2019 THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES
The PGA Tour’s three-week Asia Swing begins on Thursday with the first round of the CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES in Jeju Island, South Korea.
Brooks Koepka returns as the defending champion, as does Justin Thomas, winner of the tournament’s inaugural playing in 2017.
Plenty of stars will be in the field — in addition to Koepka and Thomas — including Hideki Matsuyama, Tommy Fleetwood, Danny Willett, Gary Woodland, Phil Mickelson, Kevin Na and more.
So which players should you be watching closely this week in South Korea?
To help answer that question, we reached out to three experts – the people who walk alongside the players inside the ropes each week – the caddies.
Each caddie – anonymously – provided a pick to win, a darkhorse pick (darkhorses must be outside the top-50 in the Official World Golf Ranking) and a player to finish inside the top 10.
Winning Pick: Hideki Matsuyama
Why: Hideki has been a little under the radar lately, having missed the cut in three of his last eight starts. But he played well in the final two playoff events, finishing third and ninth, respectively, at the BMW Championship and the Tour Championship. This season, after a missed cut in the Safeway Open, he bounced back with a T16 in Vegas, where he shot no worse than 68 over the four rounds. I feel he will win one soon.
Darkhorse Pick: Luke List
Why: Luke has played better the last couple weeks after missing the cut in his first two starts of the season. He was a last-minute addition to the field in South Korea. He has nothing to lose this week.
Top-10 finisher: Sungjae Im
Why: Sungjae is a local hero, coming off a Rookie of the Year campaign on the PGA Tour. He always seems to be in the mix and that shouldn’t be any different back home this week.
Winning Pick: Brooks Koepka
Why: World No. 1 and the defending champion. Two very good reasons to give Koepka the nod this week. This course is tailor-made for ball strikers with some distance. Basically, Brooks’ specialty.
Darkhorse Pick: Collin Morikawa
Why: Collin is so solid and seems to have a chance to win veery week he tees it up. No weaknesses in his game.
Top-10 finisher: Viktor Hovland
Why: Viktor is a ball-striking machine that’s mature way beyond his age. He’s ready to be a superstar already. It’s just a matter of time before he’s a top-10 player in the world.
Winning Pick: Justin Thomas
Why: I will go with Justin Thomas. He’s like a slightly less caffeinated version of Koepka and has quietly put together great results recently. Top 12’ in his last SEVEN starts yet has been under the radar.
Darkhorse Pick: Keith Mitchell
Why: Hasn’t been playing all that well since mid-year last year, but his game fits this course quite well. As long as anyone off the tee, solid iron player. Based on social media, it looks like he’s pretty stoked to be making this Asian trip.
Top-10 finisher: Matthew Wolff
Why: He’s got a high-octane game, but still has a bit of growing to do. He seems like the kind of guy who rolls out of bed and shoots 5 under. This course is right up his alley and not all that different than the place he won at in Minnesota this summer. He’ll enjoy a nice week.