. With a $9.75 million purse this week, which is the biggest player fund this autumn outside of The Masters, the field as you would expect is excellent, attracted by huge hauls of both FedEx Cup and OWGR in this no-cut tournament.

The CJ Cup field comprises 78 attendees including the top-60 available players from the closing 2020 FedEx Cup rankings, 10 PGA Tour sponsor’s exemptions, and a number of South Korean players – some familiar, some not. I have never seen a sponsor’s exemption list like the one we are seeing this week, with Tommy Fleetwood, Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia, Brooks Koepka, Shane Lowry, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose and Jordan Spieth!

Before we talk the CJ Cup, the number of new visitors to Golf Betting System is increasing by the week, with The Masters the small matter of 4 weeks away. Welcome to you all and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published Tuesday) the Golf Betting Show on YouTube and our hugely popular private group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

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Course Guide: We visit a new PGA Tour venue this week in the form of Shadow Creek Golf Course in north Las Vegas, Nevada. The brainchild of Steve Wynn, of Mirage and Bellagio fame, this Tom Fazio designed course, now owned by MGM, is an elite golf club which sees little footfall. It’s also a unique golf course: carved from the desert, you would have thought you were in the south-east of the United States rather than in the Mojave Desert. Lush, undulating and featuring lots of fully-aged trees and water, this golf course ranks as the best in Las Vegas and in the top 30 of Golf Digest.

Shadow Creek Golf Course, Las Vegas, Nevada: Designer: Tom Fazio, 1989, redesign, 200; Course Type: Resort, Desert; Par: 72; Length: 7,527 yards; Holes with Water Hazards In-Play: 9; Fairways: 419 Bermudagrass overseeded with Ryegrass; Rough: 419 Bermudagrass overseeded with Ryegrass 3-4″; Greens: 5,500 sq.ft average featuring T1 Bentgrass; Stimpmeter: 12ft.

Course Designer Links: For research purposes, other Tom Fazio designs include:

  • Atunyote GC – Turning Stone Championship 2007-10
  • Conway Farms GC – BMW Championship 2013, 2015, 2017.
  • Eagle Point – Wells Fargo Championship 2017
  • Raptor Course Greyhawk GC – Fry’s.com Open 2008/09

Fazio has also had re-design input into:

  • Riviera Country Club – Genesis Invitational.
  • Quail Hollow – Wells Fargo Championship 2016, 2018, 2019 & 2017 PGA Championship.
  • Merion – 2013 U.S. Open.
  • Oakmont – 2016 U.S. Open.
  • Seaside Course at Sea Island – RSM Classic.

Course Overview: We take a step into the unknown this week with the CJ Cup moving from its South Korea home, to be played at Shadow Creek Golf Course, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Shadow Creek itself was built in 1989 by Steve Wynn, famous for building luxury hotels and casinos like The Mirage and the Bellagio. He bought a 350-acre site of desert north of Las Vegas, and brought in Tom Fazio to build him a golf course. But as you might expect this would be no standard, desert golf course. Fazio used a generous budget by carving rolling hills and canyons from the flat desert floor and pumping in plenty of water.  So as Tiger Woods has described the course, it’s visually similar to Carolina golf courses found in the Appalachians.

Once complete in 1990, Wynn used the course as his own private club, with nobody getting to play without his personal say-so. High rollers from his casinos would get to play, as would the likes of Michael Jordan and George H.W. Bush. In 2000 Wynn sold his business to MGM, who still own the golf course. These days the course is played lightly by those who are willing to pay $500 a round, and the course also hosts the annual Tiger Jam Invitational (Tiger Woods Foundation), and the MGM Coca-Cola Pro-Am.

The course has also undergone some changes since it first opened. Originally 7,239 yards, it was lengthened by more than 300 yards as part of a re-design in 2008. The course for me has slight Augusta National connotations with rolling, cambered fairways and contoured Bentgrass greens. There’s also plenty of elevation changes on the course, with a number of holes which have significant downhill and uphill aspects. Take a look at the signature par-3 17th hole and tell me that is doesn’t remind you of the 12th, Golden Bell at Augusta. An approach over a creek, to a long thin green, with bunkers and serious trouble if you stray too far long.

Indeed water also plays a real part in this golf course, with meaningful water hazards on 8 of the holes. Risk and reward though definitely plays a part on this 7,560 yard golf course played at altitude. 2 of the par-5s on the front, namely the 4th and 7th, are reachable. The 11th is a short par-4 with an elevated tee box, where many will go for the green. The par-5, 16th is reachable for the longest bombers in the field, as is the closing par-5, which is the 18th. Water is in-play along the whole right-hand side of the hole, with water also in front of the green. But a strong drive in the fairway can lead to eagle opportunities.

But the Bentgrass greens also pay a level of homage to Augusta National as well. The most memorable aspect of whole course are the greens, which are tiered and have plenty of flow, so that precision and spin are required to make birdies.

Dustin Johnson has the course record (65) on the newer 7,500+ yard, Par 72 layout – a round you can reportedly read about while using the restrooms at the club. Prior to the renovations, Woods and Fred Couples shared the record with rounds of 60. You may remember Shadow Creek from Capital One’s The Match. The first ever head-to-head showdown between Mickelson and Woods. After the pair couldn’t be split through 18 holes it was Mickelson who was the winner that night with a birdie on the 22nd hole.

Winners (Nine Bridges – Jeju Island): 2019: Justin Thomas (-20); 2018: Brooks Koepka (-21); 2017: Justin Thomas (-9).

Tournament Stats: We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s event that are well worth a look. Naturally they’ll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Combined Stats.

Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 10 of my published predictor are Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele, Bubba Watson, Hideki Matsuyama, Matthew Wolff, Rickie Fowler, Paul Casey and Sergio Garcia.

Recent Player Skill Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Northern Trust and Wales Open, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Driving Accuracy: 1) Brendon Todd; 2) Tyler Duncan / Matt Kuchar; 4) Corey Conners; 5) Joohyung Kim / Kevin Kisner; 7) Sungjae Im; 8) Brian Harman / Collin Morikawa; 10) Viktor Hovland; 11) Rickie Fowler / Jon Rahm; 13) Harris English; 14) Matthew Fitzpatrick; 15) Scottie Scheffler; 16) Abraham Ancer; 17) Kevin Na; 18) Paul Casey / Andrew Landry; 20) Adam Hadwin / Tyrrell Hatton / Adam Long; 23) Joel Dahmen / Russell Henley / Sebastian Munoz / Carlos Ortiz / Bubba Watson.
  • Greens in Regulation: 1) Jon Rahm / Bubba Watson; 3) Viktor Hovland; 4) Matthew Wolff; 5) Corey Conners; 6) Russell Henley / Shane Lowry / Rory McIlroy; 9) Keegan Bradley / Alex Noren; 11) Scottie Scheffler; 12) Xander Schauffele; 13) Harris English / Mackenzie Hughes / Kevin Streelman; 16) Sungjae Im / Jason Kokrak / Brendan Steele; 19) Tyrrell Hatton; 20) Joaquin Niemann; 21) Justin Rose / Justin Thomas; 23) Ryan Palmer; 24) Kevin Kisner / Gary Woodland.
  • Scrambling: 1) Louis Oosthuizen / Ian Poulter; 3) Russell Henley; 4) Xander Schauffele; 5) Hideki Matsuyama; 6) Brendan Steele / Matthew Wolff; 8) Alex Noren; 9) Patrick Cantlay; 10) Jon Rahm; 11) Daniel Berger; 12) Kevin Na; 13) Harris English / Brendon Todd; 15) Paul Casey / Joaquin Niemann; 17) Kevin Kisner; 18) Byeong Hun An / Mackenzie Hughes / Jason Kokrak / Mackenzie Hughes / Cameron Smith; 23) Jason Day; 24) Brian Harman; 25) Adam Long / Justin Thomas.
  • Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Matthew Fitzpatrick; 2) Mackenzie Hughes / Scottie Scheffler; 4) Daniel Berger; 5) Jon Rahm; 6) Tyrrell Hatton; 7) Cameron Smith; 8) Tom Hoge; 9) Joohyung Kim / Hideki Matsuyama / Ryan Palmer / Xander Schauffele / Gary Woodland; 14) Harry Higgs; 15) Viktor Hovland; 16) Tommy Fleetwood / Louis Oosthuizen / Justin Thomas; 19) Brian Harman / Rory McIlroy; 21) Alex Noren; 22) Joaquin Niemann; 23) Russell Henley / Danny Lee / Brendon Todd.

Recent Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Northern Trust and Wales Open, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 25 SG Off The Tee: 1) Jon Rahm; 2) Bubba Watson; 3) Matthew Wolff; 4) Corey Conners; 5) Sergio Garcia / Scottie Scheffler; 7) Tony Finau; 8) Tyrrell Hatton; 9) Paul Casey; 10) Sungjae Im; 11) Tommy Fleetwood; 12) Cameron Champ; 13) Dylan Frittelli / Rory McIlroy; 15) Viktor Hovland / Joohyung Kim; 17) Jason Kokrak; 18) Xander Schauffele; 19 Carlos Ortiz / Joaquin Niemann; 21) Harris English; 22) Harry Higgs; 23) Sebastian Munoz / Justin Rose / Justin Thomas.
  • Top 25 SG Approach: 1) Russell Henley; 2) Viktor Hovland; 3) Corey Conners / Justin Thomas; 5) Kevin Streelman / Bubba Watson; 7) Kevin Kisner / Alex Noren / Cameron Smith; 10) Lanto Griffin; 11) Hideki Matsuyama / Rory McIlroy; 13) Louis Oosthuizen / Brendan Steele; 15) Jason Kokrak / Jon Rahm; 17) Daniel Berger / Keegan Bradley / Matthew Wolff; 20) Xander Schauffele; 21) J.T. Poston; 22) Harris English; 23) Tom Hoge / Sungjae Im / Sebastian Munoz.
  • Top 25 SG Around The Green: 1) Xander Schauffele; 2) Si Woo Kim; 3) Justin Thomas; 4) Matthew Wolff; 5) Harris English / Russell Henley; 7) Byeong Hun An / Patrick Cantlay; 9) Adam Hadwin / Alex Noren / Ryan Palmer; 12) Bubba Watson; 13) Tony Finau / Tyrrell Hatton; 15) Jon Rahm; 16) Mackenzie Hughes / Louis Oosthuizen; 18) Keegan Bradley / Tommy Fleetwood / Scottie Scheffler; 21) Cameron Smith / Brendon Todd; 23) Cameron Champ / Billy Horschel; 25) Sebastian Munoz / Joaquin Niemann.
  • Top 25 SG Tee to Green: 1) Bubba Watson; 2) Jon Rahm; 3) Matthew Wolff; 4) Russell Henley / Rory McIlroy / Justin Thomas; 7) Xander Schauffele; 8) Keegan Bradley; 9) Harris English; 10) Corey Conners / Louis Oosthuizen; 12) Jason Kokrak; 13) Viktor Hovland; 14) Ryan Palmer; 15) Tyrrell Hatton / Scottie Scheffler; 17) Tommy Fleetwood / Brendan Steele; 20) Sebastian Munoz; 21) Cameron Smith; 22) Patrick Cantlay / Alex Noren / Kevin Streelman; 25) Daniel Berger / Joaquin Niemann.
  • Top 25 SG Putting: 1) Alex Noren; 2) Mackenzie Hughes; 3) Daniel Berger; 4) Brian Harman; 5) Louis Oosthuizen; 6) Jon Rahm / Brendon Todd; 8) Xander Schauffele; 9) Kevin Kisner; 10) Viktor Hovland; 11) J.T. Poston; 12) Ian Poulter; 13) Joaquin Niemann; 14) Tyrrell Hatton; 15) Paul Casey / Harris English / Harry Higgs / Matthew Wolff; 19) Cameron Smith; 20) Matthew Fitzpatrick / Jason Kokrak / Richy Werenski; 23) Scottie Scheffler; 24) Justin Thomas; 25) Abraham Ancer / Carlos Ortiz.
  • Top 25 SG Total: 1) Jon Rahm; 2) Xander Schauffele; 3) Louis Oosthuizen; 4) Matthew Wolff; 5) Daniel Berger / Russell Henley; 7) Viktor Hovland / Justin Thomas; 9) Brian Harman / Jason Kokrak / Alex Noren / Bubba Watson; 13) Mackenzie Hughes / Scottie Scheffler; 15) Tommy Fleetwood; 16) Cameron Smith; 17) Harris English; 18) Hideki Matsuyama; 19) Joaquin Niemann; 20) Harry Higgs; 21) Corey Conners / Tyrrell Hatton; 23) Rory McIlroy / Brendon Todd; 25) Ryan Palmer.

Winners & Prices: 2019: Thomas 15/2; 2018: Koepka 10/1; 2017: Thomas 8/1. For a full summary of winner’s odds on the PGA Tour since 2010 click here.

Weather Forecast: Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Las Vegas, Nevada is here. We move only a few miles from TPC Summerlin to Shadow Creek Golf Course this week in north-west Las Vegas. So expect similar turf conditions to those that we saw last week and wind-wise north-westerly winds up to 20mph look possible on Thursday. From there on it’s perfect desert conditions with warm temperatures and no significant winds.

So let’s take a view from players as to how Shadow Creek sets up and what skill sets the course favours:

Tiger Woods (2018 Tiger vs Phil): “To go from a flat piece of property in a flat desert to creating something that you would find in the Carolinas, out in the mountains, I think it’s just phenomenal. To be able to create something so utopian like this is a testament to the ownership and what their vision was for this property, and what they’ve done is just incredible.

Kevin Na: “I don’t have too many good stories. It seems like always when I play there it’s for the MGM Coca-Cola Pro-Am. I always enjoy playing there. The greens are in perfect condition, grass is always perfect. You know, it’s a beautiful place to play. Never busy because they only allow X amount of people to play or the high rollers that visit Vegas.”

Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 3 CJ Cup winners:

  • 2019 – Justin Thomas: Round 1: 9th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2018 – Brooks Koepka: Round 1: 11th, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2017 – Justin Thomas: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 4th, Round 3: 1st.

Shots From the Lead: Below are the last 3 winners and where they were positioned in terms of shots from the lead during the tournament:

  • 2019 – Justin Thomas: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 2 ahead, Round 3: level.
  • 2018 – Brooks Koepka: Round 1: 1 3 back, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 3 ahead.
  • 2017 – Justin Thomas: Round 1: 3 ahead, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: level.

Incoming form of winners since 2017:

  • Justin Thomas: 4th Safeway/9th Tour Champ/1st BMW/12th Northern Trust.
  • Brooks Koepka: 7th Dunhill Links/ 26th Tour Champ/19th BMW/12th Dell.
  • Justin Thomas: 17th CIMB/2nd Tour Champ/47th BMW/1st Dell.

First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave and winning score since 2017. For full first round leader stats click here.

  • 2019 – Byeong Hun An -8/64 – Group 12 of 13 – 1st Tee – 45/1
  • 2018 – Chez Reavie -4/68 – Group 8 of 13 – 10th Tee – 80/1
  • 2017 – Justin Thomas -9/63 – Group 4 of 13 – 10th Tee – 12/1

For the record, here’s the breakdown of pure Bentgrass green PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:

  • 7 – Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose.
  • 5 – Jordan Spieth.
  • 4 – Jason Day, Kevin Na, Justin Thomas, Bubba Watson.
  • 3 – Brooks Koepka, Matt Kuchar.
  • 2 – Keegan Bradley, Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia, Brian Harman, Marc Leishman, Hideki Matsuyama, Xander Schauffele.
  • 1 – Daniel Berger, Patrick Cantlay, Dylan Frittelli, Jim Herman, Billy Horschel, Kevin Kisner,  Danny Lee, Joaquin Niemann, Louis Oosthuizen, Kevin Streelman, Michael Thompson, Brendon Todd, Matthew Wolff.

We have little to go on this week on a new golf course, but the CJ Cup is into its fourth renewal this week. In Justin Thomas (2017), Brooks Koepka (2018) and Justin Thomas (2019), we have winners that have won at 8/1, 10/1 and 15/2 respectively. Both Thomas and Koepka were within the top 5 in the Official World Golf Ranking and had seen action in the new PGA Tour season which starts in September. In 2017 Justin Thomas had finished 17th at the CIMB Classic when defending, in 2018 Brooks Koepka had finished 7th at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and 2019 saw Justin Thomas capture his second CJ Cup title after finishing 4th at the Safeway Open.

All three wins also came off the back of recent wins in the 2017 Dell Technologies (September), 2018 PGA Championship (August) and 2019 BMW Championship (September).

My selections are as follows:

Dustin Johnson – WITHDREW PRE-EVENT

I’m no fan of win-only bets, but in the case of Dustin Johnson this week I think he’s worthy of the investment. The current course record holder, Shadow Creek is undoubtedly the kind of course that suits him.

Powerful and accurate off the tee, Johnson has the aggressive intent to be able to access the driveable par-4 and a set of par-5s which are all reachable to the very longest. And his recent form simply has no peers in this field. A winner at the Travelers Championship in June, Dustin then had one of his purple patches. 2nd at the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park, 1st at TPC Boston, 2nd at the BMW Championship and 1st at the Tour Championship at East Lake also won him the 2020 FedEx Cup. And his recent outing at the Winged Foot-hosted U.S. Open was quietly strong as well. 6th at the close, DJ ranked 2nd for Total Driving, 2nd for SG on Approach, 4th for Ball Striking and 5th for SG Tee to Green. Unnoticed his closing round 70 was tied-second for the day, behind of course Bryson DeChambeau.

DJ’s record on the west coast swing is also excellent. A 2-time winner at Kapalua (2013 & 2018), Dustin is also a 2-time winner at Pebble Beach (2009 & 2010) and a winner at Riviera Country Club (2017). 5 of his 23 PGA Tour wins have been on Bentgrass putting surfaces and wins at Turning Stone (2009), Oakmont and Riviera (2017) came on courses with Tom Fazio design input. The favourite, second favourite and favourite have won the CJ Cup over its first 3 renewals and I think the World Number 1 can win his 24th PGA Tour title this week.

Xander Schauffele 3Pts Win 12/1 with Ladbrokes

I write this post the withdrawal of both Dustin Johnson and Tony Finau. I tipped Johnson to win on a course where he holds the course record, but without him in my squad at an event where the cream in the field has won all 3 renewals to date, I feel exposed at the very top of the market, so I’m going to play Xander Schauffele.

12/1 isn’t ideal, but if CJ Cup winners are anything to go by then it’s pretty ideal price-wise. In the 3 winners of this event to date, we’ve seen players who finished in the top 9 of the FedEx Cup just completed. All 3 had finished in the top 17 on their previous outing post Tour Championship and all 3 had won either in the August or September preceding. Well in Xander we have a player who finished tied-2nd in the FedEx Cup, finished 5th at his last appearance which was the U.S. Open at Winged Foot and who effectively won the Tour Championship in September, as he shot -15/265 without the FedEx Cup Strokes Index, which was 3 shots better than Scottie Scheffler, and 4 over Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson.

And Schauffele’s current form shows across my 8-week skill set trackers. In this field he ranks 12th for Greens in Regulation, 4th for Scrambling and 9th for Putting Average when it comes to the traditional numbers. From a Strokes Gained perspective, he’s 18th for Off the Tee, 20th for Approach, 1st for Around the Green, 7th for Tee to Green, 8th for Putting and 2nd for Total.

But statistics ultimately have less importance with Xander, who peaks for these big no cut events (Xander’s Number 1 fan boy @NagelBagels on Twitter is going to hate me for this!). Wins at the 2017 Tour Championship, 2018 WGC-HSBC Championship and the 2019 Tournament of Champions all came in no cut events. Add to that list 3rd at the 2017 CIMB Classic, 3rd at the 2018 BMW Championship. 2nd at the 2019 Tour Championship, 6th at this year’s WGC-St Jude Invitational and his recent Tour Championship heroics. And boy he must be hunting a win after so many close calls of late. So I don’t doubt his motivation in this for one second.

In my mind, Old White TPC – set at altitude in the West Virginian Appalachians – potentially has a similar feel to Shadow Creek this week. Xander won his first title there back in 2017 on very similar Bentgrass putting surfaces. He’s undoubtedly due. RESULT: 2nd

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Matthew Wolff 1.5pts EW 22/1 (7EW, 1/5) with William Hill

Matthew Wolff is maturing at a very fast pace before our eyes and if we can learn anything from his amateur career, this guy strings top-level results together. In ‘fall’ 2018, the 21 year-old Californian began his sophomore season with three consecutive victories across tournaments held in Carmel, California; Chicago, Illinois; and Dallas, Texas. After finishing 50th at the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open, Wolff then went on a form run of 1-14-2-1 before adding a NCAA Division I Individual Championship title, beating Suh, Morikawa, Hovland and Gordon, before turning professional. Within 3 tournaments of being a professional, he had picked up his first PGA Tour title at the 3M Open. This appears to be no ordinary talent!

As we know, development over the past 10 weeks has been lightening quick again. 4th at the PGA Championship was delivered with Strokes Gained numbers of 1st Off the Tee, 3rd on Approach and 1st Tee to Green. 2nd at the U.S. Open saw him rank 9th for Off the Tee, 8th for Approach and 2nd for Tee to Green. And a -23/261 total which put him in a play off with Cook and eventual winner Martin Laird last week, came with key-skill ranks of 6th on Approach, 5th from Tee to Green and 15th for Putting. The flat stick is starting to warm at last! I won’t go too stat mad, but in this field Wolff ranks in the top 6 for Greens in Regulation, SG Off the Tee, SG Around the Green, SG Tee to Green and SG Total.

But what really impresses me about Wolff is his mental approach to this monumental rise. Last week at the Shriners he stated, “Everything just seems a little simpler because of the stage I was on at the U.S. Open. Nothing gets bigger than that. Come out to this tournament, not that this isn’t a great tournament and not that any PGA Tour event is less important than the next, but I feel definitely a lot more calm when I’m playing these sort of events because I know that it’s not quite a major. Game is at an all-time high. I finished second in my last two events. You know, I have a lot of the confidence carrying into the next two weeks and then the Masters, so looking forward to what’s next. The C.J. Cup and ZOZO are both Invitationals. I know the CJ Cup is going to be really strong field, but I’m feeling like I can go out there and win any week now.” He’s ready and is showing great resolve when in contention. RESULT: 73

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Ian Poulter 1pt EW 66/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

Ian Poulter is always a player to follow when he has momentum and characteristically he always makes hay late on in a season. Wins in Italy (2002), Valderrama (2004), Madrid (2006), Japan (2007), Singapore (2009), Hong Kong (2010), Florida (2010 Shark Shoot Out with Dustin Johnson), Australia (2011) and China (2012 WGC-HSBC Champions) have all come between mid-September and early December. And as an each-way bet I like him this week after a confidence boosting trip back to the United Kingdom where he’s landed 6th at the Scottish Open and 5th at the BWW PGA Championship – his best ever finish at European Tour HQ.

I think that Poulter will want to continue the forward momentum this week in Las Vegas. He sits at 50th in the OWGR and will undoubtedly want to land a large haul of World Points as quickly as possible to guarantee spots at the biggest tournaments in 2021; a year when he would love to automatically qualify for the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits. ‘The Postman’ also has a good record at the CJ Cup where he’s finished 15th (2017), 10th (2018) and 16th (2019) over the initial 3 renewals, so clearly he holds the tournament in good esteem and recognises the fact that a good week can be very profitable. 2018 is also interesting as Poulter played in the final Sunday group with Brooks Koepka, a round where Brooks not only won the title, but also claimed World Number 1 into the bargain.

So Poulter has previous at this tournament and his game is in good shape right now. 13th and 10th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green across the Scottish and BMW PGA, Ian was also 6th for Strokes Gained Putting on the Bentgrass greens at Wentworth. A -6/136 weekend total was also good for tied-3rd in the field, equalling both Tyrrell Hatton and Patrick Reed. He’s in good nick and who’s to say that a motivated and confident Poulter can’t contend at a new venue this week. RESULT: T12

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Joaquin Niemann 1pt EW 66/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

I took from a quote from Tiger Woods here, that this course has the feel “of a course you would find in the Carolinas, out in the mountains.” Well if we are talking the Appalachians, Old White TPC in neighbouring Virginia, might not be a bad correlating course. Set at altitude, with wooded mountains surrounding the course, Old White TPC maybe a Par 70, but it features plenty of creeks and pure Bentgrass green complexes with false fronts. Clearly Xander Schauffele won his maiden PGA Tour title there, as did Joaquin Niemann, who I was on last week at TPC Summerlin. A birdie on the 17th or 18th on Sunday would have delivered us a 60/1 each-way payout, but he made a bogey on the closing hole, as many did!  But patience is a virtue in this golf betting game and Niemann ranked in tied-6th for weekend scoring last week at TPC Summerlin, and has momentum arriving at Shadow Creek.

I still think there’s an OWGR angle with Niemann, who jumped one spot to 46th last week. A first Tour Championship outing and establishing himself in the World’s top 50, I expect were twin goals at the start of the year, so a top-5 finish at the CJ Cup would pretty much cement the latter. 12th at the CJ Cup, 5th at the Tournament of Champions, 5th at the RBC Heritage and 3rd at the BMW Championship were his best finishes last season and his performance last week at the Shriners was strong. 3rd for Driving Distance, 6th for Total Driving, 4th for Ball Striking and 4th for All Round, Joaquin matched Bryson DeChambeau with a 66 in their Sunday pairing. That must buoy the talented Chilean, who has the game to be a real factor this week at Shadow Creek. RESULT: 6th

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Bubba Watson 1pt EW 100/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

Bubba Watson finds himself in a bit of a predicament and one that he’s not faced up to for while. At 59th in the OWGR, starts at the WGC-Mexico Championship, WGC Matchplay and the Open Championship in 2021 are not guaranteed.

Now I’m just guessing, but undoubtedly there have been some signs of life of late from the 2-time Masters champion, potentially as realisation dawns. 25th at the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational, 18th at the Northern Trust, 16th at the BMW Championship and 31st at the U.S. Open. Yes 31st for Bubba Watson at a U.S. Open! Scratch the surface amongst those finishes, and you find that the Floridian has been visiting some high leaderboard positions. 8th after 54 holes at TPC Boston, 6th after 54 holes at Olympia Fields, 12th after 36 holes at the U.S. Open. Performances are progressing.

So I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go very well at this altitude, Par 72, where the par-5s look perfect for him. Across my 8-week trackers his numbers are also spectacular for a triple-digit price: 25th for Driving Accuracy, 2nd for Greens in Regulation, 3rd for SG Off the Tee, 7th for SG on Approach, 2nd for SG Tee to Green and 10th for SG Total. All we need is a thawing of the flat stick and on a brand new golf course, I’d personally prioritise ball-striking over the putter.

In Bubba we have a 4-time Bentgrass green PGA Tour winner who also goes well in the thin air of the desert. 2nd at the 2010 Bob Hope Classic, Watson has had great success at the Waste Management Phoenix Open with 8th in 2007, 5th in 2012, 2nd in 2014, 2nd in 2015, 4th in 2019 and 3rd this year. So this short field event, with high ranking OWGR points on a desert golf course with a Carolina-type/Augusta National type feel, is a good opportunity for Bubba to get after a top result. RESULT: T7

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 16:45BST 12.10.20 but naturally subject to fluctuation. Xander Schaffuelle added 10:10BST 14.10.20.

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