ATLANTA, GA – AUGUST 28: Rory McIlroy (NIR) watches his drive off the first tee during the fourth and final round of the TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia on Sunday, August 28, 2022. (Image courtesy of David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire)
The PGA Tour returns to the United States for a stop in South Carolina! The 2022 CJ Cup will be held at Congaree Golf Club in Ridgeland, South Carolina. As always, here’s an early look at the 2022 CJ Cup, as well as a preview of how to bet. In addition, for more information on golf betting, listen to the Golf Gambling Podcast below.
The Field for the 2022 CJ Cup
The CJ Cup this week will undoubtedly feature the best field of the season. The CJ Cup in 2022 will feature 15 of the world’s top 20 golfers. The field includes World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, and Justin Thomas.
There are also a number of stars who competed in the ZOZO Championship last week and will try to overcome jet lag and perform well at Congaree. Viktor Hovland, Collin Morikawa, Tom Kim, Cameron Young, Hideki Matsuyama, and Sungjae Im are among the players. While they may appear to be behind the eight ball, this is not a death sentence. Abraham Ancer recently competed in the Tokyo Olympics before winning the WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational in Memphis the following week. These players may be undervalued if narrative street discounts their chances.
The Golf Course – 2022 CJ Cup Preview
Since the COVID pandemic, the CJ Cup has struggled to find a permanent home. This tournament would normally be held at Nine Bridges on Jeju Island in South Korea. However, COVID restrictions in the country prevent the PGA Tour from visiting. As a result, the CJ Cup has shifted to yet another Tom Fazio design for the third year in a row. It will be held at the Congaree Golf Club in Ridgeland, South Carolina, in 2022.
Congaree Golf Club is located in the heart of South Carolina’s low country, 30 minutes north of Savannah, GA. Tom Fazio began converting a former plantation homestead into a sweeping, wide-open 18-hole track in 2014. Before moving significant amounts of dirt and land to fit his vision into the property, Fazio and his associates laid out the routing on the open land:
Congaree has a maximum range of 7,700 yards. It has fairways and greens that are entirely made of Bermuda grass. However, the golf course has measured scorecard yardages but no actual tee boxes. Players can tee it up wherever they want. In addition, there is no sloping rating for handicap purposes. Congaree allows players from all walks of life to play however they want.
Fazio’s goal was to bring an Australian sand belt style golf course to South Carolina.
In the 1980s, Tom Fazio famously transformed Shadow Creek, a desert wasteland outside of Las Vegas, into a lush golf paradise. He did something similar in this case. The entire property was primarily fishing land, making golf impossible. Tom Fazio went to great lengths to create all of the hills, ridges, and waste areas that did not exist before he began the project. Nobody would mistake Tom Fazio for a minimalist. Congaree Golf Club is far from a minimalist design.
Fazio’s goal was to bring an Australian sand belt style golf course to South Carolina. Or bring some Pinehurst flavor to Congaree (where he restored #4 in 1999). He desired wide corridors with no rough terrain, all on a firm and fast sandy terrain. He also desired tight greenside surrounds and stark, undulating greens to provide a golf experience that was different from his usual profile.
Players see very wide corridors to operate in from the tee. While there are some inconveniently placed live oaks with overhanging branches, a player can often confidently step up to the tee. However, just because one is in the fairway does not imply that it is all fun and games. Congaree has many uneven lies due to Tom Fazio’s design of sweeping ridges and hills.
There is also no rough on the golf course. The transition from short grass to sandy waste ground is smooth. A player could drive into a waste area and be perfectly fine. They’ll lay a good lie with a clear view of the green. Or they could get extremely unlucky and end up either telling a terrible lie or getting stuck behind a waste disposal plant. Some of these waste areas are also well below the surface of the fairway. Hitting out of them is a difficult proposition, as demonstrated in the video below:
The golf course also performs best when the ground is firm and fast. Even if a straight drive is hit, balls can run for days and end up in a waste area under these conditions. The bunkers also have sharp edges that allow balls to easily roll into them.
The million-dollar question is whether he was able to bring the Australian Sand Belt to South Carolina. Most likely not. A golf course with wide, firm fairways, sandy waste areas, and tight greenside surrounds will never compete with Royal Melbourne. There doesn’t appear to be as much of a strategic test as there is at Pinehurst or Royal Melbourne. But is Congaree a golf course that could perform well this fall, especially if the Bermuda turf is firm and fast? Yeah. At the very least, we’ll see a different type of golf course than we’re used to seeing on the PGA Tour. And with a good field, that should keep you entertained this weekend.
2022 CJ Cup Predictions and Betting Strategies
Unlike last week, we have previous strokes gained data from which to draw. However, we only have one event to analyze. It was also a weak field one week before the US Open. But we’ll do our best to apply lessons learned from the 2021 Palmetto Championship to the 2022 CJ Cup. Here are some pertinent statistics and trends from that tournament:
- Congaree can run for a total of 7,655 yards. However, only about 7,300 people played in the final round of the 2021 Palmetto Championship. The golf course only has three Par 5 holes, all of which are reachable by everyone. Only four of the 11 Par 4s are longer than 470 yards. The golf course has two drivable Par 4 holes. Only one Par 3 is longer than 200 yards. While Congaree can be stretched to its limit (and very well may be for the 2022 CJ Cup), it is not a particularly long golf course.
- In 2021, Congaree was one of the few non-major venues to play over par for the week on the PGA Tour. Its difficulty in 2021 ranks alongside Concession GC, TPC Southwind, and St. George’s CC. While not an impossible golf course, players may encounter difficulties. If one is off the tee, there are some places you definitely don’t want to be. And tight lies around the green are always problematic.
- Even without elevation assist, Congaree had the highest driving distance rates on the PGA Tour in 2021. At Congaree, players can spend the entire day driving. And the ball rolls out a lot on wide, firm fairways.
Having said that, hitting the fairway wasn’t a given. Only 69.5% of the time did the field hit the fairway. While that is above the PGA Tour average, it is not nearly as high as clips seen elsewhere. It’s possible that the weak field had something to do with it, and driving accuracy rates for the 2022 CJ Cup will be much higher.
- Despite the larger-than-average size of the greens, the field only hit the green in regulation 66.5% of the time at the 2021 Palmetto Championship. This is below the PGA Tour average. Firmer conditions and roll off areas are likely to have promoted more difficult conditions in order to hold greens. Congaree also had the sixth most difficult approach shots from less than 150 yards of any non-major PGA Tour venue with at least three tournaments since 2015. In addition, players lost more strokes on approach shots longer than 200 yards than at typical PGA Tour venues.
- Tight greenside surrounds generally imply more difficult up and down conditions. Congaree was no different. Only TPC River Highlands, Memorial Park, TPC Summerlin, and Muirfield Village had tougher chipping conditions off the fairway than Congaree, of all non-major PGA Tour venues with at least three tournaments since 2015. Congaree also had the most difficult greenside bunkers of any non-major PGA Tour venue since 2015. The sand in these bunkers is a little heavy, and players appeared to struggle with both distance and spin control.
- In general, putting was not difficult at Congaree. While the golf course had one of the most difficult rates from outside 15 feet, players didn’t have much trouble on putts within 15 feet.
Because there is only one tournament to analyze, let’s look at how players separated themselves on the leaderboard that week. This will foreshadow which stats will be most important at the 2022 CJ Cup.
What stands out here is that the players who drove it the best were by far the best suited to separate themselves from the field. There was a strong correlation between gaining strokes on the field and not only how far one hit it, but also how accurate they were.
For a variety of reasons, this makes sense. For starters, Congaree allows you to hit the driver whenever you want. In firm conditions, the ball can travel a mile. Longer players who can set themselves up with a shorter iron have a better chance of holding the firm greens than shorter players who hit the ball lower.
Furthermore, while there aren’t many actual penalties, there are some gnarly spots one can find themselves in if they’re a little off the tee. There’s a lot of vegetation and junk in the waste areas, which can make it difficult to hit your approach shot from. As a result, the 2022 CJ Cup will have a significant Strokes Gained – Off-the-Tee week.
The randomness of putting towards one’s total strokes gained on the week is another major feature of this chart. Tee-to-green performance, particularly off-the-tee, had a much stronger correlation to success that week than putting. With a winning score of only -11 and a field that was over par for the week, solid ball-striking was far more important than a hot putter.
While Garrick Higgo gained nearly a stroke per round of putting on his way to winning the 2021 Palmetto Championship, runners-up Hudson Swafford and Tyrrell Hatton lost strokes. Jhonattan Vegas and Doc Redman, who finished second and third, both gained only 0.8 strokes in total putting on the week. However, all of these players were among the best from tee to green this week. Sure, good putting is always beneficial. However, that should not be your primary criterion this week when deciding who to bet on.
Finally, let’s look at where players hit approach shots at the 2021 Palmetto Championship. This will serve as a preview of the proximity buckets to be targeted at the 2022 CJ Cup:
There isn’t much that stands out that displays a flashing red light of a target’s proximity range. Approach shots between 50-75 yards, 175-200 yards, and 250+ yards had higher than average rates, while all other ranges had lower than average rates. However, the 125-200 and 250+ yard ranges have the highest concentration of approach shots overall.
Your primary focus should be between 125 and 200 yards away. This results in an estimated 53% coverage (or about 9.5 approach shots per round). Par 5 scoring rates can handle coverage for all approach shots of 250 yards or more. As a result, including proximity rates from more than 250 yards is likely overkill and adds unnecessary noise to a model.
And for shots less than 100 yards, they’re either so few as to be insignificant, or they’re part of approach shots on drivable Par 4s. In that case, I’m looking for players who gain the most strokes off the tee, which is already a significant part of my handicap. As a result, only consider 125-200 yards in terms of proximity, and fill in the gaps with other relevant statistics.
If you follow the advice in this preview, you have a good chance of putting together a solid betting card for the 2022 CJ Cup.
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