The first of two new PGA Tour events this season tees off on Thursday with THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES coming from Jeju Island in South Korea.
It’s the country’s first standard tournament on the tour and acts as the midpoint of a three-event Asian swing culminating in the WGC-HSBC Champions from China next week.
Two years after a well-received Presidents Cup in South Korea, you would imagine the success of that event influenced the introduction of this one.Embed from Getty Images
Despite the stock 72-hole stroke-play tournament making its debut this week – before the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in March as the second new event – it has not struggled in attracting high profile players to its first outing.
Reigning FedExCup champion Justin Thomas makes the second start of his season defence following a tied 17th at the CIMB Classic. The PGA Tour Player of the Year is joined by seven more players from the world’s top 25 including Jason Day, Paul Casey, Marc Leishman, Pat Perez, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Patrick Reed and Adam Scott.
Rookie of the Year and TOUR Championship victor Xander Schauffele also makes the trip to Asia as part of a limited field of 78, all guaranteed four rounds of golf as there’s no cut at the inaugural outing here.Embed from Getty Images
The are 16 natives entering, too, including eight-time PGA Tour winner K.J. Choi and THE PLAYERS Championship winner Si Woo Kim. Sangmoon Bae also enters, making his third start since returning from two years of military service for the host nation.
A new event means there are no returning champions and there are no records to be broken; but there’s uncertainty for all entering at the host venue Nine Bridges Golf Club. It’s name is inspired from the eight physical bridges on the course with the ninth being the metaphorical ‘bridge’ between the club and its guests.
Nine Bridges has hosted LPGA events since 2002 but embarks on hosting its biggest event to date this week; it’s a par 72 course just shy of 7,200 yards with four par threes and four par fives, including the 18th that offers eagle chances. The course is made up of the two separate nine hole courses, the Creek and the Highland, at the resort.
The winner will be rewarded with 500 FedExCup points and $1.6million of a $9.25million prize fund, the biggest prize-fund outside the majors, World Golf Championships and THE PLAYERS; but what will be more poignant this week is how the new tournament fairs under the spotlight to dictate its future on tour.