Recap of the day
Wind dictates scoring to a large extent on Jeju Island and today, despite a few swirls, it didn't cause trouble. "It was a good day to play golf," said Korea's Byeong Hun An, who took advantage better than anyone else with a bogey-free 8-under-par 64. That was one in front of recent Greenbrier winner Joaquin Niemann and two clear of Jason Day. All three handed in clean cards, as did Graeme McDowell (68) and Ryan Moore (69). But not all the limited 78-man field took advantage, with 31 players failing to break par. Fun fact: Five Korean-born players are in the top ten after R1.
Revised outright betting:
13/2 An, Thomas, 9/1 Day, 10/1 Koepka, Niemann, 16/1 Smith, 18/1 Im, 20/1 Matsuyama, 25/1 Cabrera Bello.
Friday weather forecast
Heavy rain is forecast for most of the morning (tee-times run from 08:00 to 10:00) although the breeze is set to be a modest one of around 8mph-12mph. Temperatures just about creep over 70 degrees.
Leaders after at 18 holes
Byeong Hun An (64) – Everything good. An piped 12 (of 14) fairways, hit 15 greens in the right number and ranked second in Putts Per GIR (1.467). This ties the second lowest round of his PGA TOUR career.
Joaquin Niemann (65) – Seven birdies and 11 pars for the in-form Chilean. Hit nine fairways and 15 greens while ranking fourth in Putts Per GIR.
Jason Day (66) – The course horse (T5 and T11 previously) hasn't had a top ten since June's Travelers Championship but looked good here. Missed just two fairways and found 14 greens, with 100% scrambling.
Fate of the favorites
Justin Thomas (68) – Six birdies against two bogeys, one of those coming on the par-5 18th. The 2017 winner was only ranked 66th in Driving Accuracy and 48th in Putts Per GIR but still made a score.
Brooks Koepka (69) – Was even par thru 15 after trading three birdies with three bogeys but a 3-3-3 finish (birdie-par-eagle) put some gloss on the round. Found 12 (of 14) fairways and hit 14 greens but short game a little rusty.
Hideki Matsuyama (69) – Slipped back from -3 with bogeys at 15 and 17 before matching Koepka's walk-off eagle. Hit 12 fairways.
Tommy Fleetwood (71) – Finished in the middle of the pack (T39) after three birdies against two bogeys. One reason: the putter. Fleetwood hit all but one fairway and missed just three greens but registered an ugly 2.133 Putts Per GIR.
Byeong Hun An (64): "It was great. Eight under, bogey free is always good. I hit it really solid, and I wasn't expecting it, to be fair. I didn't hit it great the last couple days and on the range today, but everything seems to be working. Everything was going at the flag the perfect distance and obviously I holed a lot of putts today, so everything just clicked."
Joaquin Niemann (65): "I really like this place, it's beautiful. Food is great, too. Last year was my first time and I really like this place. I didn't play that great, but it was fun. And then today, yeah, I make a lot of putts and that helps. Definitely this week is one of the strongest fields, a lot of good players. Yeah, I think it's going to be tough to win, but hopefully three more days like this, I'll make it happen."
Jason Day (66): "I'm pleased, but I'm a little bit disappointed about 18 because I hit a nice drive down there, had 8 iron in my hand and short sided myself. But I think overall it's a great start and I think to be able to capitalize on a day like we had today because we're not used to the wind being down like it was. So I'm excited to see how the rest of the week goes."
Road to victory at CJ CUP
Notes: Koepka was three back after day one (71) before making his move while Thomas started like a train, dipped in round two, but eventually got it done on the weekend.
Fate of the 18-hole leaders at the Golf Club of Houston – where did they finish?
Notes: Reavie had a one-shot lead after 18 holes but, with scoring low, his follow-up rounds of 70-70-69 left him ten behind winner Koepka. Thomas converted two years ago despite that Friday wobble.
Focus on – Stats
No shot-tracker is available this week so we're somewhat short on stats. However, there are some we can work out and one concerns how easy it was to hit the fairways. Leader Byeong Hun An found 12 of the 14 and yet ranked just T25 in Driving Accuracy. Overall, four players hit every fairway while another 20 found 13. Looking at scoring averages in round one, the field averaged 70.885 on the par 72, with an even front nine/back nine split - 35.629 v 35.256.
One other stat worthy of note: With a 3-under 69, Viktor Hovland’s 18th straight round in the 60s is the most by any player on TOUR since 1983.
Focus on – Byeong Hun An
An now has two first-round leads in his last eight PGA TOUR starts having also opened with 65 at the Wyndham Championship where he finished third. He'd never managed one previously. However, we do have a bit more evidence of how he sleeps on a R1 lead as he's done it three times previously on other Tours. At the 2013 Scottish Challenge, he finished runner-up, at the Korean Tour's Shinhan Donghae Open in 2016, he slipped back to T15 while at the 2018 Australian Open he had a one-shot lead after day one before finishing T10. That's a 0-for-4 record overall.
Focus on – Jason Day
Some interesting quotes from the Aussie as he looks to get a captain's pick for Ernie Els' International team. Before teeing off, he noted: "I certainly want to be on the team and believe I can be an asset to the Internationals. Being in my home country certainly gives me an edge and I've had some success on the sandbelt (courses) and Royal Melbourne in the past." And today he revealed that he's doing everything he can to make a final push. "Last week, I spent a lot of time with Col (Colin Swatton, his coach). He came and he was in for the week. I was actually working with him that week and things are looking good. I feel good about the game, so hopefully things keep going the way they did today. Trying to get some memories back from 2015. I won quite a few tournaments with that putter, so to have the black putter in the bag was nice, to be able to look down and see that. It is a bit banged up, I must admit, but I think the ball was rolling nice out there. I've just got to tidy up the line, hopefully the putts still kind of roll in for me."