With an eye on grabbing one label, Brooks Koepka tried out another for the first time. The reigning US PGA Tour Player of the Year shot a one-under 71 in his first round of the 2018-’19 tour season, leaving him three strokes off the 18-hole lead of Chez Reavie at the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges.
Chilly, windy conditions greeted the 78-player field at The Club at Nine Bridges in Jeju Island, South Korea, resulting in the highest score to lead an opening round on tour since the US Open at Shinnecock Hills (which turned out pretty well for Koepka, you might remember). No player posted a bogey-free round on Thursday.
Koepka opened ominously with a bogey on his first hole, one of three he had on the day, but made up for them with four birdies to grind out a solid score. It looked particularly good compared to his playing partners, defending CJ Cup champion Justin Thomas and Web .com Player of the Year Sungjae Im, who both shot one-over 73s.
Koepka entered the tournament ranked third in the world, but with a victory or a solo second without Thomas winning, he can jump Dustin Johnson and Justin Rose to become No.1.
Of course, Reavie would like something to say about this as well after posting his four-under 68. The 36-year-old hit all 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens to lead after the first round of a tour event for just the fourth time in his career and the first since the 2016 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Reavie is more than 10 years (and 232 starts) removed from his lone tour win, the 2008 RBC Canadian Open.
One stroke behind Reavie is Si Woo Kim, who put together the best round of the 13 Korean players in the field this week, and 2016 Masters champion Danny Willett. Leading the Australian charge after round one is Rod Pampling, whose two-under 70 was the only sub-par round by an Aussie. Round two tees off at 9:45am, AEDT.