The CJ Cup boasts a star-studded field, even though two of the biggest names are late scratches.
Normally played in South Korea, the tournament has relocated this week to exclusive Shadow Creek in Las Vegas because of the pandemic. But COVID-19 has still caused ripple effects through the field, as both world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Tony Finau withdrew Tuesday after recently testing positive for the virus. They were replaced in the 78-man field by Robby Shelton and J.T. Poston, respectively, but both left a notable hole near the top of the DraftKings salary board.
Justin Thomas returns to action as the defending champ, in search of a third CJ Cup title in the four years of its existence, while Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy also make their first starts since the U.S. Open.
From Thomas to a recent hot hand and a lurking former major champ, here are some names to consider when crafting your lineups this week in Sin City:
Justin Thomas ($10,800 on DraftKings): When it's a limited-field event, it's time to slot JT's name near the top. Ten of Thomas' 13 career PGA Tour wins have come against limited fields, including this event a year ago as well as the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational in July. Thomas finished T-8 at Winged Foot in his most recent start and is one of the top players in any field he enters. Now tackling a course that most in the field are seeing for the first time this week, and without having to factor the world No. 1, it's setting up like another big week for a player who has been popping up on leaderboards with great regularity since the Tour returned to action in June.
Matthew Wolff ($10,000): No reason to slow down now. Wolff nearly backed into a victory last week at TPC Summerlin, losing to Martin Laird in a playoff, but that's still his second straight runner-up finish and third such result in his last 10 starts. Wolff is undoubtedly one of the brightest examples of players who have made the biggest shift since the pandemic break, going from No. 106 in the world in June to 12th in the latest rankings. He's oozing confidence and playing without hesitation, a potent combination as he heads to another desert layout that should accentuate his advantages off the tee and give him plenty of opportunities to get aggressive. Wolff and Xander Schauffele are probably the two best players since the break without a win, and until one (or both) break through, there will be a tendency to feature them in lineups - even though Wolff is now being priced more in line with his world ranking.
Jason Day ($8,300): The former world No. 1 has cooled significantly since his run of four straight top-7 finishes that included the PGA Championship, but this feels like a week where he might get back into the mix. Day's sloppy second round cost him last week at TPC Summerlin, but he did open with a 68 to show that hope isn't exactly lost. He has had some success on other Tom Fazio designs, notably his runaway win at Conway Farms at the 2015 BMW Championship, and still boasts a world-class short game. His driving stats took a dip last season, but Shadow Creek should offer him a little more room off the tee than other recent Tour venues. Day's recent decline has been priced into his salary, but this still feels like a great opportunity to roster a player with significant potential in a no-cut event.
Brendon Todd ($7,900): Todd hasn't gotten as much attention in recent months as he did while winning twice last fall, but the results haven't exactly stopped. He finished T-23 at the U.S. Open in his most recent start, and going back to the Memorial that's six top-25 finishes in his last eight starts. He isn't flashy, and he definitely had a few final-round hiccups while near the lead in Cromwell and Memphis. But he has been delivering consistently for several months now and there's no reason to expect that pattern to be interrupted this week. Todd's salary is an indication of the strength of this week's field, but it's also potentially an opportunity to buy in on a player who delivers more results than headlines.
Joel Dahmen ($6,500): Dahmen is here for the money. The veteran has made that point time and again, sometimes with varying degrees of levity, but there's no ambiguity about the fact that he's watching his direct deposit like a hawk come Sunday evening. This week's no-cut event means a guaranteed paycheck, and the $9.75 million purse should provide all the motivation Dahmen might need to shake off a trio of lackluster starts. Each of Dahmen's last two starts against similar fields, the BMW Championship and the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, ended with T-20 finishes. A similar result this time around would probably seem acceptable given his price point.
Harry Higgs ($6,300): It's a tough racket sometimes on the PGA Tour. Case in point, take Higgs' tale of the tape last week at TPC Summerlin, where rounds of 68-68 earned him a missed cut. Not all trunk slams are created equal, as Higgs' game clearly isn't that far off in the wake of his runner-up performance at the Safeway Open in his most recent start. Higgs had a successful rookie campaign and got off to a hot start in the new wraparound campaign in Napa, and his laid-back vibe should flourish at Shadow Creek. Higgs is the type of player that likely didn't anticipate having a spot in such a lucrative event a year ago. Now that he's here, expect him to make the most of it.