2018 CJ Cup scores, takeaways: Tough course produces intriguing leaderboard after Round 1
A few star struggled in the first round on Jeju Island on Thursday
After 18 holes of the 2018 CJ Cup, Chez Reavie leads at 4 under by one stroke over Si Woo Kim and Danny Willett. The short-hitting Reavie thrived in blustery conditions by hitting all 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation, good for T3 in the field after the first day. Only three golfers broke 70 on Thursday in what has suddenly become one of the tougher events on the PGA Tour because of the weather on Jeju Island in South Korea (more on that below).
"It was a great day, I hit the ball really well," said Reavie. "The wind was blowing really hard all day long so you had to really start the ball well and keep it out of the wind. Luckily, I was able to do that and had good distances in the fairways and hit the ball close today."
Reavie played the back nine first and shot a modest 35 on that side before making three birdies and no bogeys on the front for a 33 that helped him grab the lead. He spoke interestingly after the round about how he tried to stay straight on a windswept course.
"So the most important thing today was just to keep the ball low really," said Reavie. "We didn't have too many holes that played straight downwind, it was mainly crosswinds on every hole. You need to be able to hit a draw and a fade just depending on the wind. You really have to be able to work it both ways on a day like today."
Accuracy was at a premium in Round 1, too, and Reavie took advantage.
So for me, I'm never going to be a big bomber, right?" said Reavie. "Like if I went and tried to hit my driver as hard as I could on every hole, I could maybe increase my driving distance by, I don't know, 4 or 5 yards. Possibly hit it a little further, but then I'm going to give up on the accuracy. So those four or five yards, it's not worth it for me to chase that and not play to my strengths."
His strengths showed and Reavie, who has won just once in his PGA Tour career, stood tall amid difficult conditions on a course that played tougher than it actually is. With multiple major winners right on his heels, it'll take three more days of elite ball-striking in this weather for him to get PGA Tour win No. 2.
Here are four more takeaways from Round 1 of the CJ Cup.
1. Stars "struggle": It's not like they were flirting with scores in the 80s, but I expected a little bit more out of the big three Australians (Jason Day, Adam Scott and Marc Leishman) as well as Justin Thomas. All four of those golfers were over par on Thursday, and Leishman and Scott really struggled with 75s. Leishman won last week and lost this event in a playoff last season so of course he's T54 after 18 holes. Golf!
2. Big Si Woo Kim! The 23-year-old South Korean stud is looking for a win in his home country this week, and he's off to a good start with a 3-under 69 in the first round. Kim is the type of talent that can pop up at any time in any locale, and he did so on Thursday with a tournament leading six birdies in Round 1. "My goal is to win one event every season, but I was disappointed I lost after a playoff [last year]," said Kim. "We've kicked off a new season, but I didn't have any time to rest so after this week, I am looking to regroup. Although I didn't have any wins last season, I am playing consistently so I hope to make the cuts and win at least once before the season is over."
3. Difficult conditions: After last week's shootout at the easy TPC Kuala Lumpur, this course is going to prove far more difficult. Not necessarily because it's a difficult course but mostly because the wind whips a lot harder here than it does in Malaysia. That affects not only full shots but also putts, according to the reigning U.S. Open champ. "We knew the ball was going to be blowing around," said Brooks Koepka, following his 1-under 71. "It's tough on these greens. These greens are actually quite quick and if you start downhill downwind, it's actually quite tough to get the ball to stop. It's difficult to make putts and you're always trying to leave yourself into the wind so you can give yourself a good run or a good luck."
4. Willett out of the wilderness: After dropping off the planet over the past two years, Willett has had a mini-resurgence of sorts. It hasn't been anything spectacular, but he's had top 10s at the Irish Open and Italian Open and sits 3 under, one back of the lead going into Round 2. That's no small thing for somebody who could really use some world ranking points. "We've had a lot of changes over the last two years," said Willett. "Changing coach and fitness teams and caddie and stuff. There's a lot of different things going on so it's a little bit of time to adapt and readjust and to get your head around the new things that you're doing."
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