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: