Easily the most high-profile event on the PGA Tour fall schedule, the CJ Cup has a new home this year.
After three years in South Korea and two in Las Vegas, the 2022 edition will take place at South Carolina’s Congaree Golf Club, the Tom Fazio-designed course which hosted the Palmetto Championship in 2021, a one-off event that briefly replaced the RBC Canadian Open due to COVID-19 regulations north of the border.
A links-style layout that plays both long and fast, Congaree is the perfect setting for this rich field, which features 53 past PGA Tour winners, including the tournament’s defending champion, Rory McIlroy. The world No. 2 is one of six top-10 players in the field and one of 15 from the top 20 in the Official World Golf Ranking, including the world’s top-ranked player, Scottie Scheffler.
And if Scheffler stumbles this week, McIlroy could potentially take over the No. 1 spot for the first time in more than two years.
But is either on our radar to win or bust at the CJ Cup?
2022 CJ Cup predictions
Luke Norris: Jordan Spieth
Those that have followed me here know I’m big on picking Rory McIlroy for just about every tournament in which he tees it up. But I thought I’d switch it up for the CJ Cup and go with another multi-time major champion and former world No. 1, Jordan Spieth.
While the Texan hasn’t played on the PGA Tour since tying for 13th at the Tour Championship, let’s not forget he had a nice outing in the Carolinas recently at the Presidents Cup, becoming the first American to go 5-0 since 2011.
While Congaree is certainly a different type of track than Quail Hollow, it’s got wide fairways, requires solid iron play, and demands a bit of creativity on and around its putting surfaces. How does that not favor Jordan Spieth?
Jack Dougherty: Cameron Young
I faded Cameron Young as my most likely bust last week, and he made me look smart with a T53 finish at the Zozo Championship. I’m hoping he can do the same for me this week, but this time, it’ll be with a win.
Congaree Golf Club is going to be quite the beast to tame this weekend.
At 7,655 yards, it’ll play as one of the longest courses on the PGA Tour schedule this season. No one drives it longer and straighter than Young right now, so I think this is a perfect venue for him to notch his first Tour victory.
Luke Norris: Chez Reavie
Once the 26th-ranked player in the world, Chez Reavie is nearly 100 spots lower coming into the CJ Cup at No. 124. And the 40-year-old hasn’t been playing great golf as of late. He’s played all four events of the 2022-23 PGA Tour season thus far and has only made the weekend once, that being last week at the Zozo Championship, where he tied for 45th.
But Reavie has a bit of an advantage over the field as he was in the field at Congaree last summer for the Palmetto Championship. And the course suited him nicely as he shot three rounds in the 60s, his only hiccup of the week being a third-round 73. The Kansas native still tied for 14th at 7-under and finished only four shots back of surprise winner Garrick Higgo.
So Reavie has some fond memories to bring into this fifth consecutive start. And the best part for him this week? He won’t miss the weekend as this is a no-cut event.
Jack Dougherty: Keith Mitchell
The bombers are going to have an advantage this week with how long Congaree is going to play. That sets up nicely for Keith Mitchell, who currently ranks No. 1 on Tour in average driving distance (331.6) this season.
It’s not a large sample size, but Mitchell also finished last season 18th in driving distance and fourth in strokes gained off the tee. If his putter decides to show up, Mitchell should be in contention throughout the weekend.
Most likely bust
Luke Norris: Sungjae Im
Like Reavie, Sungjae Im was in the field last June for the Palmetto at Congaree but didn’t fare quite as well, tying for 35th. But it’s not as if he played poorly, finishing at 3-under, just four back of Reavie and eight back of the winner.
And while he fought back nicely, he started that week with a concerning opening-round 75. With a weaker field, he could get away with that. That won’t be the case this week. I won’t be surprised to see some rounds of 64, 63, or maybe even down to 62, depending on what the weather does.
The lowest round Im shot at Congaree a year ago was 67. Again, with a weaker field, that’s fine. But with 14 of his fellow top-20 players teeing it up, he’ll need at least a couple of those to stay competitive.
Jack Dougherty: Matthew Fitzpatrick
I think you know where I’m going with this one. I love fading Matthew Fitzpatrick on longer courses because he’s constantly hitting long irons into greens. The Englishman ranked 128th on Tour last season in GIR percentage from 200+ yards away, so his short game has to be otherworldly if he’s going to contend.
Luke Norris: No. 17
One of the most challenging holes at the Palmetto last year was the 17th, a lengthy dogleg right par-4 that can play as long as 475 yards. Adding difficulty is the waste expanse that extends all the way down to the corner of the dogleg.
Hudson Swafford shot a final-round five-under 66 at the Palmetto and came up one shot short of Higgo. A bogey at the 17th was that one shot.
Chesson Hadley, who shot 65-66-68 over the first three days and was seemingly on his way to victory until three late bogeys cost him the tournament as he lost by one. Wanna guess which hole one of those bogeys came on?
Yeah, it’s gonna be a factor.
Jack Dougherty: No. 15
When nearly every hole on a golf course plays longer than average, the shorter holes usually make the difference in a four-round event. The 15th hole at Congaree is the shortest par-4 on the course at 360 yards. With a massive bunker swallowing up the left side of the hole, shorter players will have to lay up short and right, where water comes into play.
The bombers, however, can fly it 300 yards over that bunker and reach the fairway in front of the green to set up an easy birdie. We’re going to see some eagles at 15 this week.
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