Jeju - Justin
Thomas battled to a two-under par 70 in brutal winds at the CJ Cup on
Saturday and thought he played better than when shooting 63 two days
It took Thomas into a share of the lead with fellow American Scott
Brown on nine-under 207, two strokes clear of India's Anirban Lahiri and
Australia's Marc Leishman.
"I know for a fact that I played better today than I did on Thursday
when I shot nine-under," said the world number four after only 10
players in the elite 78-man field broke par.
"It is so hard out here, I've never played a place where the wind swirls as much as it does here. It was insane."
The PGA Tour's first event in South Korea has taken the players to
the slopes of the 1 950-metre (6,400-foot) Halla Mountain, an extinct
volcano on Jeju that is South Korea's highest peak.
The spectacular Nine Bridges club has a reputation as a windy venue,
but Thursday's flat calm saw a flurry of low scores headed by Thomas's
On Friday and Saturday the course bit back with a vengeance and Thomas remains on the same nine-under mark relative to par.
"The hardest thing is the putting," Thomas said. "We'll hit some
putts that look pretty stupid out there and the viewers at home don't
understand. You have to be out here and close to know why that's
Brown shot a one-under par 71 that felt much lower, he said.
"When it's like this, I
mean hitting a sand wedge into a green is hard," said Brown, who had
his best season on the PGA Tour last year when he finished 55th in the
Lahiri is back on familiar turf having played seven years in the
Asian Tour and used his experience to card one of the rounds of the day,
a three-under 69 that catapulted him from 15th to joint third.
Lahiri had looked like carding the only bogey-free round of the day until he dropped a shot at the 16th.
"I'm a little disappointed honestly with my back nine. I felt like I missed a lot of putts."
Lahiri lost to Thomas in a play-off at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia a year ago, but that would have no bearing Sunday he said.
"This golf course is not playing anything like TPC Kuala Lumpur, I
promise you." said Lahiri. "Whoever I play with tomorrow I'm happy I
have given myself a chance."
The best round was a 67 containing seven birdies and two bogeys by local hero An Byeong-Hun.
He started on the 10th earlier than the leaders and took advantage of
calmer conditions on the back nine to bag five birdies before the turn
to get to level par for the tournament. That gave him a share of eighth
place with overnight leader Luke List, who fell away with a 76.
Whee Kim continues to be the best of the 17 Koreans in the field and
will start Sunday three off the leaders after a patient level-par 72.
"The wind blew everywhere. I think I did pretty good considering,"
said the in-form Kim, fresh off winning a BMW 7 series for a hole-in-one
in Malaysia last week.
"I think I'm in a really good position for Sunday. If it blows again I just need to stay patient and keep it low."
He is in a three-way tie for fifth on six-under for the tournament
with Australia's Cameron Smith, who had a 73 and former US Open Champion
Lucas Glover, who returned a 74.
scores on Saturday after the third round of the PGA Tour's CJ Cup at
Nine Bridges, Jeju Island, South Korea (par 72, USA unless stated):
207 - Justin Thomas 63-74-70, Scott Brown 66-70-71
209 - Anirban Lahiri (IND) 69-71-69, Marc Leishman (AUS) 66-72-71
210 - Whee Kim (KOR) 68-70-72, Cameron Smith (AUS) 69-68-73, Lucas Glover 69-67-74
211 - An Byeong-Han (KOR) 71-73-67, Luke List 68-67-76
212 - Jamie Lovemark 70-74-68, Paul Casey (ENG) 72-71-69, Brian
Harman 68-72-72, Nick Taylor (CAN) 68-72-72, Kyle Stanley 68-71-73,
Chez Reavie 66-72-74
213 - Morgan Hoffman 73-71-69, Jason Day (AUS) 68-74-71, Rafa Cabrera Bello (ESP) 71-70-72, Branden Grace (RSA) 72-67-74
214 - Harold Varner III 69-72-73, Thomas Pieters (BEL) 71-68-75, Robert Streb 69-71-74, Patrick Reed 66-72-76
215 - Ian Poulter (ENG) 71-71-73, Hudson Swafford 68-73-74, Pat Perez 69-71-75, Ollie Schniederjans 67-72-76