Justin Thomas with the trophy after winning the CJ Cup
Jeju (South Korea) (AFP) - Justin Thomas loves playing in Asia – on Sunday he took his record on the continent to a remarkable four victories in nine starts when he won the CJ Cup for the second time in three years.
Thomas carded a final-round five-under 67 for a two-stroke victory over South Korean-born New Zealander Danny Lee, after the pair reduced the final round to a two-man show.
Asked what was the secret to his phenomenal win percentage in Asia, Thomas scratched his head.
“I have no idea,” said the world number five. “It is kind of bizarre knowing that I’ve won four times (in Asia).
Justin Thomas of the US celebrates winning the CJ Cup golf tournament at Nine Bridges golf club in Jeju Island on October 20, 2019.
“I obviously like the golf courses and I feel like they fit my game well, but it must be all the beef,” he laughed.
The 26-year-old’s only major to date came at the 2017 US PGA Championship, but on Sunday he equalled Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy by winning 11 US PGA Tour events before his 27th birthday.
Only Tiger Woods, with 34 victories, and Jack Nicklaus, with 20, had won more at the same age.
Thomas started his love affair with golf in Asia at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia, which he won back-to-back in 2015 and 2016.
- ‘I have another tournament to win’ -
He added the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges, Jeju Island, in 2017.
“I feel comfortable over here. I think it’s at a good time of year,” said Thomas.
“But I worked really, really hard the last couple weeks to make sure I was ready for this tournament and I was glad that it showed.”
One of the longest hitters in the game, if Thomas had beefed up his red meat consumption this week, it seemed to give him even extra length.
On Sunday as he made light work of the fearsome uphill 589-yard ninth hole, which was also playing into the wind.
The man from Louisville crushed a perfect drive over 300 yards and then muscled a fairway wood past the pin, 282 yards away, to the green’s back fringe.
By contrast, playing partners Lee and Cameron Smith had to lay up, unable to get near in two.
Thomas now takes the short hop to Japan for the US PGA Tour’s inaugural Zozo Championship, which starts Thursday, with a chance to take his Asia strike rate to an amazing 50 percent if he can make it five wins in 10 starts.
At the Narashino Country Club, near Tokyo, he will come up against the formidable opposition of world number two Rory McIlroy and 15-time major winner Tiger Woods in another 78-player elite $9.75 million event, with no cut.
“We’ll enjoy this win a little bit tonight and then I need to get ready for next week, because I have another tournament I’m trying to win,” he said after pocketing a cheque for $1.755 million.
With his record in Asia, there will be few doubting Thomas is capable of doing it all again in Japan.