World sees Shadow Creek

Oct 14, 2020 3:13 AM

This week’s PGA Tour event, The CJ Cup @ Shadow Creek, will not only have a star-studded lineup, it will give fans a glimpse behind the gates of one of golf’s hidden masterpieces: Shadow Creek.

The tournament, moving to Vegas for this year from South Korea because of the coronavirus pandemic, will see 78 players tee it up in the no-cut event. It will be held, just for 2020, at one of the best golf courses anywhere — just check out any and every golf publication’s rankings, it’s always on the list.

Shadow Creek is owned by MGM Resorts and is as private as they come. If you’re not staying at one of the MGM resorts, you’re not playing. Plenty of big names, including a U.S. president, have had to turn around from the gate without getting on the course.

Yes, it’s that exclusive. And the price tag (yes, you’ve still got to pay to play, even though you’re a resort guest, hovers around the $500 range. Although if you’ve donated enough to the casino, that price may be lowered or waived altogether.

The course itself is beyond impressive. Yes, we’ve played it a couple of times doing stories for golf publications, so we can say it more than lives up to the mystery, the hype and playability.

Shadow Creek was designed by Tom Fazio (co-designed by Steve Wynn) and opened in 1989. Now, 31 years later, there’s still plenty of mystery about the course as you can drive by the gates and have no idea a world-class golf course is just inside.

That will change this week as the PGA Tour showcases this par-72 layout that plays around 7,500 yards from the tips. Fans will be front and center in being able to check out this slice of golf paradise on The Golf Channel as there won’t be any spectators allowed on the grounds.

The CJ Cup defending champ, Justin Thomas, headlines a group that includes Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy, three of the top four players in the world. It would have included the top four in those rankings except Dustin Johnson withdrew from the event after testing positive for the coronavirus.

Granted, we certainly don’t know how many have teed it up at Shadow Creek, but it’s not likely they’ve spent time putting facts and figures about the course into their memory banks thinking they would be playing a Tour event here.

But here we are and now we need to figure out who adapts quickly to the course and takes full advantage.

So with that in mind, we’re going with a lot of chalk this week. The reasoning is simple: All of these guys got to the top of the rankings for their great play. There’s no reason to assume that play won’t show up at Shadow Creek, even if they’re not familiar with the course..

We like the defending champ, Thomas at 10-1, to repeat. In fact, Thomas has won two of the three CJ Cup titles with Johnson winning the other title. It may not be the same course, but it’s the same Thomas. He’s No. 3 in the world rankings and coming off a T-8 at the U.S. Open. It should have been a better finish, especially after an opening-round 65.

But we digress. Since the PGA Tour came back in the fall, he’s had a victory at WGC-St. Jude and a runner-up finish at The Tour Championship as well as his U.S. Open finish. Put him in a big-time event and he’s money.

We’re also going to put Matthew Wolff, at 18-1, right smack in the middle of the picture. The guy just keeps putting himself in contention. Since the start of the latest wraparound season all he’s done is finish solo second at the U.S. Open followed by a T-2 at the Shriners event last week. He’s also second in the FedEx Cup race. All things are pointing towards him having even more to howl about this week.

So, like last week’s shootout event in Las Vegas, grab a cold one and watch some of the best players teeing it up in one of America’s best cities. But don’t forget to keep an eye on the course. It may be another 30-plus years before we get a behind-the-scenes view of Shadow Creek. 

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