PGA Tour Picks: CJ Cup at Nine Bridges

By Tom LaMarre

The PGA Tour kicks off its three-week swing through Asia in the Fall portion of the new season with a star-studded limited field of 78 players for the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in Jeju Island, South Korea.

Top-ranked Brooks Koepka, looking to bounce back from his missed cut in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open two weeks ago, heads the field at the Club at Nine Bridges after winning the tournament last year by shooting 8-under-par 64 in the final round to prevail by four strokes over Gary Woodland, who closed with a 63.

Woodland, the reigning U.S. Open champion, started the final day six strokes back but pulled even by playing first seven holes in 6-under before Koepka pulled away again by playing the back nine in 7-under 29, including an eagle on the final hole.

Ryan Palmer finished with a 62 to tie for third with Rafa Cabrera Bella of Spain.

“I am excited to participate in the CJ Cup once again,” said Koepka, the reigning PGA champion who has won four major titles in the last three seasons. “I was awed by the excellence of the Club at Nine Bridges golf course when I visited Jeju Island last year. I will try my best to gain a second consecutive victory at the upcoming tournament.”

Fifth-ranked Justin Thomas, who claimed the first CJ Cup title two years ago, also is in the field along with Phil Mickelson, Jason Day of Australia, Tommy Fleetwood of England, Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth. Sergio Garcia of Spain and Marc Leishman of Australia.

Thomas beat Leishman with a birdie on the second playoff hole in the inaugural CJ Cup.

“It’ll be fun to return to the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges,” said Thomas, the 2017 PGA Tour Player of the Year who has won 10 times on the circuit. “Any time you can go back to (a course where you’ve won) it’s always good. I’ve got good memories from my win there … and hopefully I can create new memories.

“The tournament is awesome. They treat us like rock stars. The golf course is great and the greens are perfect. With the conditions that we get over the four days, it’s a really good test of golf. From the fans to the media, there was tremendous support.

“The game is growing immensely around the world, especially in Korea, and you can definitely tell with the number of people who go out there to watch us play.”

Others in the field for the no-cut tournament include Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland, Cameron Smith of Australia, Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, Pat Perez, Abraham Ancer of Mexico, Corey Conners of Canada, Chez Reavie, Lucas Glover, Rory Sabbatini of Slovakia, J.B. Holmes, Billy Horschel, Branden Grace of South Africa, Danny Willett of England, Emiliano Grillo of Argentina, Ryan Moore, Danny Lee of New Zealand and Matt Jones of Australia.

Among the young guns are Joaquin Niemann of Chile, Collin Morikawa, C.T. Pan of Taiwan, Michael Kim, Matthew Wolff, Victor Hovland of Norway, Max Homa and Dylan Frittelli of South Africa.

Heading the South Korean contingent are Sungjae Im, who was the 2018-19 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, Byeong-Hun An, Si Woo Kim Sung Kang, Whee Kim, Kyoung-Hoon Lee and 49-year-old K.J. Choi, who has won eight times on the PGA Tour.

The course at Nine Bridges offers a picturesque challenge, even though the course actually features only eight bridges.


  1. Justin Thomas, United States – The fifth-ranked Thomas is playing for the second time in the new season, having tied for fourth in the Safeway Open. He won the first CJ Cup two years ago by beating Marc Leishman with a birdie on the second playoff hole, but in his title defense broke 70 only with a closing 68 and finished in a tie for 38th.
  2. Brooks Koepka, United StatesThe top-ranked player in the world is coming off a rare missed cut in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open to defend one of three titles he claimed last year. Koepka opened with a 71 last year in the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges, but then reeled off scores of 65-67-64 to win by four strokes over Gary Woodland.
  3. Sungjae Im, South Korea – The 2019 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year will be one of the home favorites this week and started strong again this season with a tie for 19th at the Greenbrier before losing in a playoff to Sebastian Munoz. However, Im bounced back from that to capture the Genesis Championship on the Korean PGA Tour last week.
  4. Gary Woodland, United States – The reigning U.S. Open champion pressed Brooks Koepka in the final round of the CJ Cup last year by shooting 63, but finished four strokes back in solo second after tying for 40th two years ago. Woodland posted eight top-10 finishes last year, but started the new season with a tie for 55th in the Shriners.
  5. Jason Day, Australia – Following a disappointing season in which he missed the Tour Championship, Day gets his new season going in the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges, in which he played well the last two years. He tied for 11th in the inaugural event in South Korea two years ago before playing the weekend in 67-65 last year to finish in a tie for fifth.
  6. Tommy Fleetwood, England – Finishing in a tie for fifth in the Alfred Links Championship recently lifted Fleetwood to sixth in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, and he is making his first appearance of the new PGA Tour season in the CJ Cup this week. Fleetwood has seven pro victories, but has yet to break through on the PGA Tour.
  7. Byeong-Hun An, South Korea – By finishing third in the Sanderson Farms Championship, An got his new season off to a good start, but then he missed the cut in the Safeway Open and the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. Will have strong home support this week after tying for 11th in the first CJ Cup, before tying for 41st last year.
  8. Kevin Na, United StatesComing off his fourth PGA Tour victory and seventh as a pro in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, the Korean-born Na will get support from Nine Bridges fans. He has played in the first two CJ Cups, but hopes to improve on a tie for 47th in 2018 and a tie for 52nd last year, breaking 70 only once in eight rounds.
  9. Joaquin Niemann, Chile – Less than a month from his 21st birthday, Niemann is fifth in the early FedEx Cup standings after claiming his first PGA Tour victory and sixth as a pro in A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier. Playing in the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges for the second time, overcoming a slow start with 69-69 on the weekend to tie for 36th last year.
  10. Marc Leishman, Australia – Got off to a good start in the new season with a tie for third in the Safeway Open before being forced to withdraw from A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier because of a chronic back injury that flares up occasionally. Leishman lost to Justin Thomas in a playoff at the first CJ Cup at Nine Bridges and tied for 18th last year.

OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH – Phil Mickelson, United States; Graeme McDowell, Northern Ireland; Patrick Reed, United States; Danny Willett, England; Cameron Smith, Australia; Jordan Spieth, United States; Sergio Garcia, Spain; Ian Poulter, England.


  1. Sung Kang, South Korea – Claimed first PGA Tour title and third as a pro (two in Korea) in 2019 Byron Nelson. Had T-29 recently in Shriners, also T-29 in 2018 CJ Cup.
  2. Matthew Wolff, United States – Recorded a tie for 18th in his only start of new season at the Shriners after winning the 3M Open as a rookie on the PGA Tour last season.
  3. Viktor Hovland, Norway – The 2018 U.S. Amateur champ closed with a 64 to tie for 10th at the Greenbrier after recording four top-25s on the PGA Tour late last season.
  4. Jazz Janewattananond, Thailand – Leads the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit thanks to two victories this season and has 17 finishes in the top 10 world-wide in the last year.
  5. Collin Morikawa, United States – Captured 2019 Barracuda Championship for his first PGA Tour title and got new season off to a good start with a T-10 in Safeway Open.

For first-round tee times visit

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