Brooks Koepka got the inside track against Justin Thomas in their head-to-head battle this week for world No. 1.
Koepka shot 1-under 71 on Thursday at the CJ Cup, while Thomas shot 1-over 73.
Chez Reavie leads after 18 holes at Nine Bridges in Juju Island, South Korea, following a 4-under 68.
Koepka, currently world No. 3, needs to win this week or finish solo second [without Thomas winning] in order to reach the top spot in the rankings for the first time in his career. Thomas, currently No. 4, must win to reclaim the position he surrendered in June.
One week after 26 under par proved victorious in Malaysia, birdies weren’t as aplenty to begin the second leg of the PGA Tour’s Asian swing.
Full-field scores from the CJ Cup
CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos
In chilly, windy conditions, Koepka and Thomas set out alongside one another – with Sungjae Im (73) as the third – on the 10th hole. Koepka bogeyed his first hole of the day on his way to turning in even-par 36. Thomas was one worse, with two bogeys and a birdie.
On their second nine, Koepka was steady with two birdies and a bogey to reach red figures for the day.
“I felt like I played good. I hit some good shots, missed a couple putts early and kind put myself in a little bit of trouble on the back nine, my front, but rallied pretty nicely,” Koepka said. “I felt like I found a bit of rhythm. But it’s a difficult day, anything under par, level par is a good score out there today. I’m pleased with it.”
Thomas, however, had two birdies and a double bogey on his inward half. The double came at the par-4 fourth, where he four-putted. He nearly made up those two strokes on his final hole, the par-5 ninth, when a wild approach shot [as you can see below] traversed the contours of the green and settled 6 feet from the hole. But Thomas missed the short eagle putt and settled for birdie.
Use the course to your advantage.#QuickHits pic.twitter.com/OIo2522Na6
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 18, 2018