PGA Preview CJ Cup – Brooks, Koepka & Justin Thomas Favored
by Kent Whitaker Scores & Statson
The PGA Tour enters the second event of the Asian Swing with the second edition of the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges Golf Course in South Korea. The big storyline heading into play is the fact that more big names are playing than did so last week at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia. Two of those golfers, Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka, are eying the top-ranking on the Official World Golf Rankings. And, Thomas hopes to defend the title of the tournament he won last year.
Now, add in Marc Leishman, who won last week at The Classic, and who has also taken Thomas to the wire several times during the swing through Asian countries. Heading into the opening round oddsmakers seem to be leaning towards Thomas at +550 over Koepka who trails slightly behind at +800.
So, where’s Leishman? Oddsmakers seem to think he’ll suffer from a winning hangover following the CIMB Classic as he’s fifth on the list with a +1400 behind Jason Day and Hideki Matsuyama. Day started last season off with a few wins but seemed to struggle during many tournaments while shinning a few weeks later. Matsuyama spent much of last season battling minor injuries and swing issues before coming on strong for the last two months. He carded five top-fifteen finishes to end close out the schedule.
Here’s a look at the top-Fifteen favorite players for the CJ Cup in Malaysia.
Will Wind be a Factor?
The inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges was an exciting event last year. Justin Thomas and Marc Leishman battled in a playoff before Thomas eventually won the tournament. The excitement of the tournament, beyond the playoff, was what led up to extra holes being played. Thomas opened the event with a 63 going 9-under. Then, high gusts of wind came for much of the remaining rounds which opened the door for Leishman to make a run for the win.
The question is if the winds will come into play once again? If so, a course that’s relatively tame by PGA standards could turn into a nightmare! During round one of last years event, the average score was 70.9 across the entire field with Thomas being the lowest. Then when the wind kicked up, the average score across the field jumped to 73.18. Yes, that’s only three strokes – but that’s a lot when your scientific sample group is composed of professional golfers with PGA cards in their pockets!
The Club at Nine Bridges by the Numbers
The Club at Nine Bridges is in South Korea and is the only Korean course ranked in the world’s top-100. The course is built on Jeju Island which is sometimes referred to the “Hawaii” of South Korea. Nine Bridges, which features only eight bridges – the ninth being metaphorical as a link /bridge between the club and its members, takes full advantage of the natural surroundings and terrain. Many golfers refer to the private course as one of the most beautiful venues on the Tour.
The course terrain is a combination of rolling small hills and higher vistas overlooking multiple water hazards. The design takes advantage of the sloping hillside of the dormant volcano. Fairways range from pine tree lined to slightly open with minor doglegs. Several holes start off as blind shots playing uphill with second shots being vital.
While it is a PGA Tour course it’s not a beast by any means as its design is geared to private play by members. However, wind can be a factor which instantly turns the course into a par and bogey-making machine. The course builders stated that they wanted the course to have a Scottish Highlands feel. Nine Bridges features ten par-four holes and four par-three and four par-five holes.
Location: Jeju Island, South Korea Designers: Ronald Fream, David Dale Established: 2001 Par: 72 Length: 7196 Course rating: 75 Slope rating: 140 Grass: Bentgrass
CIMB Classic TV Times - all times ET
Note: The event takes place during a normal PGA Tour Event. But, due to time differences between the United States and South Korea, the TV schedule begins Wednesday night – in the States – instead of Thursday morning.