Home comforts pay off for Korean An

An Byeong-hun hit well when it mattered to lead the opening round of the CJ Cup.
An Byeong-hun hit well when it mattered to lead the opening round of the CJ Cup.
Brooks Koepka lining up his shot during the first round of the CJ Cup at the Nine Bridges Golf Club in Jeju. The world No. 1 is tied for 15th after a mixed round. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Brooks Koepka lining up his shot during the first round of the CJ Cup at the Nine Bridges Golf Club in Jeju. The world No. 1 is tied for 15th after a mixed round. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

World No. 48 regains 'feel' to lead CJ Cup after less-than-stellar practice on Jeju course

JEJU • Back in his native South Korea, An Byeong-hun took time off to play table tennis with his father An Jae-hyeong, a men's doubles bronze medallist at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

The golfer, who resides in Florida, explained in an interview with Golf Digest that it is tough to even score a point, and scoring two would be considered a "miracle".

The 28-year-old once said he was "not athletic enough" for table tennis and he found it much easier on the 7,241-yard Nine Bridges golf course in Jeju yesterday.

He even seemed a little surprised that he had managed eight birdies in a flawless round of 64, including three in a row from the 11th, to take the first-round CJ Cup lead.

"It was a strange day," said An, the world No. 48. "During the practice rounds, I wasn't striking the ball at all well. I was worried because I didn't hit it well at the range this morning. But as the round went on, I got my feel back."

He had occasional trouble with the swirling wind but was happy not to drop a single shot.

"Eight under, bogey free is always good," he added.

"I didn't hit it great the last couple of days and on the range today, but everything seems to be working.

"Everything was going at the flag the perfect distance and obviously I holed a lot of putts today, so everything just clicked and I shot bogey-free."

CLICKING INTO PLACE

Eight under, bogey free is always good. I didn't hit it great the last couple days and on the range today, but everything seems to be working.

AN BYEONG-HUN, on getting back his hitting form.

Hot on the South Korean's heels are Chile's Joachin Niemann, one shot back after a seven-under 65, and Jason Day, who made a perfect seasonal debut after a seven-week layoff with a bogey-free 66.

Defending champion Brooks Koepka needed a late eagle to card a 69, putting him in a tie for 15th.

The world No. 1 endured a rollercoaster round with three bogeys, four birdies and the stunning eagle three on the long 18th.

"Just a little sloppy there," said the American, adding he needed to stop making "dumb mistakes", like on the 12th, where he carved his approach shot into the thick rough, resulting in a bogey six.

Former No. 1 Jordan Spieth has endured a torrid couple of years with no wins since The Open in July 2017. But the American felt he was on the right track after an opening 70 in his first event for almost two months.

"All in all two-under after seven weeks off is a pretty solid start," he said. "I definitely thought it got better as the round went on.

"That's what I'm looking for to build the confidence."

Rising star Viktor Hovland set a PGA Tour record when he shot a three-under 69 - his 18th consecutive round in the 60s.

The 22-year-old Norwegian, who turned pro earlier this year, beat the 17-round streak of Bob Estes set in 2001.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2019, with the headline 'Home comforts pay off for Korean An'. Print Edition | Subscribe