Thomas conquers Korea again
Justin Thomas won THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES for the second time in three starts
October 14, 2019
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Justin Thomas' news conference after winning THE CJ CUP
Justin Thomas could easily be the player spokesman for the Asian swing on the PGA TOUR after he claimed his second title at THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES in the last three years. That came after winning back-to-back years in Malaysia earlier in his career. No one has won more than Thomas on the PGA TOUR in the last three and a bit seasons. In that time he won a FedExCup and his first major championship. Last season he almost slipped away from the main consciousness thanks to a wrist injury but he has certainly rejoined the top echelon in recent months and now has 11 career victories. He held off crowd favorite Danny Lee on Sunday in a great battle to move to third in the FedExCup.
Welcome to the Monday Finish.
THREE KEYS TO SUCCESS
1 Justin Thomas is a fierce competitor who knows how to close. Of course you can say this about a lot of PGA TOUR players but Thomas has a killer instinct and now he has a maturity and experience bank to go with it. Thomas lost huge momentum on Saturday evening with a final hole bogey that allowed Danny Lee’s eagle to join the lead in a three-shot swing. It was the sort of mental error that would keep some up at night. But Thomas shelved it and entered Sunday knowing his best golf would likely lead to victory. Rather than chase birdies with aggressive abandonment Thomas played smart and let a handful of birdies come. He also kept his cool as Lee rode the crowd and some great saves to stick with him. Eventually Lee flinched with some bogeys and Thomas took full advantage. His poise now has him eight of 11 turning 54-hole leads to wins. Read more on his win here.
2 Par-4 scoring. We often think the par-5s on the PGA TOUR are the key to great scoring but for Thomas the par-4s proved to be critical. He led the field in par-4 scoring at 13 under, an incredible five shots better than any other player in the field on those holes. He missed just six greens in the final three rounds and his 27 birdies for the week on all holes was also field leading.
3 Putting. While we don’t have the benefit of the Strokes Gained measurement in this tournament the good old eye test shows us Thomas had a better week on the greens then he had at times last season. He averaged 27.5 putts a round with 110 for the week which is significant in context of his struggles in 2018-19 as he dealt with a wrist issue. He was 144th on TOUR last season in Strokes Gained: Putting (-.186) after being in the 40s the previous two seasons. If he continues to play just half decent on the greens it could be a very successful season indeed.
Justin Thomas wins for second time at THE CJ CUP
Danny Lee has some serious emotional toughness. Lee was playing with the weight of the Korean fans on his shoulders but also was still trying to process the premature birth of his second child as he searched for the second win of his PGA TOUR career. That could have easily manifested as negative pressure but the Korean born New Zealander and former top amateur showed steely nerves throughout the tournament. He went toe-to-toe with Thomas for most of Sunday and even after he cracked late he refused to throw in the towel. If his eagle putt on the 72nd hold dropped instead of jumping out of the cup it would have made the last knee-knocker for Thomas exponentially tougher. Here is more on his runner-up finish.
Brooks Koepka is off to a shaky start to the season but there is no need to panic. Koepka withdrew in Korea after the opening two rounds with a knee injury having missed the cut in his first tournament of the season at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas. Prior to that first start he revealed he had been dealing with a partially torn patella tendon and has been receiving stem cell therapy on the issue. But Koepka is no stranger to battling through injuries having dealt with a wrist injury in the past and as such won’t be hitting any panic buttons. How he manages it though through the next few months, which includes a slated trip to Australia for the Presidents Cup in December, will be interesting to watch.
Tiger Woods appears to be healthy again. Okay, the sample size is small, but Woods returned to competition after knee surgery at The Challenge Japan Skins and did not appear to be in any discomfort. He certainly had some rust in his game in the shootout with Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Hideki Matsuyama but showed he could easily be a valued playing member of his own Presidents Cup side come December. For the record Woods won five skins in the match for $60,000 to finish second behind Day’s eight skins and $210,000. “It's been nice to have it moving again and not having it catch and lock up like it has been. It's just wear and tear over the years. It's been stressed out for a very long time and it's nice to have it cleaned up,” Woods said of his knee. “I'm excited about having this end-of-the-year run where I'm feeling much more fit and I don't have the achiness that I've been dealing with for the last couple years.” Read more on Woods here.
Jordan Spieth is seemingly coming out of his slumber. While he was unable to make a run on Sunday thanks to a couple of early bogeys Spieth showed glimpses of his best stuff in Korea. He played both rounds on the weekend under par, an issue he struggled with most of last season. Spieth would ultimately finish tied for eighth in his first start of the new season and provided enough optimism to suggest he could break a victory drought that now extends back to the 2017 Open Championship.
“It's very reassuring knowing that I could hit those shots when I needed to,” – Justin Thomas after his win.
“I’ve been in the spotlight for a long time, and because of that, there have been books and articles and TV shows about me, most filled with errors, speculative and wrong. This book is my definitive story.” – Tiger Woods announced he will write a memoir entitled BACK.
“I don’t think he had to remind me that I hadn’t won one in a while but I love Brooks, he’s a great guy, obviously super competitive like we all are.” – Rory McIlroy responds to Koepka’s comments on a lack of rivalry between the pair.