From Carolina to Korea, we have the souths covered!

published11 months ago
11 min read

Built on a Strong Foundation

Congaree Golf Club was built on a vision developed by two philanthropic men; Dan Friedkin and Bob McNair. Together they have created a golf masterpiece with a greater good in mind. The Congaree Foundation is designed to help underprivileged children get exposed to all of life's lessons through the network of golf (Congaree Foundation). These founders hired PGA Master Professional Bruce Davidson to run the club with their mission in mind.

The Congaree Foundation is like The First Tee on steroids. Children are invited to the property to learn from the world's best leaders and coaches throughout the year. As if TED talks were going to host a business and golf summit, this project has made an impact far beyond hosting an elite PGA Tour event.

The CJ Cup is the fall season's major.

  • Six of the Top 10 in the OWGR are playing along with seventeen of the Top 25.
  • The five previous champions of The CJ Cup are: Justin Thomas (2), Rory McIlroy, Jason Kokrak and Brooks Koepka
    • (I haven't said Brooks Koepka's name is really long time. That was weird. What a shame those champions are gone.)
  • There are 78 players total in the field and no 36-hole cut on Friday. Everybody gets 72 holes again this week.
  • We have $10.5 million in the coffers and $1.89 million for first place.

Thirty-six of the players who competed in last week's ZOZO Championship are playing again this week. Can we eliminate half the field based on jet lag? Probably not. It's going to take a little reading between the lines to predict a winner.

Much will be made of the 2021 Palmetto Championship this week. That PGA Tour event is the only professional tournament to be contested at Congaree. Nineteen of the 78 competing this week played in that event in 2021. Two of them, Tyrell Hatton and Matt Fitzpatrick, finished in the Top 10. I don't believe there will be a huge advantage to those who did play over the rest of the field. The simple reason; this field is very strong and several of the middle-tier tour professionals are in really good form.

Congaree was designed by Tom Fazio. You can see from the photo above, the layout is unique.

  • The golf course is covered in 130 acres of sandy areas and bunkers.
  • It is a Par 71 layout extending over 7,600 yards.
  • Six of the Par 4's measure over 465 yards, and three of them over 500 yards!
  • In 2021, these were the widest fairways on tour.

The winning score at the Palmetto Championship was eleven under par. The pundits would have you believe it was because of the strength of the field, but this is a hard golf course. The firm and fast conditions created by the championship team at Congaree will challenge the world's best. Sometimes those challenges aren't always obvious.

  • Seven of the driving holes bend right to left while five bend in the opposite direction.
  • None of the holes play north, south, east or west.
    • Six play northeast, six play southwest, three play northwest and three more play southeast

It's important to note, you rarely play in the same direction twice in a row here. Fazio tries to fool you with constant compass changes. Eleven of the holes have water to contend with and these greens would wear out the most formidable flatstick expert. Will these guys reach fifteen under par? Probably, but as much as they have eight holes to play with a birdie rate of over 15%, they also have to survive on seven holes with a bogey rate of over 20%.

The perfect summary of Congaree can be seen when watching the back nine. Holes 13 and 14 are both in the Top 3 toughest holes on the course relative to par. Combined, they play a half-stroke over par. Around those two holes, 12 and 15 are a couple of the easiest to score on. That constant mix of opportunities and obstacles really will make this weekend a fun event to watch.

The weather this week will be on the cooler side. Temperatures on some mornings will be in the forties and raise into the 70s. Little wind and no rain is expected to challenge the competitors. It's going to be a great ball-striking contest from start to finish. Winning The CJ Cup will be a huge reward for one player, but quite honestly it pales in comparison to the many rewards this new Foundation gives to the golf ecosystem all year long.

How to watch?

All on the Golf Channel (all times EDT).

  • Thursday 3:00 - 6:00 pm
  • Friday 3:00 - 6:00 pm
  • Saturday 3:00 - 6:00 pm
  • Sunday 2:30 - 5:30 pm

The race is on

We have three events left before the cut for the CME Group Tour Championship. Up next is the BMW Ladies Championship. The third edition of this event which takes place in South Korea will be hosted by Oak Valley Country Club. Don't be confused by the name, we are definitely overseas and as such, it is important to consider who plays well in a home versus foreign environment. First, let's detail the field.

  • 78 ladies are playing 72 holes in this no-cut event.
  • We have five of the Top 10 in the Rolex World Rankings, and thirteen of the Top 25.
  • A $2 million purse and $300k for first place makes the trip a valuable one.

We are lacking some North American star power this week and there's a reason for it. In the 2019 edition, ten of the Top 12 were South Korean. In 2021, eight of the Top 11 were also South Korean and both times the winner was from the host country. You will quickly see there's a theme to our outright card, DFS team, etc. The ladies who are home this week show a decided advantage. I noticed this before the spring Asian swing and we predicted a 1st place and 2nd place finish in those two events.

Oak Valley Country Club is a huge golf facility. The complex where the ladies are playing has four different nines: Oak, Maple, Pine, and Cherry. The ladies will be competing on a hybrid of three of those nine-hole layouts. Even though this is the third edition of this tournament, it is the first time at this venue.

  • It is a Par 72 layout covering 6,726 yards.
  • The scorecard shows four Par 3's and 5's and ten Par 4's.
  • The average Par 3 (182) and Par 5 (527) are longer than the tour average. The Par 4's at an average of 382 are just under the LPGA average in length.
  • The first nine holes are made up of the entire Oak course using holes one through nine.
  • The back nine is a combination of the first eight holes on the Maple course and the ninth hole from the Cherry to serve as hole eighteen.

The course opened in 1998 and is very reminiscent of a parkland-style American golf course. I'll touch more on the skill set needed in the outrights section. The weather we expect over in South Korea is much like the men's in South Carolina, quite cool. Expect some layers on the ladies as the morning temps will be in the 40s and only jump up into the mid-60s for a high. Very little wind is expected as well, but we may see some rain on Saturday afternoon going into Sunday morning.

Just like last week, the LPGA starts their tournament on Wednesday night! Make sure you get all of your bets in before 7:00 pm EDT on Wednesday. With a small field and decided home-field advantage, I know we'll have another winner amongst our outright list.

Another late night!

All on the Golf Channel (all times EDT).

  • Wednesday (into Thursday) 11:00 pm - 3:00 am
  • Thursday (into Friday) 11:00 pm - 3:00 am
  • Friday (into Saturday) 11:00pm - 3:00 am
  • Saturday (into Sunday) 11:00 pm - 3:00 am

Golf... but "sandier"

The fall PGA Tour schedule is like foliage, week to week there's a lot of change. I understand the tour is a carnival of sorts traveling from venue to venue, but Jackson, Mississippi, to Vegas, and then Japan, and now the low country of South Carolina? That's enough miles (and variety) to get you an upgrade on any flight! The fall is a worldwide run of events and for the most part, doesn't get a great field until Tiger's Hero hops over to the Bahamas.

We've established The CJ Cup's status on the fall schedule in the opening narrative. Now let's get into Fazio's design and who will conquer it.

  • Length will matter here. Non-golfers will say the shorter hitters gain more roles on the firm fairways, but guess what? So do the longer hitters. Length and power are rewarded here.
  • Three-putting is significantly more common than the tour average. Try 70% (Congaree) versus 56% weekly per round.
  • A great long iron player will gain on the field. More than 45% of approach shots are coming in over 175 yards. Some courses sprinkle in some wedge shots, but at Congaree over two-thirds of the approaches are greater than 150 yards. Again, length is a huge factor for accuracy from that range.
  • Sand is everywhere. Most will just look at sand strokes gained data, but I believe it all falls under scrambling and you must go deeper. You have three Par 4's over 500 yards and two very long Par 5's. On all of those occasions, players will need to scramble if they want to score. Pay attention to the sand, but really take it one step further.
  • Par 4 scoring led to great success at the Palmetto Championship.
  • I have ranked bogey avoidance above making birdies this week. After all, this is the fall's major. ;-)

Pull all of that together and our outright list comes together quite nicely. Each player must be in form within their last couple of events. Second, I want someone who can be creative around these green complexes. Next, be a bomber and take advantage of your length. Finally, the putter must contribute. You will see it all unfold this weekend and when you do these men will surely contend.

Cam Young has seven Top 5's since this time last year. Among those high finishes, they all happen on difficult golf courses. Southern Hills, St. Andrews, and Riviera to name a few. Raise the world ranking points, and Young elevates his game. He will have a huge advantage off the tee. Where I love Cam most this week to win is around the greens. He finished second at St. Andrews on very similar ground conditions. Fast and firm suit him and he excels. In his last ten events, he's gained more than six shots against the field T2G. When Cam wins, it's going to be a big event and this week is the time.

I saw a transformation take place at the Presidents Cup. I'm not talking about Tom Kim, but rather Jordan Spieth. If folks call JT the heart of those American teams then Spieth is without question the head. I mentioned this several times while covering the Cup, but how Jordan approached that week was different. He was in command of everything and it showed. He's an exceptional long-iron player and probably the best in the world with a wedge in his hand. The question all year has been the putter. Those questions were answered at Quail Hollow with five wins. He has a monster season coming... and it all started with the Cup.

Outright winners - The CJ Cup

Cam Young (+2900)

Jordan Spieth (+3300)

Pick 3* (+7000)

Pick 4* (+8000)

*- member content

"There's no place like home"

Working my way through the Oak, Maple, and Cherry nines at Oak Valley Country Club took some time. Each of the respective nines had a couple of common characteristics.

  • We've got plenty of tiered greens to contend with this week. I studied the stats on Strokes Gained Putting for the ladies alongside Putts per GIR. I believe these greens will be a test and the better putters will prevail.
  • Off the Tee, talent will be a big factor as well. The fairways are lined with twenty-eight fairway hazards (bunkers). Six of the holes have out-of-bounds in play tight to the landing area and they all bend with the majority moving right to left.
  • Several holes have elevation changes just like two weeks ago in California. Three of the Par 3's change height from tee to green and will cause some serious decision-making.
  • Amongst the fairway sand, three holes with water, and out of bounds there were several tree-lined fairways. They weren't just challenging the tee shot. Many of the green complexes were surrounded significantly.

When I started to add it up, my outrights possessed great driving skills. A knack for making more putts than their competitors and excellent on approaches coming in from all different angles. I'm going to really enjoy this course. The natural parkland setting will be beautiful. Don't let the aesthetics fool you, as I mentioned in the opening storyline, the Par 3's and 5's look tough. The short Par 5 fifteenth has a line of cross bunkers to contend with. Getting out of position and par will be a good score. Two of the Par 3's play over 190 yards.

Accuracy will be a priority and in a moment when you get to the outright list, you'll see why these four women in their home country will contend.

What I love most about Hyo Joo Kim is how well-rounded her game is. She's ranked fifth on tour for Par 3 scoring and nineteenth for Par 5's. That level of confident consistency on two very different style holes gets my attention for this course. A Top 10 Approach player, Kim averages 3.85 birdies per round. To help her scoring is an opportunistic putter. Her Putts per GIR rank third. This past spring she finished 6th and 26th overseas. Bring her back again for a fast fall trip and I imagine much like that putter, she can capitalize on the opportunity.

I believe Hye-Jin Choi has an edge on the new courses because as a rookie each course she played this year was new. The stellar rookie has recorded nine Top 10 finishes without a win. Fifth on tour Off the Tee, and seventh is Scoring Average she has done everything this year except winning. We tailed her several times and come close. Winning is really hard on any tour and you always need a little extra luck to break through. Coming home to South Korea might be the edge that pushes her past the others on Sunday. In my custom model, there are fourteen categories and she ranked in the Top 20 for nine of them! She's going to win very soon and I can see it easily happening on this layout.

Outright winners - BMW Ladies Championship

Hyo Joo Kim (+1800)

Hye-Jin Choi (+2000)

Pick 3* (+2200)

Pick 4* (+6500)

*- member content

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