2022 CJ Cup: Will Rory McIlroy Win on Sunday?

2022 CJ Cup: Will Rory McIlroy Win on Sunday? article feature image

Pictured: Rory McIlroy. (Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images for The CJ Cup)

We should have an exciting final round in front of us at the CJ Cup as Rory McIlroy takes a one-shot lead into Sunday over a trio of golfers, including Jon Rahm. It is worth noting that the duo will not be paired together because of when they finished the day. Instead, we'll see McIlroy draw K.H. Lee and Kurt Kitayama in the final group.

Unfortunately, that does remove some of the potential fireworks that could come into play on the back nine if both players were walking step-in-step with each other down the stretch.

Let's talk a little about historical trends on my model that I used to predict who still has a chance to win the title, and then let's discuss some of the overrated options that are overachieving on my sheet through three rounds.

If you aren't doing so already, you can find me on Twitter @TeeOffSports. There I will provide my pre-tournament model, a powerful and interactive data spreadsheet that allows user inputs to create custom rankings for golf. That sheet is free and released every Monday, so be sure to check it out and construct your own numbers from my database of information.

Round 4 Historical Data

I want to preface this by saying I don't have every tournament in chronological order over the past few years and have missed a few for various reasons — including events where statistical data wasn't accessible — but I do have a database of 81 events that can look into where every player stood in the standings heading into that respective round.

Where Did The Eventual Winner Sit On The Leaderboard After Each Day?

After Round 1 – 15.18 (-3.11 shots off the lead)
After Round 2 –8.01 (-2.65 shots off the lead)
After Round 3 – 3.14 (-1.30 shots off the lead)

We played this game last week to successfully select Keegan Bradley and I think it is a fun exercise to try again since I always say bettors take choices way too distant on the leaderboard when entering the final day. Remember, golfers don't come from as far off the pace as you think.

I realize a lot of that information is going to become condensed when a few golfers hold their overnight lead for victory, but it has been challenging for the field to overcome a deficit when both factors — being five ore more shots back and outside the top 10 entering the day — occur.

The only two occurrences in my database to fall into that category are Sam Burns at the Charles Schwab during his 17th-place start and seven-stroke deficit and Luke Luke at the Farmers Insurance Open, where he overcame his 19th-place Sunday position and five-shot deficiency. Every other tournament has seen a golfer land inside a five-shot range or the top 10 of the leaderboard when the day began. That gives us almost a 97.5% success rate in our reduced sample size. 

When I run numbers for Sunday, the one potential outlier here who could break the mold is Shane Lowry, a golfer who ranks third for the week in ball striking and inside the top 10 of my pre-event grading system. I have seen worse bets made than grabbing him at 210/1 on a site like FanDuel, but for all intents and purposes, every other golfer in the seven-under or worse range should be removed from consideration. In reality, we might even be getting too cute taking a shot on Lowry being six back of McIlroy.

In theory, that leaves us with McIlroy, Lee, Kitayama, Rahm, Taylor Moore, Aaron Wise, Brendon Todd, Tom Kim, Maverick McNealy, Lee Hodges, Tom Hoge, Tommy Fleetwood and Cameron Davis as options to realistically win.

However, there have also been a few additional steps to the process that have worked well over the same period of time, including the fact that no golfer outside the top 50 of my sheet has won an event in 2022. While this is a limited event that will make removing choices more challenging, Lee, Moore, Todd and Hodges all get eliminated.

We can even take it a step beyond that when considering that 88.5% of eventual winners have landed inside the top 35 of either the upside or overall portions of my model. That leaves us a list of McIlroy,Kitayama, Rahm, Wise, Kim, Hoge, Fleetwood and Davis.

I don't want to start removing tons of names from there because we do have such a limited pool to start, but there is only about a 2% percent chance on my model that the winner would be Hoge, Fleetwood or Davis, so it is likely an event where we are looking at McIlroy, Kitayama, Rahm, Wise or Kim being one of the five winners. Keep that in mind if taking shots down the board, but I think we see a lot of that already baked into the equation with only a few options registering sub-10/1.

Sharp markets seem to believe McIlroy is the most likely champion, for obvious reasons, and the respected money trying to find another winner has been coming in on Kitayama, Rahm, Kim and Wise, which goes perfectly with the narrative from my model.

Round 4 Fade Options

Maverick McNealy, Harris English and Seamus Power

What that image shows is how many spots, on average, a player is overachieving with their ball-striking returns this week.

That means Maverick McNealy is producing results that are 31 places better than expected, which, in fairness, is before we add in some baseline putting. Regardless, McNealy enters a select group of golfers in this field who have overachieved by more than 10 spots daily over all three rounds.

GolferR1 OverachievementR2 OverachievementR3 Overachievement
Harris English-23-18-30
Maverick McNealy-44-26-22

Unfortunately, most of our fade candidates for McNealy tomorrow are options like Wise or Hoge, who make that initial list themselves, though each remains a fixture inside the top 25 of my model for head-to-head rank, a vast increase from McNealy's 61st-place total, which has him wildly overpriced for a golfer who barely cracked my top 50 pre-event.

I prefer Wise on a site like Bet365 if handpicking a choice, but perhaps you can find a matchup of your own if you shop around!

If you are looking for additional options, Power has yet to gain over 0.16 shots in a round with his driver and irons and could make an interesting target.

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