SEOUL – Justin Thomas made a clutch birdie on No. 18 to beat South Korean-born New Zealander Danny Lee by two strokes Sunday at The CJ Cup at Nine Bridges.
Thomas made a two-putt birdie on the final hole to finish at 5-under 67 for the day and 20-under-par 268. Lee missed his eagle putt and settled for birdie in the event at Jeju Island, South Korea.
It was the 11th PGA Tour title and second CJ Cup title for Thomas.
Lee and Thomas entered the day tied in the limited-field event with no cut after drama on the 18th hole the day before.
In Saturday’s round, Thomas actually was in position to hold a three-shot lead before carding a bogey of his own at the 18th to shoot 70, while Lee sank an eagle putt to leave both tied at 15-under.
It was the eighth time Thomas won after entering the final round with the lead, leading to questions about his status as a “closer.”
“I don’t think you can ever necessarily call yourself the best closer,” said Thomas of the notion.
“I’ve only won 11 times. I feel like once I get to 40 or 50 times and I’ve closed a lot of those, then I think that’s kind of different.”
Holding off Lee gave him a confidence boost going forward, however.
“It feels great,” Thomas, 26, said. “It’s very reassuring knowing that I could hit those shots when I needed to the entire day when I felt like the heat was on the whole day,”
Thomas also won the inaugural event in 2017.
Despite the ending, Lee was happy with his finish.
“I really wanted to win The CJ Cup,” said Lee. “It means a lot to me to win it in front of the Korean fans and all my Korean family, but it is what it is. I gave my best out there today and solo second was the best I could do.”
Australian Cameron Smith (69), Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama (65) and American Gary Woodland (66) all finished in a tie for third place at 15 under.
–Field Level Media