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Afp

Three and breezy as Thomas wins drama-filled CJ Cup

By AFP
media US PGA and FedEx Cup champion Justin Thomas (R) claims his sixth victory of a breakout 12 months since completing back-to-back CIMB Classic wins in Malaysia a year ago AFP

Justin Thomas holed a two-foot putt at the second playoff hole Sunday to beat Marc Leishman and win his third US PGA Tour title in Asia in a drama-filled finale to the CJ Cup.

"It's an unbelievable honour to win the inaugural CJ Cup," said a relieved Thomas after battling fierce, gusting winds on Jeju Island for three days.

"It was a grind out there today."

The pair had finished 72 holes at the first ever PGA Tour event in South Korea locked at nine-under par 279, after both made birdies on the 18th hole of a gale-battered final round of wildly fluctuating fortunes.

Leishman's closing four on the long par-five saw him briefly take the clubhouse lead as Thomas made an ugly bogey at the short 17th.

But the American, who will move up to displace Hideki Matsuyama as world number three in the new rankings Monday, made his fourth birdie of a level-par round of 72 that also had a double and two other bogeys, to send the pair back to the 18th tee for a playoff.

"I had to stay patient. It was a bad bogey on 17," Thomas admitted after coming up short of the green and hitting a poor chip.

"It feels great to hit two really good shots on 18 in regulation and have a putt with a chance to win and then to hit two great three woods there on that second playoff hole."

Leishman started the day two behind overnight leader Thomas and had six birdies and four bogeys in his own see-saw round of two-under 70.

Both he and Thomas parred the 18th on their first playoff visit, though not without more drama.

Leishman was fortunate to get away with an errant drive and benefit from two free drops: first to get relief from behind a wall and then another from a service road.

He managed eventually to punch his second shot across the road, over the wall and under some trees to a position on the fairway from where he could pitch on and make a two-putt par.

- Watery grave -

But the burly Australian's luck ran out second time round as his three wood second shot from 257 yards carved off on the swirling winds into the water surrounding the island green.

American Thomas then ripped his own three wood from 243 yards unerringly to the front fringe and ran a putt to two feet from the flag to leave a tap-in birdie for the huge $1.665 million winner's cheque.

"I never considered laying up," said the US PGA Champion, whose fearless golf has brought him seven PGA Tour titles in two years, three of them in Asia.

"Obviously, disappointing to finish off that way," said Leishman. "I probably got a little bit of a lifeline on the first play-off hole and I didn't take advantage.

"You give one of the best players in the world a chance like that, he's probably going to take it. I'm disappointed but second is not all bad."

It was the sixth victory of a breakout 12 months for the US PGA and FedEx Cup champion Thomas since completing back-to-back CIMB Classic wins in Malaysia a year ago.

Another Australian, Cameron Smith, just missed a 12-foot birdie attempt at the 18th that would have seen him join the sudden-death shootout as he finished third on eight-under after a 70.

Flying the flag for the home golfers was Whee Kim, who finished in fourth place on six-under 282 after a level par 72 which netted him $444,000.

 
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