THE CJ CUP: Justin Thomas hoping to find his Jeju mojo in Las Vegas

The American star is a two-time winner of this week’s event but he’ll be bidding to land the hat-trick in very different conditions.

It's reasonable to think that THE CJ CUP moving from South Korea to the United States would be excellent news for the American players.

Less travel, no big time difference to deal with and the benefit of all the usual home comforts.

And yet one man who may feel a little wistful at this week's event being played in Las Vegas rather than Jeju Island is one of the USA's Ryder Cup team.

Justin Thomas was the inaugural winner of THE CJ CUP when it hosted Korea's first PGA TOUR event in 2017.

Conditions were tough at the Nine Bridges course on windy Jeju Island and Thomas emerged victorious in a playoff with Aussie Marc Leishman after both players had finished at 9-under.

Two years later, Thomas won at Jeju island again, this time cashing in on a much more scorable course and taking the title with 20-under.

Last year the tournament moved to Shadow Creek in Vegas and Thomas had to settle for tied 12th. Not bad but it was hard not to think he could have fared better back at Nine Bridges.

Thomas' first two PGA Tour titles came in the CIMB Classic in Malaysia so if any of the top American stars are regretting the pandemic causing postponement of the PGA Tour's Asian Swing it's him.

Of course, JT is capable of winning anywhere and he closed the previous season with two fourth place finishes in his final three events.

However, beyond a superb victory in the prestigious PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass back in March, it wasn't exactly the season he wanted.

Thomas didn't manage a single top 15 in the Majors and failed to post multiple wins for the first time since the 2015-16 season.

Can he make an immediate impression and win his first start of the 2021-22 campaign?

Thomas' record in Nevada

JT has teed it up just twice in Nevada.

He shot 72-66-68-74 to finish tied 12th in this event at Shadow Creek last year while his only other tournament in the state resulted in a missed cut in the Shriners at TPC Summerlin.

On the 2020/21 season

"Last year it was an up-and-down year. I got started off pretty well, had some -- kind of this time of the year in the fall I was playing well, and then played well there in Hawaii and just really just kind of had a little bit of an up-and-down patch.

"I just didn't -- wasn't showing the consistency that I feel like I could or just kind of finishing off tournaments how I felt like I could. I was close to playing well for a while, but just wasn't really able to get much result-wise out of it.

"Then obviously THE PLAYERS was nice, to win that event and at least kind of try to build a little bit of momentum, a little bit more of the same kind of as the rest of the year went on.

"I really feel like I kind of found some good stuff there at the end of the season and into the Playoffs to where I started playing a little bit better, and hopefully we'll be able to take some of that into this fall and into the 2021-22 season."

On not playing this event in South Korea

"I mean obviously I wish we could be spending this time in Jeju island. I have a lot of great memories there, developed a lot of great friendships and relationships.

"It's a cool place, and golf is so unique that we're able to travel the world and go to different places. I mean, it's a great week. The golf course, the food, the hotel.

"Obviously the travel's a little bit easier this week just coming to Vegas versus Jeju, but yeah, it's a great tournament and it's great to see a lot of familiar faces and hopefully we can recreate some of the good memories here in Vegas."

On having Jim 'Bones' Mackay as his permanent caddie

"Obviously I'm comfortable right now and I think he's comfortable now, but I'm sure as more and more events go on, like anything, you just get better and better. At least that's the hope.

"I think that's the exciting part about it is that we're already very confident, I feel like we can do a lot of great things, but at the same time we're just going to continue to learn and know each other better and better and hopefully get more comfortable."

On whether he's played this week's course - The Summit Club - before

"I have been here before. My mom's 60th birthday and my girlfriend's birthday are actually the same day and a couple years ago we came out here before I played at Riviera to celebrate their birthday.

"Mike Meldman, who owns this place, is a very good friend of mine and was fortunate to where we were able to come out. Dexter Fowler's a member here who I'm buddies with just from being in Jupiter, so he took us out, we played.

"It made today and this weather the next couple days look like a hot summer day because it was about 45 and a 25-mile an hour north wind and it was brutal.

"I think we played like 13 or 14 holes, so I remember it somewhat, but it wasn't exactly the most ideal first experience of the course, but at least I have seen it and know somewhat what it's like.

"I came out and practised yesterday before it started blowing 1,000 and I'm just going to work these next couple days to try to get comfortable and feel like I have control of everything.

"At least from what I remember it's all pretty right in front of you and it's not too much tricked up or hidden and I would think the scores would be pretty low this week."

READ MORE: THE CJ CUP betting tips: Back Rory McIlroy to gain second PGA Tour win of the calendar year

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