2021 CJ CUP Odds & Preview: Louis Oosthuizen Presents Good Value for First Stateside Win
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images. Pictured: Louis Oosthuizen
- The PGA TOUR's premier field comes to Las Vegas for the 2021 CJ CUP.
- Thirteen of the top-20 players in the world will play at The Summit Club this week.
- Jason Sobel breaks down his betting picks for the tournament below.
Click here to see the full odds board, courtesy of DraftKings.
|Harold Varner III||+6500|
|Si Woo Kim||+6500|
|Erik Van Rooyen||+13000|
|Kyoung Hoon Lee||+15000|
|Byeong Hun An||+30000|
|Han Byeol Kim||+40000|
|Seong Hyeon Kim||+50000|
Perhaps it’s only fitting that for a second straight year, the PGA TOUR’s second straight week in Las Vegas is something of a great unknown.
Once again, the CJ CUP is being played in Sin City, this time at The Summit Club, which has never before hosted an event on the schedule.
Here are the relevant facts you’ll need to know: The four-round, limited-field, no-cut tourney is being contested on this 7,431-yard, par-72, described on PGATour.com as, “[It] isn’t a typical desert layout, and in fact it will play more like a lush parkland course with a desert background that features strong bunkering and signature Tom Fazio green complexes.”
We’ll learn more about the host venue in coming days (I’m writing this preview early Monday morning), as players get a look at the track and start offering some intel.
That doesn’t mean we can’t make some inferences already.
One of the recurring themes over the years at courses which have either served as a one-off host or are hosting for the first time is that tournament organizers almost always err on the side of caution when it comes to the setup.
From 2010, when the Greenbrier first played host, yielding a winning score of 22-under (which would stand as the lowest in the tourney’s nine-event history) and a final-round total of 59 from Stuart Appleby to this year, when the BMW Championship was first held at Caves Valley with Patrick Cantlay and Bryson DeChambeau owning matching totals of 27-under, there exists a definitive pattern in these situations.
One week after Sungjae Im claimed the Shriners Children’s Open at 24-under on a par-71, don’t be surprised to see this week’s winner surpass that number, especially if weather doesn’t play a factor in the proceedings.
This one won’t be devoid of superstars, as Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau and Rory McIlroy each make their first start since the Ryder Cup, but as we get to the picks, it’s another top player to whom I’m looking for another strong week.
One player to win the tournament.
Louis Oosthuizen (+2200)
Perhaps my least favorite golf wagers are outrights on players to win for the first time. In no other aspect of betting would we find “value” on playing something that’s never happened before. It’s like betting 37 at a roulette table.
Now, I’m well aware: Oosthuizen has indeed won previously. He won the 2010 Open Championship at St. Andrews, plus eight other European Tour events and a bunch of times in his early years on the Sunshine Tour. That doesn’t tell the entire story, of course.
If you had bet Louis outright at every single U.S.-based tournament he’s ever played, you’d have absolutely nothing. It remains one of the more baffling not-so-fun facts in golf: In addition to those aforementioned titles, he owns a half-dozen runner-up results at majors (plus two other third-place finishes) and has climbed as high as fourth in the OWGR (he’s currently eighth), but he’s never won on U.S. soil.
So … why here and why now? Glad you asked. First of all, today’s parity amongst the game’s best players has essentially created a revolving door of winners throughout the year. Of the top-20 on the OWGR, every single one of ‘em has won in 2021, except for — you guessed it — Oosthuizen.
All of which dovetails nicely into the next reason I’m picking him. Simply put, he’s played too well to not have a trophy on the mantle. He finished 26th-2nd-2nd-3rd at the majors, has piled up 11 top-25s in 17 starts and hasn’t missed a cut.
Then there’s the final reason: Fresh off a T-14 in Vegas last week, he’s not only playing well, but motivated to claim that W — perhaps more than many of his peers in this star-studded field who already have those trophies from this year.
I don’t like making bets on things that have never happened, but in this case it’s just a matter of when, not if. Oosthuizen has been knocking on the door for an awfully long time.
He’s ready for that U.S. win.
Potential selections for one-and-done options.
Sungjae Im (+3000)
You don’t have to believe me after the fact, but with the tournament title sponsor plastered across his cap, I had this one earmarked as a potential winner for Sungjae — until he went and won last week instead.
Even so, I could certainly envision a second consecutive title contention, much like Sam Burns, who won the Sanderson Farms and was on the Shriners leaderboard for three days before faltering in the final round.
If you’re playing OADs at this time of the year, hitting on the hot hand is more important than during the spring and summer months, so don’t be afraid to go back to him here.
Tony Finau (+2500)
A couple of years ago, I wrote a series of pros’ favorite betting stories. There were plenty of good ones, but my personal favorite was this from Finau, who would travel to Vegas with his brother and play money games for more cash than he ever had.
Granted, life is much different now for the man who’s banked more than $25 million in PGA TOUR earnings alone, but a trip to Vegas could rekindle those old feelings of having to scratch and claw for everything.
Coming off a victory in the FedExCup playoffs, followed by a Ryder Cup during which he looked unbeatable for a couple of partnered matches, we can almost see the confidence growing on Finau’s face each time he tees it up. A big title is coming soon and while it might be bigger than this one, he certainly wouldn’t turn it down.
Cameron Smith (+2800)
Oosthuizen is overdue for his next victory; Im and Finau both were until their respective wins recently. I’d put Smith, who’s compiled eight top-10s since his triumph at last year’s Sony Open, on this list, as well.
One of the things we always hear about the man with the mullet is that he’s a gamer – essentially, he’s giving it the proverbial 110 percent every time he plays. In a no-cut event, even if he doesn’t seriously contend, I like using Smith for OADs based on the fact that he might grind a little harder on the weekend than others who could be further behind in the pack.
Harold Varner III (+6500)
This one goes out to everybody who believes in the true power of the Nappy Factor – that a player will suddenly fare better after becoming a father for the first time.
Maybe it’s just a coincidence that Jon Rahm became a major champion in this scenario, or maybe there’s legitimately something to it. In any case, HV3 is now a proud dad and perhaps his first victory is due soon, as well.
One player to finish top-five.
Collin Morikawa (+350 for top-five)
While most of the players in this field will spend the first few days of this week trying to figure out The Summit Club, Morikawa should feel right at home — literally. After moving to Las Vegas two years ago when he turned professional (and no, that’s not a typo; somehow, the two-time major champion has only been a pro for just over two years now), he joined The Summit Club, which is where he mostly plays and practices when he’s not on the road.
As we’ve found over the years in dozens of situations like this, competing at your home course might hold an advantage, though it’s rarely as much of an advantage as we’d like to believe. That said, the world’s most talented ball-striker shouldn’t need much of one.
Put him on a track where he feels comfortable on the greens and that should be a recipe for success.
One player to finish top-10.
Marc Leishman (+350 for top-10)
After a pair of top-10s to start the new season, it’s clear that Leishman is on a mission right now. “It’s good just to be playing well, feeling good over the ball, seeing the putts go in,” he said after finishing in a share of third place last week. “It’s been awhile since that’s happened and for it to happen at Napa and then here again it’s a good feeling.”
Internal motivation is a strange thing and it’s a disservice to other players to suggest they own less of it than a guy like Leishman, but the combination of a somewhat disappointing previous season and the hot start to this current one proves that he’s focused on proving something to himself at this time of year.
One player to finish top-20.
Talor Gooch (+190 for top-20)
For the last 3-4 years, we’ve known that Gooch is one of the game’s up-and-coming ball-strikers — maybe not a budding superstar, but a player whose strong iron game can keep him afloat most weeks. Over the past few events, though, we might be witnessing a guy who’s ready to improve in all other facets of the game.
With finishes of 4th-11th in his first two starts of this season, Gooch currently ranks fourth in strokes gained tee to green, 14th in strokes gained on approach shots, third in strokes gained around the green and sixth in strokes gained total.
Essentially, he’s turned himself into a four-tool player — and on weeks when his putter decides to cooperate, he can easily be a five-tool kind of guy. He’s one of my favorite picks to make a leap into a higher tier over the next 11 months.
Currently at 63rd in the OWGR — the highest he’s ever been ranked — I can easily see him well inside the top-50 with a first victory and initial trip to East Lake on his resume by the time this season ends.
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A two-time winner of the CJ Cup, those previous accolades might not matter much on a completely golf course, but that doesn’t mean Thomas can’t similarly climb the leaderboard at this one.
For months, he’s shown signs of busting through and regaining the performance that helped him win THE PLAYERS Championship, yet he’s continually fallen just a bit short of peak JT.
I don’t know about the narrative that a move to new full-time caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay is going to be the cure-all that he needs — after all, Jimmy Johnson was/is a hell of a caddie, too – but I do believe that a change could definitely help in the short-term, beginning with this week.
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It makes way too much sense to play Vegas in Vegas, even if you’ll have to mute my Twitter feed for a week to avoid all the terrible puns.
“Vegas, baby!” “What happens to Vegas stays in Vegas!”
I apologize in advance, but there’s a good chance Jhonattan has a good week, for the simple reason that he’s been quietly doing so for months. Since mid-May, he’s made 10 starts, piling up three top-10s and six top-20s.
I like him to keep rolling in his first start of this season. “Viva La Vegas!”
One player to post the low score Thursday.
Joaquin Niemann (+4000 for FRL)
Last week, Niemann opened with a 72, which doesn’t sound all that terrible, but tied his highest first-round total in his last nine starts, dating back to the U.S. Open.
Within that stretch is a 65 and a couple of 68s, scores which are more along the way he usually starts, as evidenced by ranking 18th in R1 scoring average last season, after being inside the top-10 for much of the year.
If there’s an edge to picking FRLs this week, then I look at it much like the Sony Open, where I want players who were not only competing, but competing in that very same state the previous week.
I suggest focusing FRL thoughts on those who played the Shriners and not only have a week of recent competition under their belts, but a week in the desert, too.
One player who should beat comparable players.
Russell Henley (+6000)
In keeping with my theme of playing guys who are “overdue” (see: Oosthuizen and Smith), there really wasn’t much which separated Henley from fellow UGA product Harris English last season, other than the not-so-insignificant fact that English closed on a pair of Sunday afternoons and Henley didn’t.
That thin line becomes a massive divider, of course, when one player bursts into the world’s top-10 and makes his first Ryder Cup appearance, while the other is mired at 56th and needs a few good results to qualify for next year’s majors.
That’s not to suggest that they both don’t deserve their current place in the golf stratosphere – one of the great things about this game is the non-subjective results – but things do have a way of balancing out over time and I do believe that Henley is ripe for diminishing that divider between them.
The Big Fade
One top player to avoid at this tournament.
Rory McIlroy (+1600)
One of the questions I’ve been asked the most in the aftermath of the U.S. victory at the Ryder Cup is this: Why can’t McIlroy bottle the emotions he showed after winning his Sunday singles match and use them as fuel to win more individual events? The easy answer is that those emotions are what separates the Ryder Cup from those other events, that some players are simply more invested when they’re competing for team and country.
The not-so-easy answer as to why Rory has so often appeared apathetic and unenthused when competing in a tournament such as this one is obviously a deeper secret. Maybe he’s under-prioritized golf with a growing family at home; maybe the money has made him less passionate about winning; maybe he’s just trying too damned hard.
My theory is that Rory has tried following the Tiger Plan, one which Brooks Koepka has figured out over the years: Don’t give it 100 percent at the “other” events, instead saving your best stuff to peak four times per year at the majors.
That strategy clearly worked for those other guys, but it hasn’t for Rory, if indeed this is what he’s tried to do. I’d love to see him trick himself into thinking other tourneys throughout the year are essentially “mini-majors” and play them with a bit more focus and inspiration than previously.
I really don’t like fading Rory as a general rule, because I still think he’s one of the world’s most talented players, even sitting at 15th on the OWGR. Unless he’s coming into this one with just a small semblance of his Ryder Cup intensity, though, at this price, I won’t be chasing him.