The PGA Tour has a certain rhythm to it. Certain tournaments always take place at the same time of year while there are a number of geographical ‘swings’ which take in events over consecutive weeks in the same part of the world. The latest of these is the Asian swing which includes the CJ Cup, the Zozo Championship and the WGC-HSBC Champions.
The CJ Cup was first held in 2017 and right from the start a strong field of PGA Tour players jumped at the chance to compete at Nine Bridges Golf Club in Jeju. They were joined by some select players from the Korean Tour and Asian Tour to create an event with a real international feel at a top class golf course.
Betting Tips for 14th to 17th October 2021
The PGA Tour is proving true to the old saying that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. After Sungjae Im won the Shriners Childrens Open in stunning fashion, the PGA Tour remains in Las Vegas for another week with the rescheduled CJ Cup @ Summit.
The CJ Cup usually takes place in South Korea but for a second year in a row, travel restrictions mean that it has to remain in America. The organisers and sponsors have pulled out all the stops in years gone by to attract big names to Korea and that work has obviously continued now that the tournament is in Las Vegas as a host of world-class players including Xander Schauffele, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy are in the field this week.
Justin Thomas is another of the world-class players to make an appearance. He has never been averse to travelling around the world to chase tournament wins and won the first two renewals of the CJ Cup. After some time off to recuperate from his successful week at the Ryder Cup, Thomas arrives at the Summit Club fresh and ready for more success. He also arrives with a new caddie in the highly experience Jim ‘Bones’ Mackay. These two have the makings of a formidable partnership and have previously worked together sporadically. As Thomas appears well suited to the challenge of the Summit Club their newly official partnership could get off to the perfect start at odds of 12/1.
Shane Lowry didn’t have quite as much success at the Ryder Cup as Thomas but he left feeling no less enthused about playing in it many more times. Having had a taste of the action, Lowry will be desperate to ensure that he plays consistently high-level golf so that he can play a part in Europe’s revenge in Rome in two years. The standard of his golf has been on an upward trajectory throughout 2021 and a first regular PGA Tour title could be just around the corner so back Lowry each way at odds of 40/1.
It is always tough to assess exactly which players will come to the fore at a brand new course. Usually though, the best putter of the elite ball strikers can be expected to be in contention. Ball striking brilliance makes up for a lack of familiarity while a hot streak of putting is often the difference between a player contending and winning. The recent brilliance of Marc Leishman’s putting suggests that the big Aussie could be a major player. He’s a global golfer used to working out new courses quickly and he can capitalise on whatever it is he’s clearly found with his putter by seriously challenging at a nice price of 45/1.
|2021||The Summit Club||Rory McIlroy|
|2020||Shadow Creek Golf Course||Jason Kokrak|
|2019||Nine Bridges Golf Club||Justin Thomas|
|2018||Nine Bridges Golf Club||Brooks Koepka|
|2017||Nine Bridges Golf Club||Justin Thomas|
2021: Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy nearly didn’t turn up to Las Vegas to compete in the CJ Cup, so disappointed and drained was he after his poor performance in the Ryder Cup. “On the Saturday night of the Ryder Cup … I was done with golf, I didn’t want to see golf again until 2022.” said McIlroy after the culmination of the CJ Cup. “Sunday night at the Ryder Cup I thought: ‘Go to Vegas, go to CJ and try to build on this little bit of a breakthrough that I’ve had.’” After seeing off the challenge of Collin Morikawa, Rickie Fowler and Keith Mitchell to win the CJ Cup by one shot, he was very happy with that change of heart.
McIlroy made a slow start to the tournament, just about doing enough to keep himself in striking distance after the first two rounds. Then came a stunning display on Saturday when he took The Summit Club apart, going round in -10. That put him in the final group alongside a resurgent Fowler setting up a cracking final day. It was Morikawa who laid down the biggest challenge on Sunday though with a 62 of his own applying the pressure.
Thanks to some excellent putting and freakishly good play with his 3-wood, McIlroy was able to keep his head in front and closed the tournament out with a routine par. Speaking to the press afterwards, McIlroy admitted that he had tried to change too much in recent months before snapping out of it. “I realised that being me is enough, and being me I can do things like this.” McIlroy’s many fans are hopeful that he will kick on to have more success this season after joining the elite club of golfers to have won 20 times on the PGA Tour.
2020: Jason Kokrak
Travel restrictions around the world made life very challenging for golf in 2020. The CJ Cup was one of the tournaments most affected with the tournament moving from Jeju in South Korea to Las Vegas for one year only. As an Ohio native, Vegas isn’t exactly home territory for Jason Kokrak but it’s a lot closer than South Korea and he took advantage of the familiar surroundings of Shadow Creek Golf Course to win his first PGA Tour event in his 10th season.
“It feels like home,” Kokrak said of the temporary host course. He is an ambassador for MGM, the company who own Shadow Creek, so has played here more than most. That familiarity didn’t pay dividends straight away but after a solid opening round of 70, Kokrak improved from 14th to fifth with a round of 66 on Friday. A score of 68 on Saturday was enough to take him into second place but he began Sunday with a three shot deficit from Russell Henley.
Perhaps because he knew he would need a very good day to win, Kokrak came out of the traps firing. His 64 on Sunday was the best of the day and the joint lowest of the week after Xander Schauffele went round in the same number on Friday. Schauffele was the man who got closest to Kokrak in the final reckoning but his score of -18 was two shots behind the delighted champion.
2019: Justin Thomas
As the first man the lift the CJ Cup, this tournament was always going to be special for Justin Thomas. Jeju and the CJ Cup became even more special to Thomas in 2019 when he won the event for a second time. Thomas knows that testing himself in unfamiliar conditions and playing in international tournaments will help make him a better golfer and he looked a cut above a strong field at Nine Bridges Golf Club, winning by two shots.
Despite the strength of the field, Thomas’s only real competition during the final round came from Danny Lee. Lee is a New Zealander but he was born in South Korea so got a lot of support from the galleries at Nine Bridges. That was not enough to give him the edge over Thomas but it did help Lee keep things level throughout the front nine. That parity was ended when Thomas made a birdie on the 14th then one hole later as Lee made bogey.
Dropping two shots behind seemed to affect Lee as he made another mistake on the 16th. That made things comfortable for Thomas even though he made a mistake of his own on the 17th and he closed the win out with a regulation par on the final hole.
2018: Brooks Koepka
It was a case of another year, another big name winner at the 2018 CJ Cup. Brooks Koepka, who just weeks earlier had been named the PGA Tour player of the year, continued his excellent run of form to win the second edition of the CJ Cup by four shots from Gary Woodland.
Koepka was never likely to give up this excellent chance to win. He held a four shot lead over Scott Piercy at the 54-hole stage after rounds of 65 and 67 on the Friday and the Saturday followed a relatively mediocre one under par round of 71 to kick things off. Despite having that healthy cushion over the chasing pace, Koepka never took his foot off the accelerator. Just three players – Ryan Palmer, Gary Woodland and Adam Scott – went round in fewer shots than Koepka on the Sunday, his round of 64 putting the cherry on the cake of a very good week in South Korea.
Koepka is intent on making hay while the sun shines. Speaking afterwards he said, “Everything I’ve done this year it’s been working so I don’t want to change anything.” It is no coincidence that his style of golf works around the world. He learned his trade playing in far flung corners of the world on the Challenge and European Tours and South Korea is just one of seven countries in which Koepka has won a professional event.
2017: Justin Thomas
Everybody involved with the setting up of the CJ Cup wanted world class golfers to produce a genuinely dramatic finish to the inaugural edition. They got just what they wanted as Justin Thomas triumphed against Marc Leishman in a two-hole playoff.
If this were one year earlier, a win for Thomas wouldn’t have gone down as one for the big boys. His win 12 months earlier in the CIMB Classic was his second on the PGA Tour. Fast forward to October 2017 and victory in the CJ Cup made it five for the calendar year for Thomas including the PGA Championship in August. To call 2017 a breakout year for Thomas would be a major understatement and this win, his first of the new PGA Tour season, hammered home the point that he was an international superstar.
The CJ Cup is yet another move by the PGA Tour to become increasingly international. Thomas certainly sat on top of an international leaderboard with the Australian pair of Leishman and Cameron Smith in second and third respectively, Whee Kim delighting the Korean fans to finish fourth and India’s Anirban Lahiri among the rest of the players in the top 10.