Justin Thomas has been installed as the clear favourite to win a second CJ Cup when some of the world’s finest golfers clash in South Korea this week. The talented American won the inaugural tournament after prevailing in a playoff against Marc Leishman in 2017. World number one Brooks Koepka surged to a four-stroke victory over Gary Woodland last year, and he will return to defend his trophy this week. However, he looked unconvincing on his lone start of the 2019/20 PGA Tour season, and the bookmakers have placed world number five Thomas ahead of him in their reckoning.
The best online betting sites make Thomas the favourite at 13/2 to lift the trophy and take home the lion’s share of the $9.75 million prize pool. Next up is Koepka at8/1 and then Hideki Matsuyama at 16/1. The wunderkind Viktor Hovland is next at 20/1 to upset his more established peers, and Tommy Fleetwood is also priced at 20/1. Jordan Spieth has fallen from grace somewhat over the past year and he is out at 22./1 along with local hero Sung-Jae Im and Colin Morikawa.
There are plenty of big names at 25/1, including Billy Horschel, Lieshman, Woodland, Jason Day and Sergio Garcia. You will also see the likes of Danny Willett, Ian Poulter and Tyrrell Hatton in what looks like a very competitive field, which is capped at 78. The action takes place at the Nine Bridges Golf Club on Jeju Island, a popular holiday destination in the very south of the country. The weather looks mild, with a fair bit of sunshine expected, although rain showers could affect play on Friday.
Wind can have a large impact on the course, and the ability to thrive in difficult conditions is crucial to success here. It features generous fairways and long, slow, undulating greens, with plenty of changes in elevation over the course of a hole. In many ways it is similar to the Plantation Course in Kapalua, which hosts the Tournament of Champions. Thomas won that tournament in 2017, he finished seventh in 2018 and he was fourth this year, so it is easy to see why he leads the betting ahead of Koepka, who is still recovering from a knee injury and missed the cut on his only start of the new season.
“The greens have a lot of slope on them,” said Thomas when reflecting upon the course. “They’re very big as well, so the slope can play a big factor and a big role in how you are going to play the course. If you want to use some of the slopes to get close to the holes, or if you want to use some to get into the spot where you want to putt from, but the hardest part is that you just have to play smart. You can’t be too aggressive and short sight yourself or have the putt above the hole. You want to try to leave it below the hole and have as many makeable putts with as little break as possible that you can out there.”
Horschel looks like another interesting option to go on and win the tournament. He is a five-time PGA Tour winner and he secured four top-10 finishes last season. The 32-year-old Florida native is a strong putter and he has all the tools to thrive at the Nine Bridges Golf Club this week. Poulter might be another interesting each-way option at 55/1. He was T15 in the inaugural CJ Cup and T10 last year, so if he continues on his upward curve he could be a threat. Real long shots include Hufo Leon, Troy Merritt and Jack Singh Brar, and it should be an entertaining tournament, but Thomas looks like the one to beat.