Thomas lives up to billing at CJ Cup

World No. 4 Justin Thomas teeing off during round one of the CJ Cup. He is the favourite to win the new PGA Tour event in Jeju.
World No. 4 Justin Thomas teeing off during round one of the CJ Cup. He is the favourite to win the new PGA Tour event in Jeju.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

JEJU (South Korea) • World No. 4 Justin Thomas brushed off a shaky start to fire a superb nine-under 63 to lead the first round of the CJ Cup yesterday.

The PGA Championship winner is three strokes clear of five players on 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 joint-17th, and the American bounced back from an early wobble at the Nine Bridges course in the first PGA Tour event 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 an eight-under run for seven holes, comprising four birdies and another eagle at the 18th to reach the turn in a scintillating seven-under 29.

"It was a weird day," said the 23-year-old FedExCup champion, who has been in sizzling form since winning his first Major in August and who was recently voted PGA Tour Player of the Year for 2017 by his peers.

"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."

He holed a bunker shot at the 15th for the second of four birdies in a row and chipped in from off the fringe at the 16th 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," he said.

His second nine was almost boring by comparison, featuring three birdies and another bogey at the seventh to finish at nine under.

Former world No. 1 Jason Day of Australia is five strokes adrift after carding a four-under 68 at the US$9.25 million (S$12.5 million), 78-player event.

His compatriot Adam Scott, also a former world No. 1, carded an even-par 72, while returning South Korean hero Bae Sang Moon shot a 71 in only his third event since completing his military service.

Last week's winner in Malaysia, American Pat Perez, carded a 69.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2017, with the headline 'Thomas lives up to billing at CJ Cup'. Print Edition | Subscribe