After a one-week stay in Japan, the PGA TOUR is back stateside for this year’s version of THE CJ CUP, which added “in South Carolina” to the name of the event to signify another change of location. THE CJ CUP was played for the first three years of its existence in South Korea, giving top players from the KPGA an opportunity to play on the PGA TOUR. While the format and structure continue, the tournament will be held at Congaree Golf Club in Gillisonville, SC, after taking place the past two seasons in Las Vegas.
This isn’t the first time the PGA TOUR has visited Congaree Golf Club, and regular fantasy golfers will remember it hosted the Palmetto Championship at Congaree, which was a replacement event for the RBC Canadian Open in 2021 when travel to Canada was limited by the COVID-19 pandemic. Congaree is a Tom Fazio-designed course that plays as a par 71. It’s a long track, although accuracy is still statistically more favorable than pure length.
As a links course, the main defense is the many oversized bunkers and waste areas. It played relatively tough in its previous appearance, and targeting golfers with good bunker work and bogey avoidance will be key to success again this week. In that earlier tournament, the course rewarded accuracy and a strong approach game, with five of the top 10 finishing inside the top 10 in SG: Tee-to-Green.
In this post, I usually use the Strokes Gained Model and lean into SG: Approach to get the best shotmakers in the field. This week those specific stats will be even more important since course history is mostly lacking.
Last week, Keegan Bradley ($8,400) got the win in Japan, edging out Rickie Fowler ($7,400) and Andrew Putnam ($7,400). Those three players will be among the group traveling back across the Pacific and teeing it up in South Carolina, so we’ll have to see if the travel and time zone change takes a toll. They’ll be joining some of the biggest names on the PGA TOUR, some of which will be playing their first stroke-play event of the fall. Fifteen of the top 20 in the Official World Golf Rankings are set to participate, led by four superstars priced over $10K: World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler ($10,400), defending champion Rory McIlroy ($11,100), Jon Rahm ($10,900) and Justin Thomas ($10,200).
All those big names will be around for all four rounds, barring injury, since this week is the second straight no-cut event during the Fall Series. I always love to attack these slates even more aggressively since there is less of a penalty for drafting players who struggle since they still get to play four rounds.
It’s ideal for a “Stars and Scrubs” setup, which is always a strong strategy for GPP events. The 78-player field will include some of the top players from the KPGA as long shots, but there are also some great values from more well-known players from the PGA TOUR who have reduced salaries below the elite players at the top.
In this weekly post, the focus is players who are strong plays in GPP contests. These contests usually have lots of entries and pay out big prizes to the top few percent. One example is the DraftKings $300 K Pitch + Putt which pays out $100K to the winner. In large contests like this one, it is critical to try and target players who have a chance to outperform salary expectations.
The players highlighted will be good options if they deliver in all formats, but they come with risk factors and aren’t the safest plays. Safety and reliability should be the focus of lineups in cash and double-up contests where finishing in the very top spot isn’t quite as important. To find specific guidance for those contests, check out the other articles in our Daily Fantasy Golf coverage for this week.
No matter how you prefer to play, be sure to use the FantasyLabs PGA Models to help you make the best choices. These model use stats and simulations to highlight different players’ strengths and weaknesses. A couple of key new stats to specifically use for GPP play are Perfect% and SimLeverage, which are further explained here.
As mentioned in the intro, I prefer the Stroked Gained Model, which is very predictive of results. I also tend to lean into players that gain shots on approach since week-to-week putting performance can be extremely volatile even for the best players on the PGA TOUR.
As you dig into the numbers, you can enjoy the many tools that FantasyLabs offers, including the Lineup Optimizer which effortlessly create up to 150 lineups. Alternatively, you can use the Lineup Builder if you prefer a more hands-on approach.
Check out my top picks in each price range listed below.
High-Priced PGA DFS Picks
Justin Thomas $10,200
Based on the projected ownerships, Thomas makes sense to target for some leverage among the four superstars. Rory McIlroy ($11,100) and Jon Rahm ($10,900) are both expected to check in with ownership over 20%, and Scottie Scheffler ($10,400) is projected to be just under that number.
Sure, those guys can be great plays if they win the tournament, but for GPP, it’ll be even more valuable to target Thomas, who is only projected to have an 18.7% ownership, providing 2.47% SimLeverage, the highest mark of any player over $9.5K.
Thomas definitely has the length and the game to contend in this elite field and has a history of performing well in non-cut tournaments. He has won this specific non-cut event twice in the past, in 2017 and 2019, which is worth pointing out even though it was on a different course.
More recently, JT posted a solid 4-1 record in the Presidents Cup after finishing T5 at the TOUR Championship. His only win last year on the PGA TOUR was the PGA Championship last May, but he posted 10 top-10 finishes in 21 tournaments.
Over the past 75 weeks, Thomas has 2.387 SG: Approach, the sixth-best mark in the field, and the top mark of the elite foursome over $10K. If you’re building a lineup that includes one of the players with a six-figure salary, Thomas brings the lowest projected ownership and plenty of upside to make him a strong GPP option.
Matthew Fitzpatrick $9,800
Fitzpatrick has the third-highest ceiling of the players under $10K but is only projected to have a 13.76% ownership, providing the third-highest leverage in the field. Fitzpatrick is one of the few in this field who played in the Palmetto Championship at Congaree, and he finished T10 shooting progressively better rounds throughout the event, culminating in a final round 66.
Like Thomas, Fitzpatrick claimed a Major win last season, showing he can emerge on top in elite fields like this one. He also was a regular near the top of leaderboards with 10 top-10 finishes in his 20 events. He wrapped up the 2021-22 PGA TOUR season with a T5 at the FedEx St. Jude Championship and a T15 at the TOUR Championship before playing three events on the DP World Tour this fall, including a playoff loss at the Italian Open.
His course experience and strong overall game make him a nice top-end consideration, and he has the fourth-highest Rating of any player in the field based on the Strokes Gained Model.
Mid-Priced PGA DFS Picks
Tyrell Hatton $8,500
Like Fitzpatrick, Hatton is another ball striker from across the pond who fared well on this links course setup at the Palmetto Championship at Congaree a few seasons ago. He finished tied for second after making three eagles in his third round. Also, like Fitz, Hatton also has been doing work this fall in Europe and turned in a pair of top-10 finishes at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. In general, this course seems to be a good fit for players used to international and European style setups, making Hatton, Fitzpatrick, and other international players worth targeting.
Hatton is known to be a volatile personality and can produce volatile results as well, but he has the third-highest rating of any player in the Strokes Gained Model in the entire field this week, trailing only Rory and Rahm.
Taylor Montgomery $8,200
The PGA TOUR rookie did not travel to the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP last week, so he isn’t one of the groups jetting back and forth across the Pacific. When he has played, he has been one of the most impressive new players in the early going this season, producing top-15 finishes at the Shriners Children’s Open, Sanderson Farms Championship, and the Fortinet Championship. He also posted top-10 finishes in his final five Korn Ferry Tour events before graduating, so he’s on an incredible run of good results.
Those results have been achieved mostly due to the strength of his putting, making him a bit of an exception compared to the other options highlighted. He has posted a field-leading 5.672 SG: Putting over the past 75 weeks, and no other player in the field is within two strokes of him. While his flat stick may not be able to stay that hot long-term, he’s rolling the ball plenty well enough to give him a very high ceiling this week.
Value PGA DFS Picks
Russell Henley $7,300
If you believe in the SG: Approach stat as a predictor of success, it’s hard to pass on Henley at this salary since he has the second-most SG: Approach in the entire field over the past 75 weeks. Among players under $8K, he has the most SG: Tee-To-Green by a wide margin and has only been held back by an inconsistent putter.
Henley comes in without much recent form at all, missing the cut in his only appearance on the PGA TOUR this season, but he did have a pair of top 10s this past summer at the Rocket Mortgage Classic and the Wyndham Championship. His lack of recent results helps him come in under the radar, and his pure numbers make him a great play under $7.5K.
He has finished in the top 25 in the past two years in this event, but moving from Vegas to Carolina and onto Bermuda grass putting surfaces should put this event squarely in his wheelhouse.
Seamus Power $7,000
Power has the highest rating in the Strokes Gained Model of any player under $8K, and his salary is all the way down to only $7K. He also has the third-highest Perfect% of any player under $8K behind only Aaron Wise ($7,800) and Cameron Davis ($7,500), who are pricier and expected to be more heavily owned. As a result, Power’s SimLeverage is 1.54%.
This season, Power posted a T30 at the Sanderson Farms Championship but missed the cut at the Shriners Children’s Open. Despite that letdown, he still ranks in the top 10 SG: Tee-To-Green over the past 75 weeks among the players under $8K.
The move to Congaree should play well to his strength at links courses, and he posted a top-20 at the PGA TOUR’s previous visit to this track.
Power matches four Pro Trends for this week’s event as well.
Sleeper PGA DFS Picks
Chris Kirk $6,600
Kirk is the only player under $7K who has produced over 2.0 SG: Tee-To-Green over the past 75 tournaments, and as a result, he has the second-highest rating of all the players under $7K. Despite that statistical success, Kirk is expected to be under 3% owned, so there’s lots of leverage to be had if he goes off.
The 37-year-old Georgia native should be comfortable in the region on this style of setup based on his results on roughly similar courses.
He has only missed the cut twice in his past 12 PGA TOUR events, giving him stable production in addition to his strong ceiling.
Danny Willett $6,200
Willett is an ultimate “swing-for-the-fences” style play. He showed he can still contend with a second-place finish in Napa earlier this season at the Fortinet Championship after posting top-10 results at the European Masters in August and the 3M Open late in July. Despite those good weeks and a tournament, he would have won if not for a final-hole collapse, he has been very inconsistent. Around those strong finishes, the 35-year-old Englishman has posted three missed cuts and a T67.
Willett’s links experience makes him a unique fit for Congaree, and at this minimal salary, he won’t have to win to deliver great value. The fact that he should get four rounds in the no-cut event lowers the risk of using him as a punt play.