Sunday’s golf: Thomas tops Leishman in CJ Cup playoff
Jeju, South Korea — Justin Thomas beat Australia’s Marc Leishman on the second playoff hole Sunday to win the inaugural CJ Cup in South Korea and cap his breakout year on the PGA Tour.
Thomas sealed his fifth PGA title in 2017 — and his first of the new 2017-18 PGA season — when he birdied the second extra hole and Leishman made bogey after finding the water.
The pair went to a sudden-death playoff after completing the first U.S. PGA Tour regular-season event in South Korea tied at 9-under 279.
Thomas, who shared the overnight lead with Scott Brown, fell behind when he had a double bogey on the 550-yard par-5 No. 3 hole.
“I just kept telling myself it was a bad golf swing,” Thomas said. “It wasn’t a mental error or wasn’t a wrong judgment that we made but just a bad golf swing at a pretty bad time but I knew you are going make bogeys out here today.”
Thomas regained the lead and looked set for the win in regulation until he bogeyed No. 17, a 195-yard par 3 hole. But he made amends with a birdie at the last to join Leishman in the playoff.
“I really played some great golf after the third hole but it’s just such a long day with these conditions,” Thomas said.
Thomas said he is looking forward to some time off after his breakout season.
“I’m so excited to not do anything,” Thomas said. “I officially have nothing left in the tank at this moment.”
Leishman, who ended a 5-year drought on the PGA Tour when he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, then added the BMW Championship in September, looked to have slipped out of contention when he made bogeyed the 5th, 7th and 8th holes to tumble down the leaderboard. But he birdied No. 9, No. 12 and No. 14 to join Thomas at 9-under then finished bogey-birdie to get in the playoff.
Replaying the par-5 18th, the pair both made par on the first extra hole before Leishman gambled and lost on his next attempt at the 568-yard final hole, finding the water after trying to reach the green in two.
“Obviously, disappointing to finish off that way. I probably got a little bit of a lifeline on the first play-off hole and I didn’t take advantage of it. You give one of the best players in the world a chance like that, he’s probably going to take it. Disappointed but second is not all bad,” Leishman said.
“It was a bit of a dodgy lie. I was certainly not going to lay up. I just chunked it a little bit and goes in the water. If you go down, you want to go down like that. You don’t want to go down laying up and making par. I rather attack and try to take it. I would certainly sleep better at night just doing that.”
Cameron Smith of Australia finished one stroke back in third place at 8-under with Whee Kim, the highest placed finisher of the 16 South Korean players in the field, finishing fourth at 7-under after closing with a 72.
Thomas’ five tournament wins this calendar year included his first major, the 99th PGA Championship, which he won in August.
“I’m so pumped,” Thomas added. “I probably wasn’t very fun to be around those first two days. I was just glad I finally got back to myself being patient these last two days.”
Eun-Hee Ji fired a 7-under-par 65 to win the Taiwan Championship in Taipei, Taiwan for her first LPGA title since the 2009 U.S. Women’s Open.
Ji, who had a six-stroke lead heading into the final round, carded seven birdies to finish at 17-under 271, six strokes ahead of Lydia Ko, who also closed with a 65.
“I’m so happy and excited because I haven’t won for the past eight years,” said Ji. “So I was waiting for this moment for so long, so I’m super happy right now.”
Ji’s six-stroke margin of victory ties the largest of the 2017 season, joining the previous mark set by Mirim Lee at the Kia Classic.
Top-ranked So Yeon Ryu also shot a bogey-free 65 to move into a tie for third place with Lizette Salas and Carlota Ciganda.
Bernhard Langer made a 15-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th hole overcome a mediocre round and win the Dominion Energy Charity Classic in Richmond, Virginia, the first event in the PGA Tour Champions’ Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs.
Langer, even par for the day before getting to the easiest hole on The Country Club of Virginia’s James River Course, beat Scott Verplank by one shot. Verplank, playing two groups ahead of Langer, shot a bogey-free 6-under 66 to erase a five-shot deficit, but missed short birdie putts on the 17th and 18th holes.
Langer followed his second-round 63 with a 70 to finish at 16 under. The victory was the sixth this season and 35th on the tour for the 60-year-old Langer, and clinched the top seed in the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.
Billy Mayfair (65), Kenny Perry (65) and Vijay Singh (71) tied for third at 12 under.
Langer became the second player on the tour for players 50 and older to make eagle on the final hole to win by a shot. Scott McCarron, who won this event last year, did it at the Allianz Championship in Boca Raton, Florida.
At Sotogrande, Spain, tournament host Sergio Garcia won the Andalucia Valderrama Masters after shooting 4-under 67 in the final round.
It was the Spaniard’s sixth win on home soil and his second title at Real Club Valderrama. He won the Andalucia Masters at this venue in 2011.
Garcia made five birdies to go with one bogey, as he finished on 12-under 272 — one stroke ahead of Joost Luiten of the Netherlands.