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Odds and Ends

Picks and tips for the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek

by Will Gray
Updated On: October 14, 2020, 10:51 pm ET

The PGA Tour is extending its stay in Sin City.

After last week's Shriners Hospitals for Children Open nearly spilled into Monday, the Tour isn't going far for this week's CJ Cup. Originally scheduled to kick off the unofficial Asia Swing, the tournament instead has relocated to Shadow Creek because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It's a course that is rarely available for public consumption, although it was the site of a $9 million match between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson two years ago.

While neither Tiger nor Phil is around this week, there's still plenty of star power as some of the game's biggest names get back to work, many for the first time since the U.S. Open. Each of the top five players in the world rankings were set to tee it up (that is, before world No. 1 Dustin Johnson tested positive for COVID-19), while 2018 champ Brooks Koepka makes his first start in more than two months after battling knee and hip injuries.

From the defending champ to a recent major winner, here are some bets to consider as the fourth-year event takes on a decidedly Vegas flair:

To Win (odds via PointsBet Sportsbook)

Justin Thomas (+1100): This week's event features a 78-man field, which gives you all the reason in the world to look at the defending champ. Thomas has won 13 times on the PGA Tour, and 10 of those victories have come against fields of 100 or fewer. That includes two of the three prior editions of the CJ Cup (2017, 2019) and he hasn't exactly been slacking in recent weeks. Thomas finished T-8 at Winged Foot despite some frustrating patches and was T-3 among 72-hole score at East Lake in his prior start. He's got every skill you could want for a pre-tournament favorite, and in light of Johnson's surprising withdrawal there's one less notable competitor to worry about.

Xander Schauffele (+1300): Speaking of limited-field specialist, this is Schauffele's time to shine. Three of his four career wins have come in smaller fields, and he nearly picked off two more in the last 12 months with playoff losses at the WGC-HSBC Champions and Sentry Tournament of Champions. Schauffele has been rock-solid since the break and might rival Matthew Wolff as the best player without a win since June. He was clearly the best player at the Tour Championship, losing only because of the starting score handicap, and followed that with a fifth-place showing at the U.S. Open. A breakthrough victory to end a nearly two-year drought has felt right around the corner for weeks.

Daniel Berger (+2900): Remember a few weeks ago, when Berger was being discussed as one of the hottest players on Tour and the debate raged on about how the No. 13-ranked player in the world wouldn't be allowed at the Masters? Well not much has changed since then. Berger finished T-34 at Winged Foot, which wasn't spectacular but also served as his second-worst result since January. He finished T-2 at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational against a very similar field, and has recorded some promising results on a pair of nearby desert courses: TPC Summerlin and TPC Scottsdale. It's an enticing price for a guy who finished sixth last season in total strokes gained.

Top Finishes (odds via PointsBet)

Matthew Wolff (+400 top-5 finish): When you're at the craps table in Vegas, you always ride the hot shooter. So there's reason to go back to the well with Wolff, who continues to put up some remarkable numbers after entering the pandemic break without a whiff of momentum. Ranked No. 106 in June, he's now up to 12th in the world (and priced like it) after chasing his Winged Foot runner-up with a playoff loss at the Shriners. Wolff now has three second-place finishes in his last 10 starts and has seven top-25 finishes across that span. He's positively brimming with confidence and now gets to tackle another desert layout where he can get aggressive off the tee while playing with house money.

Gary Woodland (+520 top-10 finish): This is admittedly a little risky, since the former U.S. Open champ hasn't cracked the top 10 since the Workday in July and he admitted at Winged Foot that he was hampered by a torn labrum in his left hip. But Woodland returns to action this week and appears to be going much closer to 100 percent in swing videos posted to Instagram. But the key for Woodland's handicap this week is his success on similar venues. In addition to having the game to tackle a 7,500-yard track like Shadow Creek, he has won before in the desert (2018 Waste Management Phoenix Open) and at altitude in Nevada (2013 Barracuda Championship). The lofty price is warranted given the questions surrounding his game, but it's worth a stab since he can turn it around in a hurry and finished T-3 at the CJ Cup and fifth at the Zozo last year against similar fields.

Viktor Hovland (+290 top-10 finish): Hey, remember him? While Collin Morikawa got much of the adulation after his major victory, and Wolff has become the Young Gun du Jour in the weeks since, Hovland is plodding right along while cashing one check after the next. He got a more scaled-down breakthrough of his own at the Puerto Rico Open in March, but since the break he has been just as reliable. The Norwegian has racked up eight top-25 finishes in 12 starts since June, including three top-20s in his last four starts, and he finished T-13 at Winged Foot. While his work around the greens continues to be his weakest link, his tee-to-green game should provide more than enough upside to be able to hang near the top of a limited field - especially if you're getting almost a 3:1 return.

Prop Bets (odds via PointsBet)

Top Spaniard: Sergio Garcia (+250) over Jon Rahm

Fade the tournament favorite? It's an uphill battle opposing Rahm, who was dropped from +900 to +850 to win in the wake of Johnson's withdrawal. But Garcia won just two weeks ago in Mississippi, where he torched CC of Jackson from tee-to-green, and he followed last week with a T-43 showing at TPC Summerlin. While that may not stick out, the iron play didn't suffer much regression: Garcia was 16th in the field last week in SG: Approach. Now with a smaller field and no cut to worry about, he'll have a fighting chance to find his footing on the slick greens at Shadow Creek. Rahm likely comes out on top here more often than not, but the huge underdog price for Garcia - and the lopsided -334 price tag on the world No. 2 - seems a bit out of whack given the fact that Garcia is playing well and Rahm hasn't played since Winged Foot.

Top Korean: Joohyung "Tom" Kim (+800)

Taking a shot here with an up-and-coming teenager. Kim was born in (gulp) June 2002, but he has more than held his own in recent months on the pro circuit after winning four times in his native South Korea. Kim is making his fourth PGA Tour start in recent months, and the results from the other three have gotten progressively better: an early exit at Harding Park, made cut at Safeway and T-33 finish at Punta Cana. Given the sponsor ties there is a strong Korean presence in the field, with six players led by former Players champ Si Woo Kim. But none of them exactly jump off the board as a clear favorite, so it could be worth a sprinkle at some long odds on the 18-year-old to beat a handful of his countrymen and potentially become a notable storyline this week.

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Will Gray

Will Gray manages betting, fantasy and DFS content for NBC Sports EDGE across Golf, Soccer and NASCAR. He has covered the PGA Tour since 2013 and regularly contributes golf betting insight and analysis across multiple digital platforms. Gray has been with NBC Sports since 2007 and recently served as a writer, video analyst and podcast host for Golf Channel. You can follow him on Twitter @WillGrayGC