Justin Thomas captured the first CJ Cup at Nine Bridges two years ago and has put himself in prime position to win it again.
The fifth-ranked Thomas carded a bogey-free, 9-under-par 63 to take a two-stroke lead over Danny Lee of New Zealand and Byeong Hun An of South Korea at Nine Bridges Golf Club www.ninebridges.co.kr/eng/ in Jeju Island, South Korea.
“Overall one of the better rounds I’ve had in a while,” said Thomas, who beat Marc Leishman of Australia with a birdie on the second playoff hole in the 2017 CJ Cup. “It came pretty easy, for the most part. I never had to worry much out there. I gave myself a lot of easy birdie chances.
“I didn’t do anything unbelievably, it was just was a very stress-free day. Obviously, I’m playing well, that makes it stress free, but I just kind of kept the ball in play off the tee, hit some good irons. So it just was a very easy 63, if you can somehow say that, but hopefully we’ll be able to keep some of that going for the weekend.”
Thomas, who has 10 victories on the PGA Tour including the 2017 PGA Championship, birdied the first four holes to kick-start his 63 and recorded a 36-hole score of 13-under 131. He tied for fourth in the Safeway Open, his only other start of the new season.
Lee, whose only PGA Tour victory came in the 2015 Greenbrier Classic, was tied for the lead with Thomas before making his only bogey on the last hole of 66, while first-round leader An followed his opening 64 with a 69.
Jordan Spieth, seeking his first victory since the 2017 Open Championship, birdied five of the last seven holes in a 65 and is four shots back in a tie for fourth with Emiliano Grillo of Argentina, who eagled the 12th hole on his way to a bogey-free 66.
Ryan Moore and Kyoung-Hoon Lee of South Korea both posted 67 and are five back in a tie for sixth with Cameron Smith of Australia, who birdied two of his last three holes for a 69.
Si Woo Kim of South Korea and Tyrrell Hatton of England both finished at 68 and are six strokes down in a tie for ninth with Charles Howell III, who wound up at 70.
Gary Woodland, the reigning U.S. Open champion, shot 71 and is in a tie for 33rd that includes Phil Mickelson, who wound up at 72, while top-ranked Brooks Koepka, the defending champion, struggled to a 75 and is tied for 51st.
Rookie Viktor Hovland shot 69, his 19th consecutive round below 70, to extend his PGA Tour record and is tied for 12th.
There are 78 players in the no-cut, limited-field event.
For complete results, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html