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Justin Thomas wins his second CJ CUP in Korea

Mo Yoshimoto

THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES

Club at Nine Bridges

Jeju Island, Korea

Winner’s Share: $1,755,000

Playing out of the final threesome, overnight co-leader and World No. 5 Justin Thomas hung up a 5-under-par 33-34=67 in Sunday’s final round for a 72-hole tally of 20-under 268, good for a two-shot victory over runner-up and playing competitor Danny Lee (69), five better than 3rd-place finishers Hideki Matsuyama (65), Gary Woodland (66), and playing competitor Cameron Smith (69).

The 26-year-old, a pre-tourney 13/2 fave outright, claims his 11th PGA TOUR title in 139 events (135 pro), first of the season in two starts, arriving off a T4 at the Safeway Open three weeks ago, also as a pre-tourney 13/2 fave outright.

Dating to last season’s FedExCup Playoffs, he’s now connected four consecutive top-5 finishes (1-4-3-1), sort of. The T3 in this run, as the 1-seed at the TOUR Championship, was actually a “net” T9 if you don’t include FEC Starting Strokes, and T9 is what the Official World Golf Ranking recognizes.

That aside, Thomas has now won seven times in his last 49 events (14.2%) and 10 times in his last 68 (14.7%), which is borderline prolific.

This was the third edition of THE CJ CUP and Thomas’ second win, bagging the inaugural (in a playoff) two seasons ago as a 54-hole co-leader as well, and also as a pre-tourney fave outright (15/2).

Seven (7) of the Kentucky native’s 11 victories have now come in no-cut events, three straight and four of his last five, including three starts ago at the 113th BMW Championship in the Playoffs, where he made a mockery of Medinah’s famed No. 3 Course, winning by three on 25-under 263 and setting a new tournament scoring record (to par).

He improves to 6-for-10 when leading/co-leading after 36 holes, and an eye-popping 8-for-11 (72.7%) when leading/co-leading at the three-quarter pole, two straight and five for his last six. #Closer

We’re not talking Tiger Woods here, the best closer of all-time at 55-for-59 after 54 holes (93.2%), but his fellow South Florida resident is no slouch at getting it across the finish line.

Of Thomas’ 11 wins, six have been won with 20-under-or-better totals, and lest we forget, he also holds the TOUR’s all-time 72-hole aggregate scoring record of 253 (-27) from his wire-to-wire, 7-shot romp at the 2017 Sony Open, where he kicked off with a course-record, 11-under 59.

Looking ahead, the Alabama product is in the field at this coming week’s inaugural (no cut) ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP in Japan, and according to his Instagram, it’s “time to keep the pedal down”.

He has won in back-to-back starts one time prior, claiming the 2017 Sony and the (no cut) SBS TOC en route to Player of the Year honors and the FEC title.

Lee, a South Korea-born New Zealander, was chasing his second TOUR win, first since a come-from-behind version at the 2015 Greenbrier 130 starts ago. He put up a spirited fight, co-leading with nine holes remaining, but came up short with a home-half 36 (2 birdies, 2 bogeys).

Final Leaderboard (pre-tourney odds outright):

1- (-20) Justin Thomas (13/2)

2- (-18) Danny Lee (200/1)

3- (-15) Hideki Matsuyama (16/1)

3- (-15) Gary Woodland (28/1)

3- (-15) Cameron Smith (28/1)

Note: Consecutive top-10 finishers in the event: Woodland (3-2); Smith (3-7-3)

Note: No ShotLink, so no Strokes Gained stats. If there were, Thomas would’ve posted a 15.364 SG: Total.

 

Thomas’ Position by Round:

R1: T9 (4 back)

R2: 1 (by 2)

R3: T1

Thomas on Sunday:

After opening with 68, day- and week-tying-low 63, and 70, he co-led with Lee, three clear of Smith, and landed 10 (of 14) fairways and 15 greens in regulation.

Thomas camouflaged two bogeys at holes 4 and 17, with seven birdies at 1, 3, 8, 9, 12, 14 and 18, posting 1.733 putts per GIR with 31 total putts.

For the week, he totaled 27 birdies, No. 1 in that stat, against seven bogeys, and also paced the field in Par-4 Scoring at a sizzling 3.68.

OUT: 3-under 33 (4 birdies, 1 bogey); co-leads (with Lee)

IN: 2-under 34 (3 birdies, 1 bogey); WINS by two

How Thomas Won the Tournament:

Ranked 1st (or T1) in: Total Birdies; Birdie or Better Percentage; Par-4 Scoring

Ranked 2nd(or T2) in: N/A

Note: See “Leaders in Selected Stats” at the bottom, along with his full stats.

Lowest-Ranked Stat(s): Par-3 Scoring (T68); Driving Accuracy (T43); Scrambling (T21); Total Putts (T21)

Thomas at THE CJ CUP:

Starts: 3

Top 25s: 2

Top 10s: 2

Wins: 2

Form: 1-36-P1

 

Thomas’ Season:

Starts: 2

Cuts Made: 2

Top 25s: 2

Top 10s: 2

Top 5s: 2

Wins: 1

Season Form: 1-4

 

Thomas’ TOUR Career:

Starts: 139

Cuts Made: 111 (79.8%)

Top 25s: 76 (54.6%)

Top 10s: 46 (33.0%)

Top 3s: 21 (15.1%)

Wins: 11 (7.9%)

By the Numbers:

4/6: Thomas’ revised outright betting entering R4.

8: Thomas records his eighth consecutive top-12 finish worldwide, beginning the run with a T9 at the Scottish Open.

2: Lee’s solo 2nd was his eighth career top-3 finish in 228 events, fourth runner-up, and his first top 3 since solo 2nd at the Mayakoba Golf Classic last November. Making his second appearance (71/2018), he had zero form on arrival, missing four of his last seven cuts, one DQ, and two finishes outside the top 70.

T6: First-round leader Byeong Hun An’s T6 (64-69-73-69) was tops among 16 Korean flags that teed it up.

1: Defending champ and World No. 1 Brooks Koepka was T51 on even-par 144 (69-75) thru 36 holes, 13 back of Thomas, and then WD prior to R3 (knee). His win here last season propelled him to World No. 1 for the first time. The Floridian has opened the new season with WD-MC.

1: Through six (non-team) events this season, the pre-tourney fave/co-fave has won one time (Thomas). Last season, two fave/co-faves won (in 45 non-team events): Rory McIlroy (12/1 co-fave) at THE PLAYERS, and Collin Morikawa at the Barracuda (10/1).

74: First-timer Viktor Hovland, who opened with a pair of 69s, shot 74 on Saturday (4 birdies, 4 bogeys, 1 double bogey-7), snapping his TOUR record (since 1983) of 19 consecutive rounds in the 60s.

T31: Hovland, in on a sponsor invite, was the only rookie in the field (of 21). By default, he took top-rookie honors with T31 on 7-under (69-69-74-69).

T8: Of 28 first-timers, three players shared top-debutant honors with T8s on 12-under 276: Kiradech Aphibarnrat (69-69-69-69); Wyndham Clark (71-67-67-71); Jordan Spieth (70-65-70-71).

T75: Spieth ranked 2nd in total birdies with 25 and No. 1 in Putts per GIR (1.608), but T75 (tied-last) in Driving Accuracy at 55.36% (31/56) and T50 in GIR (51/72).

Field Scoring Average:

This was the 3rdCJ CUP, all at Nine Bridges.

Par 72 (36-36)

7,241 yards

 

R1: 70.89

R2: 71.31

R3: 71.05

R4: 70.12

Total: 70.84

Justin Thomas: 68-63-70-67

Draw:

NO DRAW

 

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5 (of 49) tourneys so far this season with a traditional draw:

Winners:

EARLY/late: 4

LATE/early: 1

Strength of Field:

With a Strength of Field rating of 368 (down 14 from last season), Thomas banks 52.00 world-ranking points:

OWGR: From 5 to 4 (up 1)

FedExCup: From 37 to 3 (up 34)

Leader/co-leaders by Round:

R1: Byeong Hun An (finished: T6): Drops to 0-for-2 as 18-hole leader/co-leader

R2: Justin Thomas (Won): Improves to 6-for-10 as 36-hole leader/co-leader

R3: Justin Thomas (Won): Improves to 8-for-11 as 54-hole leader/co-leader

R3: Danny Lee (2nd): Drops to 0-for-2

 

Low Rounds:

R1: 64: Byeong Hun An

R2: 63: Justin Thomas

R3: 65: Collin Morikawa, Gary Woodland

R4: 63: Jhonattan Vegas

 

Bogey-free Rounds:

R1: (5): Byeong Hun An (64); Joaquin Niemann (65); Jason Day (66); Graeme McDowell (68); Ryan Moore (69)

R2: (5): Justin Thomas (63); Emiliano Grillo (66); Kyoung-Hoon Lee (67); Ryan Moore (67); C.T. Pan (69)

R3: (3): Gary Woodland (65); Harold Varner III (68); Tyrrell Hatton (70)

R4: (6): Hideki Matsuyama (65); Tyrrell Hatton (68); Byeong Hun An (69); Kevin Na (69); Yi Keun Chang (70); Ian Poulter (71)

Multiple Bogey-free Rounds:

Moore, Hatton, An (x2)

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Season Winners:

4 winners were in their 20s (Thomas age: 26)

2 were in their 30s

0 were in their 40s

Season Leaders in Top-10 Finishes:

3: Harris English

2: Justin Thomas, Byeong Hun An, Mark Hubbard, Xinjun Zhang, Carlos Ortiz, Denny McCarthy, Adam Hadwin, Dylan Frittelli, Sebastian Munoz

 

Consecutive Top 10s on TOUR:

4: Justin Thomas (1-4-3-1)

3: Tony Finau (9-7-4)

2: Denny McCarthy (9-9)

2: Adam Hadwin (4-2)

2: Kevin Kisner (9-9)

 

Consecutive Top-10 Streak Ended at:

2: Viktor Hovland (31-10-4)

Thomas’ Weekly Stats (ranking of 76 players):

Birdies: 27 (1st)

Bogeys: 7 (T15)

Birdie or Better: 37.50% (1st)

Birdie to Bogey Ratio: 3.86 (4th)

Par-3 Scoring: 3.19 (T68)

Par-4 Scoring: 3.68 (1st)

Par-5 Scoring: 4.38 (T3)

Driving Accuracy: 40/56 (T43) at 71.43%

GIR: 61/72 (T3) at 84.72%

Putts per GIR: 1.721 (10th)

Total Putts: 118 (T21)

Putts by Round: 28-28-31-31

Scrambling: 7/11 (T21) at 63.64%

Leaders in Selected Stats:

Total Birdies:

1. Justin Thomas (27)

2. Jordan Spieth (25)

3. Danny Lee (23)

4. Byeong Hun An (22)

5. Ryan Palmer (21)

5. Sung Kang (21)

5. Chesson Hadley (21)

 

Birdie or Better %:

1. Justin Thomas (37.50)

2. Jordan Spieth (34.72)

3. Danny Lee (33.33)

4. Byeong Hun An (30.56)

5. Sung Kang (29.17)

5. Ryan Palmer (29.17)

5. Kiradech Aphibarnrat (29.17)

5. Charley Hoffman (29.17)

5. Chesson Hadley (29.17)

 

Birdie to Bogey Ratio:

1. Tyrrell Hatton (7.50)

2. Danny Lee (4.00)

2. Gary Woodland (4.00)

4. Justin Thomas (3.86)

5. Byeong Hun An (3.67)

 

GIR %:

1. Tyrrell Hatton (90.28)

2. Emiliano Grillo (86.11)

3. Charles Howell III (84.72)

3. Justin Thomas (84.72)

3. Jhonattan Vegas (84.72)