PGA Tour

No nuke fears as PGA Tour makes Korean debut

2017-10-18 10:41
Graeme McDowell (AP)

Jeju - Top golfers brushed off the "crazy" security tensions on the Korean peninsula ahead of the US PGA Tour's inaugural CJ Cup, which begins on Thursday.

Ten of the world's top 30 will tee off on Jeju Island, south of the mainland, in the second event of a three-week swing as the PGA Tour spreads its wings further into Asia.

World number four and US PGA Champion Justin Thomas is the top-ranked player at Jeju's par-72 Nine Bridges course for an event which carries a massive first prize of $1 665 000.

There have been no big-name withdrawals from the 78-man field despite nuclear-armed North Korea recently firing several missiles over Japan and claiming to have tested a hydrogen bomb last month.

"It's a crazy situation, we can all agree on that," said Xander Schauffele, who at 23 is one of the bright young talents to have emerged on tour this year.

"If any inch of my body felt unsafe I wouldn't be here," added Schauffele, who triumphed at the season-ending Tour Championship last month.

"I don't really know anyone who didn't want to come to Korea."

Major-winner Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland agreed. "There's things happening all over the world. We wouldn't be playing an event here if it wasn't safe," said McDowell, the 2010 US Open champion.

"This is a first, and a phenomenal field, and you want to go where the great golfers in the world are," added the Northern Irishman.

McDowell has a taste for debut events on Jeju, having won the European Tour's inaugural Ballantines Championship in 2008 at the nearby Pinx Golf Club.

America's Thomas will be making his second start in defence of his FedEx Cup title but faces stiff competition from the likes of ninth-ranked major-winner Jason Day, former Masters champion Adam Scott and their fellow Australian Marc Leishman, who won last month's BMW Championship.

Leishman played on the Korean Tour in 2006 and is unfazed by Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un exchanging insults in recent weeks.

The US president dubbed North Korea's leader a "madman" after the reclusive regime hinted it may explode a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean.

Kim branded Trump "mentally deranged" after tougher sanctions were imposed by the UN.

"All the stuff that's happening politically, the same sort of thing was happening 11 years ago," said Leishman.

"Once you're here it feels fine. I feel very safe. I wouldn't have come if I was at all worried. I feel good about being back in Korea."

Other notable players in a strong international line-up include another former Masters champion in South Africa's Charl Schwartzel, and English duo Ian Poulter and world number 14 Paul Casey, who has had seven top-10 finishes in the last five months.

A 16-strong home challenge spans the ages led by this year's youngest ever Players Championship winner, the 21-year-old Kim Si-Woo, and rounded out by KJ Choi, 47, who has eight PGA Tour titles to his name.

The inaugural $9.25 million event is the second stop of a new three-week PGA Tour swing in Asia, which started with last week's CIMB Classic in Malaysia and concludes at next week's WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, dubbed "Asia's major".

The CJ Cup was conceived after the hugely successful Presidents Cup at Incheon two years ago, when the Internationals were pipped 14.5-13.5 by the Americans on the 18th green of the final singles match in front of huge galleries.

Read more on:    pga tour  |  cj cup  |  golf
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