Thomas going great guns

American Justin Thomas waving to celebrate his victory as Australian Marc Leishman rues his poor second shot which found water on the second play-off hole in the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in Jeju Island.
American Justin Thomas waving to celebrate his victory as Australian Marc Leishman rues his poor second shot which found water on the second play-off hole in the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in Jeju Island.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

FedExCup champ wins on 2nd extra hole in S. Korea for sixth PGA Tour title in past year

JEJU (South Korea) • Justin Thomas holed a two-foot putt at the second play-off hole yesterday to beat Marc Leishman and win his third United States PGA Tour title in Asia in a drama-filled finale to the US$9.25 million (S$12.6 million) CJ Cup.

"It's an unbelievable honour to win the inaugural CJ Cup. It was a grind out there today," said a relieved Thomas after battling fierce, gusting winds on Jeju Island for three days.

The pair finished 72 holes at the maiden PGA Tour event in South Korea locked at nine-under 279, after both made birdies on the 18th hole of a gale-battered final round of wildly fluctuating fortunes.

Australian Leishman's closing four on the long par-five saw him briefly take the clubhouse lead as Thomas made an ugly bogey at the short 17th. But the American - who will move up to displace Hideki Matsuyama as world No. 3 in the new rankings today - made his fourth birdie of a level-par round of 72 that also had a double and two other bogeys, to send the pair back to the 18th tee for a play-off.

After they carded matching pars at the first extra hole, Leishman leaked his second shot into the water right of the green. Despite seeing his opponent's ball splash down in the lake, Thomas opted against laying up and kept faith with a wood, battering his second from 243 yards just short of the green.

The FedExCup champion's eagle putt would come up short but his birdie was more than enough to beat Leishman, who had a bogey six. "I had to stay patient today. It was a bad bogey on the 17th," the 24-year-old Thomas admitted.

"It feels great to hit two really good shots on No. 18 in regulation and have a putt with a chance to win and then to hit two great three-woods on that second play-off hole."

WONDERFUL ENDING

It feels great to hit two really good shots on No. 18 in regulation and have a putt with a chance to win and then to hit two great three-woods on that second play-off hole.

JUSTIN THOMAS, on recovering from a bogey on the 17th hole and missing his eagle putt on the 18th before sealing victory in the play-off.

It was his sixth victory of a breakout 12 months since completing back-to-back CIMB Classic wins in Malaysia a year ago.

Leishman, 33, started the day two behind overnight leader Thomas and had six birdies and four bogeys in his own see-saw round of two-under 70.

Meanwhile, further new USPGA Tour events in Asia are a possibility, but commissioner Jay Monahan said that nothing is confirmed yet.

He was asked by AFP if proposed changes to the 2018-19 calendar to bring forward the season-ending Tour Championship would mean Asia is in line to stage more events.

"I can confirm that we will move the Players Championship to March and the PGA Championship to May. That does free some time in the fall," he said. "But to say something is imminent would be a miscalculation at this stage."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2017, with the headline 'Thomas going great guns'. Print Edition | Subscribe