By Rahul Banerji
American journeyman Chaz Reavie overcame blustery conditions at the Jeju Island course top take a one-shot lead on the opening day of the $9.5 million CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges PGA Tour event in South Korea on Friday.
Shubhankar Sharma dropped two shots on the par-3 seventh hole and mixed four birdies against as many bogeys to end the day at two over par 74 and in tied 47th, one behind defending champion Justin Thomas.
Last week’s winner and 2017 runner-up at Jeju Marc Leishman was further behind on three over par 75.
Reavie (68) was among five players to hit all 14 fairways during the first round besides Danny Willett (69), Joel Dahmen (72), Brendan Steele (74) and James Hahn (76).
Willet and local player Si Woo Kim shared second place on three under 69s.
Said Sharma later, “It was pretty tough out there. It was pretty windy and cold and it was tough.
“I’m not used to playing in cold conditions and was just trying to keep my hands warm the whole day but I had a lot of fun. I’ll try to come back strong tomorrow.
“Need to hit it a bit better than today, made a few bad decisions on the course as the winds were swirling a lot and sometimes on the tee when it’s not in an open area, you don’t feel the wind.
“I also made some bad errors on the par threes (including the double on the seventh). The course is fantastic, and I don’t find any blemish on it. The winds made it tough for sure but I hope to put on some good scores in the next three days.”
Accurate wedge play
Besides hitting every fairway, Reavie’s wedges were hot in helping bring in a four under par 68 card. The 36-year-old is in search of his second career PGA Tour victory and a first since the 2008 RBC Canadian Open, going 231 starts since then.
Reavie’s first round of 68 was the highest first-round lead both in score and relation to par since the 2018 US Open at Shinnecock Hills, where Dustin Johnson, Russell Henley, Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy held a share of the first-round lead with 1-under 69s.
No player was able to bring in a bogey-free card in the first round, an indicator of how difficult it was to score low on the day.
Brooks Koepka, the 2017-18 PGA Tour Player of the Year, opened with a 1-under 71 in his first start at the CJ Cup and was three shots behind the leader.
“It was a great day, I hit the ball really well,” Reavie said of his round.
“The wind was blowing really hard all day long so you had to 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.
“It’s tough because once you get above the hole with this wind, it’s really hard to chip it close.
“The more greens you can hit, the better and that was key to my game. I didn’t miss too many greens. Even if I missed the green, I was on the fringe or chipping uphill, so I was in a lot of good spots today.”
Added Kim, “I expected a difficult day today as it was very windy and cold.
“I gained more confidence in the back nine and so I was able to play a more stable game even with the wind. Looking back, I think I was more nervous compared to other events and I really wanted to do well and ended up putting a lot of pressure on myself.”
For Willet, it was a good day at the office.
“It was good, we played some good golf. I think we missed one fairway, one green and three two putts stats wise.
“So yeah, in these conditions that’s all you can ask for. It’s nice to get a score like that on a day where it’s easy to get the wrong side of par and to kind of let things get to you.”