PGA Tour: The CJ Cup Preview

Golfer lines up iron shot

The second leg of the Asian swing of the US PGA Tour sees the players jet a remarkable 2.600 miles from Malaysia to South Korea for the CJ Cup, taking place from the 18th to the 21st of October. 

The US PGA Tour
CJ Cup
Nine Bridges Golf Course, Jeju Island, South Korea
18th-21st October 2018

The second leg of the Asian swing of the US PGA Tour sees the players jet a remarkable 2.600 miles from Malaysia to South Korea. Jeju Island lies 80 miles south of the Korean Peninsula and forms a stunning backdrop for this week’s events.

The CJ Cup was only introduced into the PGA Tour fabric last season and was the scene of a dramatic playoff between former World Number One, Justin Thomas and last week’s winner Mark Leishman. The American prevailed having recently been crowned the PGA Tour Player of the Season. Both players return to what is sure to be a more challenging outing than last week’s CIMB Classic.

Just to give you an impression of the effect that weather can have on this course, Justin Thomas opened his account last year with a 9 under total of 63. He would ultimately finish on Sunday with a 9 under total. The wind picked up severely over the weekend, making this undulating, firm layout nightmarish in places. The lush, parkland style course is extremely firm and will not be a pushover. This is the only course in Korea that is ranked inside the top 100 courses in the world.

Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka lead the American contingent in quite a strong field this week. The rejigged scheduling for the season was always likely to result in more high profile players teeing it up at an earlier stage. Jason Day and Mark Leishman lead a strong Aussie charge while European Ryder Cup stars are in abundance. Paul Casey flirted with contention last week while Tyrell Hatton returns to action following the disappointment of not making it a hat-trick in the Alfred Dunhill Links. Alex Noren and Ian Poulter complete that victorious Ryder Cup quintet.

Past Winners

  • 2017: Justin Thomas (-9)*playoff

To Win Outright:

  • Justin Thomas (11/2)
  • Brooks Koepka (8/1)
  • Jason Day (12/1)
  • Mark Leishman (14/1)
  • Hideki Matsuyama (14/1)

Value Bets

Sungjae Im- To Win (50/1), To Place (11/1)
While this will certainly be a step up in class compared to the Safeway Open, I’m fairly confident that 20 year-old Sungjae Im could be a factor this week. Firstly, the South Korean will have intimate knowledge of this undulating, firm terrain. That homespun knowledge could prove vital this week.

He tied for 4th last time out at the Safeway Open, narrowly missing out on a playoff by one shot. He is one of the highest ranked players on tour in strokes gained on the green. Currently ranked 94th in the world, Im is one of the most exciting prospects in world golf and will love to make an impression in this strong field.

Chesson Hadley- To Win (60/1), To Place (13/1)
Chesson Hadley was a runner-up in last week’s CIMB Classic and will be making his first appearance in this event. Hadley is a player with a strong iron play, ranking 9th last season the PGA Tour for strokes gained approach.

The world number 60 thus ranks 5th in this field in that category. Adding to Hadley’s appeal this week is his acumen for playing in windy conditions. He won the Puerto Rico Open in some of the windiest conditions faced on the PGA Tour. Hadley is also traditionally strong in this period, having three consecutive top 4 finishes during the wrap around events last year.

Stewart Cink- To Win (100/1), To Place (22/1)
While on the surface it may appear I’m looking at tea leaves with this pick, former Open Champion Stewart Cink actually ticks quite a few boxes this week. Cink hit the third most greens at the CIMB Classic en route to a tie for 13th, which included an excellent 3rd round 63.

He was also 8th in approaches for the PGA Tour last season. He finished in a tie for 4th at Bellerive, highlighting his ability to compete in strong fields with tough conditions. Cink has won at Turnberry and twice at Harbour Town, showing his capacity to mix it up when the wind starts to wreak havoc on a course.

The Man to Beat- Cameron Smith- To Win (30/1), To Place (13/2)
Aussie Cameron Smith has been in a state of steady improvement for some time and really soared to prominence during the season ending FedEx Cup Playoffs. He captured a pair of top three finishes in those stellar fields, indicating that he isn’t far off his first PGA Tour win- discounting the two-man Zurich Classic.

He finished a shot off the playoffs in last year’s inaugural event. He would follow that performance up with victory in the Australian PGA Championship. Smith shot four sub 70 rounds at the CIMB, claiming 25 birdies along the way. He should be primed for another push at a course he clearly responds to.

 Written by Damien Kayat for

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