2018 CJ Cup picks, predictions odds: Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka lead field at Nine Bridges

The middle event of a three-tournament swing in Asia takes place, and the field will become increasingly better throughout this stretch of golf. Justin Thomas played last week at the CIMB Classic and grabbed a back-door top five, and he will play again this week in South Korea at the CJ Cup.

This week, he's joined by a couple more big names who will look to pull off a victory in South Korea. Let's take a look at this week's contest.

Event information

What: CJ Cup | When: Oct. 17-21
Where: Nine Bridges Golf Club -- Jeju Island, South Korea

Ranking the field (odds)

  1. Justin Thomas (11/2): He may have found something last week with a 64 on Sunday. He's also the defending champ here. A no-brainer for me in the No. 1 slot.
  2. Brooks Koepka (8-1): This is Koepka's first appearance at this event (which is in just its second year) and the first time we've seen him on the PGA Tour this season. I'll ride the talent, though, as he finished T7 at the Dunhill Links a week after the Ryder Cup.
  3. Marc Leishman (14-1): All the trends! Leishman won the CIMB Classic last week and lost in a playoff at this tournament in its first edition last year.
  4. Jason Day (12-1): The Australian finished T11 here last year and, like Koepka, will be making his 2018-19 debut.
  5. Paul Casey (20-1): A top 20 here last season and only had one round over 70 en route to a T13 last week at the CIMB Classic.
  6. Ben An (40-1): I love him this season. I think it could be a big one for the former U.S. Amateur champ. He finished T11 here last year and T13 along with Casey last week in Malaysia.
  7. Xander Schauffele (25-1): Shot 11 under on the weekend in Malaysia, and I'll ride that even though he fired a 69-82 (!!!) to start this event in 2017.
  8. Cameron Smith (28-1): Finished one shot out of a playoff (which Leishman won over Thomas) last year. He might be the most underrated player in the world.
  9. Si Woo Kim (50-1): Coming off a T10 in Malaysia. I'll ride with talent. Great number there, too.
  10. Adam Scott (28-1): We haven't seen Scott since he bowed out of the FedEx Cup Playoffs following the BMW Championship. But of course he's showing up to one of the most handsome locales on the PGA Tour circuit.

Field strength -- B: It's a good field! It's a great field considering we're in the heart of football season, and the event is being held halfway around the world (hint: it's a no-cut, big money tournament).

Three stories to watch

1. Brooks-J.T. shootout: There aren't a lot of things I'm staying up until 4 a.m. to watch. One of those when it comes to golf would be a Brooks Koepka-Justin Thomas showdown. The Nos. 3 and 4 players in the world are the only golfers in the field currently ranked in the OWGR top 10 and are pretty easily the two best talents on the island this week. It would be a nice little opener to next week's WGC-HSBC Champions.

2. Higher scoring than last week: We're probably not going to see Marc Leishman's 26-under winning score from last week take home the trophy this go around. Last year, Thomas' playoff win came after he shot 9 under over the first two rounds (including a 63 in Round 1!). The reason for higher scores over the final three days was because the wind picked up on Jeju Island (only three players shot in the 60s on the final day). Some might say this is a good thing. I might agree with some.

3. South Korean champ? There are 12 Korean pros in the field this week looking to land the event a home country winner. The best odds among the 12 belong to Ben An and Sungjae Im, but Si Woo Kim is right up there as well. Im might be the most intriguing of that group. He was the money leader on the Web.com Tour last season and notched a top 10 at the Safeway Open two weeks ago in his third PGA Tour start.

Past winners

  • 2017: Marc Leishman

2018 CJ Cup predictions

Justin Thomas
Winner: I'm just going to keep picking him until he hits. He bookended 69s with a 66 and a 64 in Malaysia. The 64 was the round of the day on Sunday. He's not only the best golfer in the field. He's also playing the best golf.  Odds: 11/2     
Marc Leishman
Top 10: It's hard to pick against somebody who lost in a playoff at this event last year and won on the PGA Tour last week. I could see a Thomas-Leishman repeat playoff, but I'll say Leishman runs out of gas and settles for a T5 or T9 instead. Odds: 14-1   
Byeong-Hun An
Sleeper: The year of Ben An. I'll be warning you all fall. He's a top 20 player from tee to green, and those guys usually figure out a way to make everything else work. Odds: 40-1   
CBS Sports Writer

Kyle Porter began his sports writing career with CBS Sports in 2012. He covers golf, writes poetry about Rory McIlroy's swing, stays ready on Tiger watch and loves the Masters more than anyone you know.... Full Bio

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