Friday's golf: Justin Thomas surges to two-stroke lead in South Korea
Jeju Island, South Korea — Justin Thomas shot a 9-under 63 Friday to take a two-stroke lead at the CJ Cup, putting himself in position to win his second PGA Tour event in South Korea in three years.
Thomas, who won the inaugural CJ Cup in 2017, had a two-round total of 13-under 131 at Nine Bridges.
South Korean-born New Zealander Danny Lee (66) was in a tie for second place with first-round leader Byeong Hun An (69).
Thomas birdied his first four holes and was 6 under after 10.
“I didn’t do anything unbelievably, it was just was a very stress-free day,” Thomas said. “Obviously playing well, that makes it stress free, but I just kind of kept the ball in play off the tee, hit some good irons. So it just was a very easy 63, if you can somehow say that, but hopefully we’ll be able to keep some of that going for the weekend.”
An had his parents among the gallery Friday.
“It’s definitely nice to have them but I definitely have more people here in Korea watching me,” An said. This atmosphere is something you cannot feel in the U.S. because there are a lot of Koreans here. It’s nice to play in front of them and I feel a lot of support, so it’s been helping definitely.”
Jordan Spieth (65) and Emiliano Grillo (66) were tied for fourth, four strokes behind.
“It’s been seven weeks since I’ve played a tournament round. I’m obviously very pleased,” Spieth said. “I thought the idea was to get some reps on the golf course in tournament play with what I’ve been working on over the last couple weeks and day to day it felt a little more comfortable.
“I rolled in a lot of putts today, and certainly don’t want to have to rely on that over the weekend. That was one of the better putting rounds I can remember having.”
Lee said he had a “positive” round.
“It got windy at the end, the last five holes, but my ball-striking has been really nice, and I and made some putts,” Lee said. “Unfortunately I bogeyed the last hole.”
After a 66 on Thursday, Jason Day bogeyed four of his last six holes Friday for a 73 and was eight strokes behind.
Last year’s runner-up Gary Woodland had a second straight 71 and was 11 behind at 2-under alongside Phil Mickelson, who shot 72.
Defending champion Brooks Koepka had four bogeys on his first nine for a 75 and was 13 strokes behind. On Saturday morning, the PGA Tour said Koepka had withdrawn with a knee injury.
Mickelson had the shot of the day, hitting a 353-yard tee shot which hit the flag on the par-4 14th, stopping 8 inches from the cup. That set up a tap-in eagle.
Brian Stuard (Jackson/Oakland) shot 76 and was 4 over, tied for 69th.
There are 78 players in the no-cut, limited-field event. It’s the first of three PGA Tour events in Asia, continuing next week at the Zozo Championship in Japan — which includes Tiger Woods — and ending with the World Golf Championship event in Shanghai.
In Richmond, Va., Tommy Tolles closed with a birdie for a 7-under 65 and the first-round lead in the Dominion Energy Charity Classic, the first of three tournaments in the Charles Schwab Cup playoffs.
The 52-year-old Tolles had seven birdies in the bogey-free round at The Country Club of Virginia. He’s winless in three seasons on the 50-and-over tour.
Colin Montgomerie and Scott Parel shot 66, and Miguel Angel Jimenez, Retief Goosen and Rocco Mediate were at 67.
Charles Schwab Cup leader Scott McCarron was at 68 with John Daly, Marco Dawson and Carlos Franco. Instead of the season points being reset, they will be continued through the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, with points counting double.
Bernhard Langer opened with a 70. He entered the playoffs at No. 7, his lowest ranking since the postseason began in 2016.
Lake Orion's Tom Gillis opened with 72 and remains well inside the projected cut to advance to next week's playoff tournament.
In Shanghai, Brooke Henderson hit a hole-in-one and shot an 8-under 64 to take the lead in the second round of the Buick LPGA Shanghai.
The Canadian hit her ace on the 175-yard second hole. She followed that with a bogey, but then birdied four more holes on the front nine, finishing her round at 11-under 133 total.
Jessica Korda (67) was two strokes behind in second, followed by defending champion Danielle Kang (67) in third.
Henderson has won twice this year, at the Meijer LPGA Classic in June and the LOTTE Championship in April.
Nasa Hataoka and Amy Yang, who shared the lead after the first round, dropped back. Yang (71) is tied for fourth alongside Marina Alex (67), while Hataoka (73) is tied for ninth.
Top-ranked Jin Young Ko, who is coming off a victory on the Korean LPGA Tour last week, shot a 70 to finish tied for 21st.
A year after winning the British Open and one week after failing to make the cut in his home Italian Open, Francesco Molinari says he is changing his caddie.
Pello Iguaran had been on Molinari’s bag for four years but Molinari writes on Instagram that Mark Fulcher, Justin Rose’s former caddie, will take over at the start of next year. Jason Hempleman will step in on an interim basis through the end of this season.
Molinari says it has been “nearly 4 seasons of incredible emotions and really productive work, but unfortunately relationships sometimes come to an end, even if it’s not what we wish for.”
Molinari followed up his first major title at Carnoustie last year by going 5-0 to lead Europe to Ryder Cup victory. He also led into the back nine at the Masters this year but faded to finish tied for fifth place and has struggled since.