The TOUR Visits the Exclusive Shadow Creek Golf Club ⏤ The CJ Cup

Fantasy Golf

Shadow Creek4

The two-week swing through Sin City continues this week with the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek Golf Club in Las Vegas, NV. For COVID-related reasons this event was moved from its usual location in South Korea to the second half of what has been a pair of events in Vegas. Similarly, the event that was supposed to be the following week (the ZOZO Championship) has been moved to Los Angeles at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, CA. The end result of these scheduling changes is that Shadow Creek will be the first among a pair of extremely quality venues on the PGA TOUR calendar.

Justin Thomas will defend his title (won on Jeju Island in South Korea) at a golf course that is relatively unknown to not just the PGA TOUR players but also to golfers everywhere as tee times at the exclusive Shadow Creek Golf Club are awfully hard to come by. The golf world got its first great look at the course back in November of 2018 when Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson squared off in a made-for-TV event that went extra holes en route to a Mickelson victory. Beyond that, there has been no elite competition of any kind at Shadow Creek nor does the general public get much access to the golf course unless they are willing to lose six figure sums at some of MGM Grand's blackjack tables.

The Field and the Favorites

There was some doubt going into the Vegas swing as to the quality of the two fields, but as it turned out both events managed to attract a pretty strong crop of PGA TOUR talent. The quality of the golf course this week seems to have brought out an even stronger group as the CJ Cup will feature the strongest field we've seen yet in the new 2020-2021 PGA TOUR season. 

Rather than going through the players who are here, it might be easier to focus on the two most notable absences. Tiger Woods is not in the field this week as he has already committed to next week's ZOZO Championship at Sherwood and the days of Tiger playing back-to-back normal PGA TOUR events (non WGC, majors, etc.) have long since passed. His focus is likely to be on the upcoming Masters Tournament and he'll surely be looking to make sure he stays fresh leading into that event. Dustin Johnson is also missing despite having entered the event thanks to an unfortunate positive test for COVID-19 on the Tuesday of the event. He was expected to play and likely would have been the favorite but for the positive test result that will keep him sidelined for this week as well as (potentially) next week.

The absence of DJ leaves Jon Rahm (+850) atop the board of favorites and for good reason. While Rahm was disappointed in his performance at the U.S. Open (T23) he came into that event on an awfully strong run of play. He had just finished 4th at the TOUR Championship, he won the BMW Championship the week before and had finished 6th at the Northern Trust. His win earlier in the year at the Memorial Tournament vaulted him to the first spot in the Official World Golf Ranking and he's looking more and more comfortable every day as one of the favorites week in and week out on the PGA TOUR.

Justin Thomas (+1100), Rory McIlroy (+1200) and Xander Schauffele (+1200) enter the week among the second-tier of favorites and the three players all come into the event with relatively different profiles. Justin Thomas is on the upswing after a few mediocre weeks surrounding the PGA Championship. He finished in the top-ten at the U.S. Open in addition to a second-place finish at the TOUR Championship. Prior to that, he'd been outside the top twenty in each of the three weeks following his win at the WGC Fedex St. Jude Invitational. 

Rory McIlroy has the kind of game where strong performance is never a surprise, but his 8th place finish at the U.S. Open was his first in a full field event since the PGA TOUR returned from the COVID pause. Xander Schauffele has quietly been putting together quite the summer and early fall. He finished the top five at both the U.S. Open and the TOUR Championship and hasn't finished outside of the top 25 since the Travelers Championship back in June. A win has been somewhat elusive for him considering his form but he's destined to bag one sooner rather than later.

The Golf Course

It's tough to get a feel for the type of player who is likely to have a lot of success at Shadow Creek. The golf course has not been put to the test of a full-field of PGA TOUR players in its history and so there isn't a whole lot of data from which to extract any insight on the qualities necessary to yield low scores on this golf course. One thing seems to be a consensus--that there are a lot of risk-reward holes and there is likely to be a lot of variance in the scoring. If the wind blows, you might see some high scores and a relatively close to par winning score as compared to last week's -23 winning total. The cut line certainly won't be anywhere near last week's seven-under par total.

Water abounds all around the golf course from the first hole right on to the closing stretch. In particular, the five pars offer the chance to make eagles while streams and ponds lurk for those who unsuccessfully take on the risk trying to earn the reward. The fourth hole is eminently reachable in two shots, but a large pond dominates the view from the approach zone as it begins a few hundred yards from the greensite and extends all the way up the entire left side of the hole. The eighteenth hole is similar as water fortifies the entire front and left side of the green of the exiting five-par finishing hole. It comes just two holes after another par-five and on the backside of a dangerous par-three at the penultimate hole. That trio to close out the round is destined to play a major part in the story of who wins this week.

Here are our selections for the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek:

Group A (Justin Thomas)

Group B (Xander Schauffele)

Group C (Matthew Wolff)

Group D (Abraham Ancer)

Group E (Sergio Garcia)

Group F (Scottie Scheffler)