Benign conditions leaves course vulnerable at PGA in S. Korea

October 19, 2018

SEOGWIPO, South Korea, Oct. 19 (Yonhap) — When the wind quieted down at the ongoing PGA tournament in South Korea, the scores went low with it.

Gentler conditions on Friday at the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges exposed the Club at Nine Bridges here on Jeju Island. A day after 18 players broke par, 45 players in the 78-man field shot 71 or better on the par-72, 7,184-yard track.

The scoring average in the first round was 73.269 strokes, but it was 71.076 in the second round.

Scott Piercy of the United States carded a bogey-free 65 to take a 36-hole lead at nine-under. Four other players finished the second round without a bogey.

In this AFP photo, Brooks Koepka of the United States watches his tee shot at the 16th hole during the second round of the PGA Tour's CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges at the Club at Nine Bridges in Seogwipo, Jeju Island, on Oct. 19, 2018. (Yonhap)

In this AFP photo, Brooks Koepka of the United States watches his tee shot at the 16th hole during the second round of the PGA Tour’s CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges at the Club at Nine Bridges in Seogwipo, Jeju Island, on Oct. 19, 2018. (Yonhap)

But the player that made the most of the benign conditions might have been Brooks Koepka, who matched Piercy’s 65 and sits one behind the leader heading into the weekend.

Koepka, the 2017-2018 PGA Tour Player of the Year, known for his prodigious length, said before the start of the tournament that he’d go with his driver as often as the conditions would allow him. He ranked eighth on the PGA Tour last season at an average of 313 yards off the tee, and flaunted every bit of that power in an impressive display on Friday.

Koepka ended his round with style, by picking up an eagle at the tough par-5 18th, listed at 568 yards. It was one of just four eagles at the hole in the second round.

Koepka launched a towering tee shot over the trees on the left and the ball landed softly on the fairway, allowing him to take a shortcut to the green. He had 165 yards to the pin and landed his second shot to within 7 feet for an eagle.

Koepka drove the green at the 353-yard, par-4 eighth hole and made a birdie.

At another par-5, the 598-yard 12th, Koepka left himself 232 yards to the hole after another massive drive and collected a ho-hum birdie.

The weather is expected to remain relatively calm on Saturday, which is good news for Koepka but not so much for others trying to topple the world No. 3.

In this AFP photo, Scott Piercy of the United States tosses the ball at the 15th hole during the second round of the PGA Tour's CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges at the Club at Nine Bridges in Seogwipo, Jeju Island, on Oct. 19, 2018. (Yonhap)

In this AFP photo, Scott Piercy of the United States tosses the ball at the 15th hole during the second round of the PGA Tour’s CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges at the Club at Nine Bridges in Seogwipo, Jeju Island, on Oct. 19, 2018. (Yonhap)

“If there’s no wind, you can definitely take advantage of it,” he said. “It brings the driver into play for me a bit more, and I can fire away.”

The unflappable one, who barely shows emotion on the course regardless of his score, said he tries to keep a simple approach.

“I guess you can call it caveman golf. I see the ball, hit the ball and go find it again,” he said. “I am trying to shoot the best score I can, and to enjoy it and have fun. You’re not going to see any emotions because I am so focused.”

Piercy, the 36-hole leader, said even a small dip in the speed of the wind can make a huge difference.

“The wind was obviously down a little bit,” he said. “It was a good day. I’ve continued hitting the ball pretty well (for the second straight week), and the putter started to warm up a little bit.”

Jeju native Kang Sung-hoon also enjoyed the mild conditions. He went from 75 Thursday to 67 Friday, without making a bogey in the second round.

Kang said he found it much easier to hit shots and make putts in the second round.

“I mishit a lot of shots and missed some putts because of the wind yesterday,” he said. “But the weather was better today. I didn’t have to hit as many chip shots and that made it a lot easier to play.”

Kang said he’s been battling some neck problems and the cold weather on Thursday didn’t help. He’s looking forward to better days ahead.

“I heard it’s going to be warmer tomorrow and Sunday, and I think I’ll start feeling better, too,” Kang said. “And I think the players will go even lower.”

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