Byeong Hun An – file photo
If Ernie Els needed any guidance in finalising his International Presidents Cup side, then he could have done worse than witnessing the opening round of the PGA Tour’s CJ Cup Nine Bridges event on Jeju Island in Korea today.
Byeong Hun An, Joaquin Niemann, Jason Day, Sungjae Im, Emiliano Grillo and Dylan Frittelli have all made good starts to the US$9.75 million event, all five surely amongst considerations, at least, for one of Els’ captain’s picks on Monday November 4th.
Jason Day and Joaquin Niemann are likely already a lock for a place although they probably needed to at least play well in these next two weeks but An and Im are very much in the group just a level below as perhaps are Grillo and Frittelli so their performances this week and in Japan next week are crucial.
28 year old An leads the event at the completion of the opening round by one shot over Niemann with Day another shot back and alone in 3rd place after his round of 66.
Im is tied for 9th one behind Day while Grillo is another shot back.
Others to start the event well and who might yet be considerations are Dylan Frittelli who is six shots from the lead.
Niemann, perhaps, secured his place with his recent win on the PGA Tour but he needed to keep playing well and this is likely enough to solidify his ticket to Royal Melbourne.
Jason Day was probably always going to get one of the picks but he needed to play well after his recent lengthy break from tournament golf and today was the perfect way to display his readiness.
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,” said Day
“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.
“I’m excited to see how the rest of the week goes. 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.”
Im was Rookie of the Year on the PGA Tour and having won a Korean Tour event last week he has again started well with a round of 68 to be knocking on the door once again.
Grillo recovered from a slow start with a closing nine of 32 to be close enough if good enough over the final 54 holes. He, too, will need something special over the next two weeks, having missed his last two cuts and is perhaps on the outside looking in but something special this week or next and you never know.
Frittelli has been playing well in the new season and did win on the PGA Tour in July so a good finish here or in Japan might be good enough.
The final decisions will of course be made by Ernie Els but he must be delighted that those in the mix are showing the appropriate form at just the right time.
Day heads the Australians at 6 under with Cameron Smith just one behind after his round of 67, Marc Leishman and Matt Jones 72 and Won Joon Lee 74.