Thomas will put doubters behind him
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
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