Updated throughout each tournament week, 'The Starter' will provide key news, notes, and other nuggets prior to the first tee time on Thursday morning. Think of it as an all-in-one resource to help guide you in the days leading up to the start of the tournament, as you prepare your fantasy golf lineups and entries. As soon as we receive valuable news updates on things such as tee times, featured groups, withdrawals and other course reports we’ll be sure to post them all here.
Those who stayed up to watch golf in Japan last week were treated to a fun tournament. Keegan Bradley, Rickie Fowler, and Andrew Putnam dueled it out in a battle of PGA Tour veterans who haven't won an event in 3+ years.
Keegan Bradley won his first PGA Tour event since the 2018 BMW Championship. Bradley now has 5 career PGAT victories.
Keegan Bradley: "I putted spectacularly all week. I wish there were stats so I could see what they were." A reminder that the TOUR did not bring ShotLink to Japan, so there's no strokes gained data to sift through from the ZOZO. In his post-tournament press conference, Bradley did highlight here that he felt he putted great.
Rickie Fowler finished Runner-up at the ZOZO. He ranked tied-5th in greens-in-regulation percentage (55/72 greens hit) and 4th in putts per green-in-regulation (1.65).
Rickie Fowler tied for the most birdies in the field (21). A majority of those birdies came at the Par-3's, which he played at 8-under for the tournament. Fowler is now 6th in Par-3 Birdies or Better Percentage (25%) this season; was tied-153rd in that stat category before the ZOZO.
Rickie Fowler has now finished T-6, MC, and T-2 since making a change to both his caddie and swing coach prior to the season.
Matthew NeSmith recorded his third consecutive top-10 finish with a T-9 at the ZOZO. NeSmith had two top-10s all of last season.
Matthew NeSmith led the ZOZO field in GIR% (58/72 greens hit). He's also now shot nine straight rounds in the 60s.
Hayden Buckley was 5th in driving accuracy (37/52 fairways hit) while also being 6th in driving distance at the ZOZO Championship. Buckley ranks 1st in SG: OTT (+1.04 avg. per round) over the last month. Buckley's tournament results over that stretch: T-5, T-20, T-19, MC.
Andrew Putnam leads the PGA Tour with 11 rounds in the 60s so far this season. He's made the cut in all four events. Putnam shot all four rounds in the 60s to finish Runner-up at the ZOZO Championship.
Congaree Golf Club - Ridgeland, SC
Event #5 of 2022-23 FedExCup regular season
No Cut Event
The CJ Cup started in 2017 as an event held in South Korea at Nine Bridges Golf Club. Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the 2020 CJ Cup was held at Shadow Creek Golf Course in Las Vegas, The CJ Cup stayed in Vegas in 2021, through it relocated to The Summit Club.
Although there's been hope of the event returning to South Korea, this year's CJ Cup will once again find a new venue in the United States. This time it's in South Carolina at Congaree Golf Club.
Congaree GC has hosted a PGA Tour event one time, which was in 2021 for the Palmetto Championship (an event that was added to the PGAT schedule that season due to the RBC Canadian Open getting cancelled). That event was played in June, during South Carolina's wetter season.
"We were disappointed to experience eight inches of rain on the Sunday and the Monday before [the Palmetto Championship]," Bruce Davidson (Congaree Director of Golf) said. "Frankly, that's the only reason they got to 11 and 12-under."
Garrick Higgo reached 11-under par to win the Palmetto Championship at Congaree. Although Higgo is not in the field this week, we can still look at this strokes gained profile from that win:
SG Total: +12.32
SG T2G: +8.55 (8th)
SG OTT: +3.40 (12th)
SG APP: +4.56 (11th)
SG ARG: +0.60 (39th)
SG PUTT: +3.77 (15th)
Nothing in particular stands out from a strokes gained perspective on Higgo's win at Congaree. For what it's worth, he did rank 3rd in GIR% and 5th in driving distance that week.
Higgo was a fairly unknown player at that point in the 2021 season. He was a member of the European Tour who had won twice in the two months prior to coming over to play in the Palmetto Championship. Clearly Higgo brought some good form over with him stateside into the event. He automatically earned his PGA Tour card as a result of the win.
Chesson Hadley held a four-shot lead going into the final round but made bogey on his final three holes to finish in a tie for 2nd.
Congaree GC is a fairly unique course, relative to what we normally see on the PGA Tour. Tom Fazio designed it, taking inspiration from European links courses that were built on sand. Bunkers and waste areas line the fairways at this course. (Water comes into play too.)
PGA Tour leaders in scrambling from the sand last season:
Shane Lowry (71.15%)
Christiaan Bezuidenhout (68.49%)
Matt Kuchar (67.71%)
Rory McIlroy (67.39%)
Xander Schauffele (66.15%)
Jeff Eisenband of PGATour.com called it a "distant relative of Australian sand belt courses."
The course scoring average at the 2021 Palmetto Championship was 71.74 (+0.74 relative to par); it ranked 17th (out of 40 courses) in terms of scoring that season. Again though, it's important to remember that the Palmetto was played in a different part of the year and involved a very different field of golfers than what we'll see at this week's CJ Cup.
15 of the top-20 ranked golfers in the world are competing this week.
8 spots are saved for golfers from South Korea, five of which are Korean PGA members and three via the Official World Golf Ranking.
19 golfers in the field played in the 2021 Palmetto Championship at Congaree GC.
36 golfers who played last week's ZOZO Championship are flying back from Japan to play in this event.
Rory McIlroy can overtake world No.1 Scottie Scheffler with the following results at The CJ Cup (per Nosferatu, aka VC606 on Twitter): (1) Rory wins and Scheffler doesn't finish 2nd or in a two-way tie for 2nd; OR (2) Rory finishes solo-2nd and Scheffler finishes worse than solo 34th.
Many of the top ranked golfers in the field have been playing overseas to start the season. Here are some notable global results from top golfers in The CJ Cup field this week:
Jon Rahm won the Acciona Open de Espana and finished T-2 at the BMW PGA Championship.
Rory McIlroy finished top-5 in three DP World Tour events--T-4 at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, 4th place at the Italian Open, and T-2 at the BMW PGA Championship.
Matt Fitzpatrick finished Runner-up at the Italian Open (lost in a playoff to Robert MacIntyre).
Billy Horschel finished T-10 at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and T-9 at the BMW PGA Championship.
Shane Lowry won the BMW PGA Championship.
Matt Kuchar (OWGR 77th)
Matt Kuchar withdrew prior to his round 1 tee time at the Shriners Children's Open (10/6), citing a knee injury. Though we have no update on the injury, Kuchar is in the field for and expected to tee it up this week at The CJ Cup.
Gary Woodland (OWGR 97th)
Gary Woodland withdrew in the middle of his second round at the Shriners Children's Open (10/7), citing a back injury. Woodland was 3-under par with ten holes to play, and he was in good shape to make the cut at the time of the injury, so it was clearly a back issue he couldn't play through. We unfortunately have no update beyond that, but Woodland appears to be playing this week in South Carolina.
Lucas Glover (OWGR 93rd)
Lucas Glover withdrew prior to the start of the Sanderson Farms Championship (9/28). No reason was given for Glover's WD, and he has not played in an event since.
None for this week since a majority of the field has not played the course before. Click here if you want to see the results from the 2021 Palmetto Championship though.