The PGA Tour visits South Korea for the first time this week with the inaugural CJ Cup, with the tournament calling Nine Bridges in Jeju Island its home. The course, opened in 2001, is a resort property incarnate. Not the aesthetics, per se; Nine Bridges is carved out of a forest, offering such scenic views that Chi Chi Rodriguez dubbed it the “Taj Mahal of golf.” Rather, the track uses not distance (a par 72 measuring just 7,200 yards) but tactical and calculated hazard positions to give Nine Bridges some bite.
Alas, because of recent weather—the island has received torrential rain this summer—the course remains wet, leaving it vulnerable on approach. In short, despite the field seeing Nine Bridges for the first time, expect guys to go low this week.
As such, the professor likes most of the top names to be littered across the leader board this week.
"More of the top players are joining in for this week’s tournament and as a result the Model predicts that several of them will contend," says Riccio. "The top four are no surprise since the Model recognizes their long-term top play. But of course Jason Day and Adam Scott have not played anywhere near their potential this year, and Paul Casey has had trouble closing the deal. Among the Top Guns, Justin Thomas seems to be in the best form and just may be the best pick of the lot."
Usually we poke fun at the professor for going all chalk, but because of the unknown nature of the event, it's hard to make a strong counter. However, while we also have Thomas among our picks, most of our selections are of the second-tiered variety. Kyle Stanley's approach prowess—along with the lack of bite from the Nine Bridges' greens—make him one to watch this week. The same could be said for Cameron Smith. Though he finished outside the top 80 in strokes gained: putting last season, he ranked in the top 30 in birdie percentage. It's imperative players paint the course in red this week, a mindset that suits Smith well.
Other players of note include Marc Leishman (up to No. 16 in the world and coming off a career year) and Thomas Pieters, who's been in a bit of a funk but whose aggressive style should produce dividends.
Check out the projections from the professor and expert, and play with the tool below to make your own picks for the 2017 CJ Cup!