The PGA Tour starts the lucrative Asian swing this week with the CJ Cup taking place in South Korea for the third time.

A strong field will be competing at Nine Bridges with 2017 winner Justin Thomas the 13/2 favourite ahead of last year’s champion Brooks Koepka.

The 7,241-yard par 72 is often protected by wind at Jeju Island but with minimal breeze forecast this week, the players should be able to take full advantage in low-scoring conditions.


Koepka to defend title again

It was slightly surprising to see Koepka below Thomas in the betting and the world number one is backed to lift the trophy again this weekend. Koepka’s motivation levels, outside the majors, are often questioned but his record defending titles is outstanding. He won the US Open in back-to-back years and repeated his PGA Championship victory in May. The powerful American also successfully defended the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan.

Koepka excelled at Nine Bridges on his debut last year, shooting 21-under-par for victory. It was the start of another outstanding season for Koepka as he claimed his fourth major championship and also won the WGC FedEx St Jude Invitational. The 29-year-old will be focused on reasserting his position at the top of the rankings, with Rory McIlroy breathing down his neck, and is expected to bring his game face to Korea. Koepka can put down a marker for the new season by repeating last year’s win at 8/1.

Marc Leishman has come extremely close to winning the CJ Cup and the Australian looks a likely challenger this weekend. Leishman finished second at the tournament two years ago after losing a playoff to Thomas. He returned last season and made a bad start before recovering for 18th place. Leishman, who started off his career playing in Korea, shot ten-under par over the weekend and Nine Bridges clearly fits his eye.

Leishman comes into this event following a strong showing in California, claiming third place at the Safeway Open. Significantly, the 35-year-old has enjoyed plenty of success overseas with victory at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia last year and a win at the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa. A motivated Leishman will be determined to go into the Presidents Cup in Australia in peak form and has a strong chance of contending in Korea at 28/1.

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, WEST VIRGINIA - SEPTEMBER 11: Marc Leishman of Australia plays his shot from the 18th tee during the Military Tribute At The Greenbrier Pro-am at Old White TPC on September 11, 2019 in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)


Smith to star in Korea

Cameron Smith will be relishing his return to Korea and the Australian can challenge for his first individual PGA Tour title. Smith shone on his first appearance at the CJ Cup, claiming third place two years ago. He is extremely comfortable playing in Asia and recovered from a poor start last season to finish seventh at Nine Bridges.

Smith won the Australian PGA Championship at the end of last year and was expected to push on in America this season. It has been a disappointing campaign for the 26-year-old but there are signs he is rediscovering his form in time for a big finish to 2019. A tie for 12th at the WGC in Memphis was encouraging and Smith putted well in Las Vegas as he finished 13th in his last start. This is a timely boost heading back to a course where he has gone close before and Smith is backed to contend at 33/1 each way.

Big hitters are at an advantage around Nine Bridges and Matthew Wolff has the ability to go low on his first start in the event. Wolff made a sensational start to his career after winning the 3M Open in just his third professional start. The 20-year-old proved he is well suited to a low-scoring tournament, shooting 21-under-par for his breakthrough title.

JEJU, SOUTH KOREA - OCTOBER 18: A general view of the course prior to the start of the first round of the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges on October 18, 2018 in Jeju, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

Wolff looks destined for a massive career and the American’s powerful game could take apart this week’s track in easy scoring conditions. The Californian made a promising start to the new PGA Tour season with a tie for 18th in Las Vegas. He knocked off the rust and closed with a six-under-par 65 to set him up for a strong tilt in Jeju Island. Wolff has immense potential and looks worth following this week in Korea at 40/1 each way.

It is worth adding one more bet to the portfolio this week with fast-improving Jazz Janewattananond capable of featuring on the leaderboard. The talented Thai has recorded no fewer than 14 top tens across a variety of tours this year. The majority of these have come on the Asian Tour and significantly include a victory at the Korea Open in June.

Janewattananond has also played well in elite company with the 23-year-old finishing 14th at this year’s PGA Championship at Bethpage Black. The four-time Asian Tour winner comes in off successive fourth-placed finishes in Japan and should be able to maintain this momentum in South Korea. Janewattananond may not have the firepower to win the CJ Cup but the tongue-twisting Thai looks a tempting bet at 8/1 for another top ten finish.

Brooks Koepka Each Way

Marc Leishman Each Way

Cameron Smith Each Way

Matthew Wolff Each Way

Jazz Janewattananond to finish top ten

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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