Just about everything one would want from a big-time golf tournament was in play Thursday during Round 1 of the 2022 CJ Cup. Some stars played well, while others missed 2-foot putts. One player hit his irons better than nearly anyone in the last two decades. Two early-week media room darlings shot a combined double digits under par.
And of course, Congaree Golf Clubs showed out in its first PGA Tour appearance since summer 2021.
Trey Mullinax and Gary Woodland share the lead at 6 under a quarter of the way through the tournament, but they're going to have some problems in the form of top 25 players in the world coming around the turn as the week wears on. Regardless, they're the two we'll focus on as we take a look at what happened on Thursday at the biggest PGA Tour event of the fall in the CJ Cup.
1. Trey Mullinax, Gary Woodland (-6): These two had eerily similar rounds. Both did their damage with their iron play and putting, and together they combined to make 15 birdies on the day. Woodland summed it up well (and succinctly): "I had all three aspect of driving, ball-striking, putting going on, and it was a good day," he said.
Whether either can keep it rolling all four rounds is another question. Mullinax ended last season playing some of his best golf. He won the Barbasol Championship and finished in the top 15 in two FedEx Cup Playoff events. However, he missed the cut at each of the first two events this season, and I rarely trust a hot putter. Woodland seemingly has more staying power, but he also doesn't have a top 10 since the U.S. Open in June. With the caliber of horses just outside of the top spot, I'm also dubious about his chances to pull off what would be his first victory since the 2019 U.S. Open.
T3. Aaron Wise, Wyndham Clark, Tom Kim, Rory McIlroy, Cam Davis, Kurt Kitayama (-5)
T9. Viktor Hovland, Si Woo Kim, Taylor Moore, Tyrrell Hatton, Seamus Power, Sungjae Im (-4)
Wise is going to be interesting this year. He's not as far away from playing his way onto the U.S. Ryder Cup team as some folks might think, and he had an all-time day on Thursday with his iron play. His 5.99 strokes gained on approach shots was so overwhelming that he was worse than field average in every other category and still shot 5 under, good for a top-five position after 18 holes.
According to Data Golf, Wise's round was the 31st-best over the last 18 years. Some of the looks he got were flat-our preposterous, and I'm excited to see how he backs it up over the final three days.
Aaron Wise lost strokes off the tee, around the green and with his putter. He's currently -5 and T3 at the CJ Cup. How?— Kyle Porter (@KylePorterCBS) October 20, 2022
1st: 123 yds ➡️ 2 ft
3rd: 59 yds ➡️ 1 ft
5th: 169 yds ➡️ 4 ft
7th: 185 yds ➡️ 1 ft
10th: 182 yds ➡️ 6 ft
12th: 284 yds ➡️ 24 ft
18th: 134 yds ➡️ 8 ft
Tom and Rory
After Rory McIlroy's answer to Tom Kim's question in the press center on Wednesday got so much run, this week has officially turned into The Tom and Rory Show at Congaree. They constituted one of the better groups on Thursday, shooting a combined 10 under to get into the top five on the leaderboard. Kim raved about McIlroy's length, and McIlroy said Kim flushed everything he looked at. A duel between those two on Sunday would be all kinds of fun.
"He didn't really miss a shot out there," said McIlroy of Kim, who made the only bogey either of them made with a five at the 18th hole. "He's a very, very solid player, plays to his strengths. Makes the same swing at it pretty much every time, like it's very, very consistent, very steady. He was sort of picking my brain a little bit out there about like speed training, and I'm like, 'No, no, no, no.' I think as he gets a little older and maybe a touch stronger, he'll get that naturally, but I was like, 'Do not go down that path, you're good the way you are.'"
They were both pretty awesome on Thursday.
Jordan Spieth shot a 4-over 75 on Thursday and duffed an incredibly short putt in the process. One round does not a tournament make, but the putter was a problem last year, and this golf course should suit him pretty well. It's not a situation that needs to be monitored, but you would like to see Spieth get off to a better start to his 2022-23 season than T73 in a 78-player field.
2022 CJ Cup odds, picks
- Rory McIlroy: 9/2
- Tom Kim: 9-1
- Trey Mullinax: 9-1
- Gary Woodland: 9-1
- Aaron Wise: 11-1
- Cam Davis: 12-1
- Kurt Kitayama: 16-1
- Viktor Hovland: 18-1
- Sungjae Im: 18-1
I wouldn't touch either Mullinax or Woodland, and as silly as it seems to back McIlroy at +450, it's not that dissimilar to his pre-tournament odds (+650). I'm looking a bit further down the board at both Holand and Im, though. Both put together scores mostly with the putter on Thursday, but both have top 10s in one of their last two starts. If either starts flagging irons, the hunt for a trophy will be on as they sit comfortably at 18-1.