JEJU, SOUTH KOREA – OCTOBER 21: Justin Thomas of the United States hits his tee shot on the 6th hole during the third round of the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges on October 21, 2017 in Jeju, South Korea. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)
By Christopher Powers
Justin Thomas’ breakout 2017 has extended into the new season, beating Marc Leishman in a playoff in the inaugural CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges for his fifth win since January.
Thomas and Leishman entered the inaugural CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges as the two top players in the field, Thomas ranked No. 4 in the world and Leishman occupying the 16th spot. This was never more apparent than on the 72nd hole on Sunday, when both players took dead aim at the flag with woods in their hand at the par-5 18th, each setting up makeable eagle putts to potentially win. Neither putt fell, so it was back to the 18th for a playoff after the duo finished in a tie at nine-under 279 at Nine Bridges Golf Club in Jeju Island, South Korea.
Australia’s Leishman led the way, blocking his drive miles to the right and opening the door for Thomas, who sliced his drive as well but kept it in play. After they each battled their way out of difficult situations and matched with pars, they went back to the 18th. This time, both found the fairway, and Leishman took another swipe at the green, but found the water. Thomas went for it from 243 yards out anyway, striping it once again and finding the fringe in front of the green, setting up an up-and-down birdie that earned him the victory.
For Thomas, who carded a final-round even-par 72, he’s now won seven times in his career, three of those coming in the last three months as the 24-year-old appears to be keeping his 2017 PGA Tour player-of-the-year form. Leishman’s two-under 70 on Sunday wasn’t enough to win, but he continues an incredible stretch of golf with this week’s solo second finish. Since he missed the cut at the Players Championship in May, he has made 14 out of 15 cuts, including one win, four top-10s and four top-25s.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 22, 2017
Leishman played the final round alongside fellow countryman Cameron Smith, who had an excellent look at birdie at the par-5 18th to also grab a spot in the playoff. His putt just slid by, leading to a tap-in par for a two-under 70, getting him into the clubhouse one shot back at eight-under 280. After missing five of seven cuts to end his 2016-’17 campaign, Smith has opened this season with a T-5 and a solo third finish.
Whee Kim, playing in the first PGA Tour event in his home country, finished in solo fourth at six-under 282 after posting consecutive even-par 72s on the weekend. It’s Kim’s best result since the FedEx St. Jude Classic last June, where he tied for second.
Coming off a win at the CIMB Classic, Pat Perez put together another strong week in Asia, capped off by a bogey-free four-under 68 on Sunday, his low round of the tournament. He finished in a tie for fifth at five-under 283, giving him his fifth T-6 or better finish in addition to his two victories in the last year alone.
Also at five under were Anirban Lahiri, Scott Brown, Jamie Lovemark, Brian Harman and Luke List.
Patrick Reed, Jason Day, Rafa Cabrera Bello and South Korea’s Byeong Hun An finished five back at four-under 284.