Jeju - World
number four Justin Thomas brushed off a shaky start to fire a superb
nine-under par 63 and take a three-shot lead after the first round of
the CJ Cup on Thursday.
PGA Championship winner Thomas is three strokes clear of five
players on six-under 66 - Malaysia's Gavin Green, the US trio of Chez
Reavie, Scott Brown and Patrick Reed, and Australia's Marc Leishman.
Thomas came up short in his bid for a hat-trick of wins at the CIMB
Classic in Malaysia last week, finishing tied 17th, and he bounced back
from an early wobble at the Nine Bridges course in the first PGA Tour
event ever to be played in South Korea.
He dropped a shot "really badly" on his opening hole, the 10th, but got it back with interest by eagling the par-five 12th.
That was the start of a run of eight-under par for seven holes
comprising four birdies and another eagle at the 18th to reach the turn
in a scintillating seven-under par 29.
"It was a weird day," said 23-year-old FedEx Cup champion Thomas, who
has been in sizzling form since winning his first major in August and
was recently voted PGA Tour player of the Year for 2017.
"It started off with a really badly played bogey and then I went on a
seven-hole stretch where I kind of went unconscious and that was
pretty much most of my round."
Thomas holed a bunker shot at 15 for the second of four birdies in a row and chipped in from off the fringe at 16 for another.
"That's kind of how my day was. Hit two really bad wedge shots and got away with them to steal two bogeys," admitted Thomas.
His second nine was almost boring by comparison featuring three
birdies and another bogey at the seventh to finish at nine-under par.
Reavie had a bogey-free day with a balanced card of three birdies on each nine to get into the five-way tie for second.
"It was fun trying to figure out a new course" said the 35-year-old,
who finished tied 17th alongside Thomas at TPC Kuala Lumpur. "My routes
are going to be different to these long bombers but the greens were
Whee Kim shot a four-under 68 to be the highest placed of the
17-strong Korean contingent, who all received enthusiastic home support
at the inaugural $9.25 million, 78-player event on the southern Jeju
"The fans were super respectful and enjoy golf," said Reavie. "When
you make birdies they cheer and they were rooting all of us on, it's
Thomas's group was followed by the biggest galleries as it contained
the returning Korean hero Bae Sang-Moon who shot 71 in only his third
event since military service, and last week's winner in Malaysia, Pat
Perez, who carded 69.
"It was awesome out there," said Thomas. "I said to Bae you probably
got the best crowds out here. He's a great guy and great player and it's
good to have him back."
Players Championship winner and world number 41 Kim Si-Woo went one
stroke better than Bae with a 70, but admitted the pressure of playing
in front of his home fans in such a high-class field had affected him.
"I felt more nervous than when I played in the Masters," said the 22-year-old.
Leading scores after the first round of the PGA Tour's CJ Cup at Nine Bridges, Jeju Island, South Korea (par 72, USA unless stated):
63 - Justin Thomas
66 - Scott Brown, Gavin Green (MAS), Marc Leishman (AUS), Chez Reavie, Patrick Reed
67 - Tony Finau, Russell Henley, Charles Howell III, Ollie Schniederjans, Jhonattan Vegas (VEN)
68 - Jason Day (AUS), Brian Harman, Whee Kim (KOR), Luke List, Rod Pampling (AUS), Kyle Stanley, Hudson Swafford, Nick Taylor (CAN)
69 - Bud Cauley, KJ Choi (KOR), Lucas Glover, Anirban Lahiri (IND), Pat Perez, Patrick Rodgers, Xander Schauffele, Cameron Smith (AUS), Robert Streb, Harold Varner III
70 - Daniel Berger, Keegan Bradley, Wesley Bryan, Graham Delaet (CAN), Emiliano Grillo (ARG) KT Kim (KOR), Kim Si-Woo (KOR), Jamie Lovemark
71 - An Byeong-Hun (KOR), Bae Sang-Moon (KOR), Rafa Cabrera Bello (ESP), Choi Jin-Ho (KOR), Stewart Cink, Danny Lee (NZL), Lee Kyoung-Hoon (KOR), Thomas Pieters (BEL), Ian Poulter (ENG), Charl Schwartzel (RSA), Chris Stroud, Kevin Tway, Camilo Villegas (COL)