Thomas will put doubters be­hind him

The Racing Paper - - Golf - by Mitchell Platts

JUSTIN Thomas can make a suc­cess­ful de­fence of the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges af­ter win­ning the in­au­gu­ral event by over­com­ing Aus­tralian Marc Leish­man in a play-off twelve months ago.

The 25-year-old from Louisville, Ken­tucky, pre­vailed at the sec­ond ex­tra hole on Jeju Is­land, South Korea, and he looks a wor­thy favourite on the 7,196 yards (par 72) course in the 78-man field.

Thomas starred de­spite the Amer­i­cans sink­ing in last month’s Ry­der Cup but, af­ter los­ing his FedExCup crown to Justin Rose, he will be look­ing to launch his chal­lenge for the 2018-2019 edi­tion by notch­ing his tenth PGA

Tour ti­tle.

Amer­i­can com­pa­triot Billy Horschel must be feared as he picked up plenty of mo­men­tum by fin­ish­ing only two shots back in last sea­son’s con­clud­ing Tour Cham­pi­onship won by Tiger Woods.

Horschel, 31, who won the FedExCup in 2014 by cap­tur­ing the BMW Cham­pi­onship and Tour Cham­pi­onship in a blis­ter­ing fin­ish, has not claimed an in­di­vid­ual ti­tle on the PGA Tour for 18 months, but he did cap­ture the Zurich Clas­sic of New Or­leans with Scott Piercy last April.

Brooks Koepka, win­ner of three Ma­jor Cham­pi­onships, con­tin­ues his ‘World Tour’ af­ter com­pet­ing in Paris and St An­drews and he should em­brace the course which has a dis­tinct Bri­tish ‘feel’ on the front nine although it is more Amer­i­can in style on the in­ward nine.

Ja­son Day, tied 11th last year, could fol­low in fel­low Aus­tralia Leish­man’s shoes by chal­leng­ing for the ti­tle af­ter a fine year in which he ended an 18month drought by win­ning the Farm­ers In­vi­ta­tion Open and the Wells Fargo Cham­pi­onship.

Aussie com­pa­triot Adam Scott, In­dia’s Shub­hankar Sharma, Chi­nese Taipei’s CT Pan and Thai­land’s Ki­radech Aphibarn­rat all look threats and Euro­pean Ry­der Cup he­roes Paul Casey and Ian Poul­ter, 19th and 15th re­spec­tively last year, will be bub­bling with con­fi­dence fol­low­ing their cel­e­bra­tions in Paris.

De­fend­ing cham­pion: Justin Thomas

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