The PGA TOUR is staying in Las Vegas for the second straight week after a three-way playoff at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open resulted in Martin Laird claiming his first win in over seven years. After playing at TPC Summerlin last week, this week the Tour shifts to the exclusive Shadow Creek Golf Course. It’s a new venue for this tournament, which usually takes place in South Korea but had to be relocated due to COVID-19.
The field this week will be just 78 players and there will be no cut. Some of the bigger names are back in action for the first time since the U.S. Open as Dustin Johnson ($11,100), Justin Thomas ($10,800), Jon Rahm ($11,300) and Rory McIlroy ($10,600) lead an elite field as players start to get tuned up for The Masters in a month at Augusta. The tournament has only been in existence for three years and Thomas has won twice with Brooks Koepka ($9,700) taking home the win in 2018. Those wins may not help those players on this different course, but it does show the high quality of the players involved this week.
Shadow Creek was designed by Tom Fazio and was used for The Match: Tiger vs. Phil in 2018 but has never hosted a tournament like this, so the course data is difficult to come by. What we can say with certainty is that it’s a long course at 7,560 yards that plays as a par 72 with bentgrass greens. Its length puts it right around Quail Hollow’s length but short of Torrey Pines, which is the longest course in the regular rotation.
Fazio also designed Firestone Country Club in Akron and Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, which have recently been stops on the Tour and could provide solid course correlations. Fazio also designed the Corales Golf Course, which hosted an event earlier this season in the Dominican Republic, but not many of these elite players teed it up there.
Like many Fazio designs, Shadow Creek features wide fairways and rolling terrain with average undulations on the greens. The key stats are expected to be Strokes Gained: Approach and Strokes Gained: Around the Green, but it will also be key to have plenty of length off the tee. There are four par 5s and a driveable par 4, so scoring on those holes will be key, favoring players with more distance in their game.
The no-cut nature of this event makes taking a flier on cheaper plays a little less risky since barring injury or withdrawal everyone will play four full rounds. Getting great value plays will be a key along with pinpointing the right superstars to get into your lineup. Let’s take a look at who stands out this week from the options available for $7,500 or under on DraftKings.
Joaquin Niemann, $7,500
Niemann has been playing very well over the past couple of months since his big week at Olympia Fields for the BMW Championship. He was in contention coming down the stretch and ultimately finished T3 to qualify for the TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP the following week. He also posted a T23 at the U.S. Open and put up a solid T13 last week at TPC Summerlin to show he’s still in good form.
Even though the 21-year-old from Chile isn’t the biggest player, he crushes the ball off the tee. He finished just outside the top 25 on the Tour last year in shots gained off the tee and is fourth in driving distance in his limited work this season. His approach game was a little off last week, but he finished 15th in shots gained on approach last season. If his irons are back on point this week, he can definitely go low in this format and has shown he can contend in an elite field.
Bubba Watson, $7,300
Watson also has plenty of length off the tee and has shown he can contend with the top players in the world. He hasn’t teed it up since the U.S. Open, where he posted a T31. He struggled at the beginning of last year but seemed to find good form down the stretch, finishing T18 at THE NORTHERN TRUST and T16 at the BMW Championship.
Since he is a lefty and has such a unique swing, Watson tends to either “fit” a course and always do well or never seems to figure it out. Taking him at a new course like this is high-risk, but it can also be high reward since he has the tools to contend. Watson currently ranks eighth on the season with 1.552 shots games on approach per round, and that is just from his four rounds at the U.S. Open, showing how on-point his approach game was at Winged Foot. If he can have similar success this week, he’ll be a great option to have at under $7.5K.
Mackenzie Hughes, $6,800
Hughes’ stats for this season look ugly at first glance, but it’s important to remember that the only two measured rounds available for him are from his rough week at Winged Foot, where he badly missed the cut at the U.S. Open. He bounced back from that week with a strong showing in Punta Cana, where he finished solo third on that other Fazio-designed course. Since there isn’t shot-tracking data on that course, though, it doesn’t improve his stats at all for this season. If we look back at the 2019-20 season stats, Hughes looks like he could be a good fit here since he ranked in the top 10 in shots gained around the green and top 10 in putting. His weakness is accuracy off the tee, but with wide fairways, there should be some forgiveness at Shadow Creek.
Toward the end of last season, Hughes was on a great roll, producing top-15 finishes at THE NORTHERN TRUST, the BMW Championship and the TOUR Championship. After the restart, Hughes missed the cut in his first event but then reeled off nine straight made cuts with three top-10 finishes even before his third-place finish in the Dominican Republic.
Joohyung Kim, $6,400
Since the event is normally played in Korea, there are extra spots reserved in the field for players from the Korean Tour. One of the players from that group that is sure to get plenty of attention is Kim, who has already been making a name for himself at the young age of 18. Despite his youth, he already has five professional victories internationally, winning three times on the Asian Development Tour and once on the Asian Tour. He also became the youngest player to win on the Korean Tour with his win this past July at the KPGA Gunsan CC Open.
Already this season, Kim has played two events on the PGA Tour with a T67 at the Safeway Open followed by a T33 at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship, again on that Fazio-designed course. Finding specific stats on the different parts of Kim’s game is a little tricky since many of the events he has played don’t have a lot of tracking data. From the numbers we do have from Asian Tour events in 2019 and in 2020 we can tell he is an above-average putter who can pile up birdies in a hurry. He would have ranked second on the Asian Tour in birdies-per-round if he had enough events to qualify in 2019. While he’s still extremely young, he is a lot of fun to watch and is a player that will be fun to say was in your lineup from early on in his career as he continues to grow and contend.
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