The CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges

The CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges

The CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges
Jeju Island, Korea
Winner: Justin Thomas

There was this matter of a few thousand miles, to be sure, but for Justin Thomas, an American from Kentucky, it was getting to the point where a tournament in Asia was nothing but homecookin’.

Thomas won The CJ Cup in Korea in October — his fourth win in nine starts in Asia. He earlier had won the CIMB Classic in 2015 and 2016, both in Malaysia, and the 2017 and 2019 CJ Cups, both at Nine Bridges on Jeju Island, South Korea. In 2017, he shot Nine Bridges in nine-under 279, and beat Marc Leishman in a playoff. This time he shot 68-63-70-67 for a 20-under 268 and won by two over the frustrated Korean-born New Zealander Danny Lee. “I’ve never played exceptionally well in Korea,” he said.

Thomas, on the other hand, was at a loss to understand his success in Asia. “I have no idea,” he said. “It’s kind of bizarre knowing that I’ve won four times here. I obviously like the golf courses and I feel like they fit my game well. But it must be all the beef. Maybe that’s what it is. I feel comfortable over here.”

The CJ, a no-cut event with a field of 78, was Thomas’s 11th career win in five years and his second of the year after the BMW in August. While the CJ was a victory-in-the-making for Thomas, defending champion Brooks Koepka stirred the contretemps between him and Rory McIlroy by denying there was one. “I’m No. 1 in the world,” he said. “I’m not looking in the rearview mirror, so I don’t see it as a rivalry. I’ve been out here for — what? — five years. Rory hasn’t won a major since I’ve been on the PGA Tour.” Koepka shot 69-75 then withdrew before the third round after aggravating the injury to his left knee when he slipped on a wet pavement Friday.

Thomas opened with a 68 and trailed homeland favorite Byeong Hun An by four in the first round, then birdied the first four holes in the second round for a flawless 63 that gave him a two-stroke lead and that amazed him for its simplicity. “It was a very easy 63 — if you can somehow say that,” Thomas said.

He got caught by Lee (68–201) in the third. “Danny made it extremely difficult,” Thomas said. “He really made a lot of putts, a lot of unbelievable up-and-downs, to keep me from getting all the momentum.” In the final round, Thomas took the lead on a birdie at the 14th and went ahead by two when Lee bogeyed the 15th. Lee also bogeyed the 16th, then Thomas bogeyed 17. Then both birdied the 18th, Lee for the 69 and Thomas a 67 and the two-stroke win. “I gave my best,” Lee said, “and solo second was the best I could do.”Said Thomas, with his second win in Korea: “I still haven’t mastered how to write my name in Korean.”


Be the first to hear about the latest feature articles, annuals and more from the World of Professional Golf.