In late 2016, the PGA TOUR announced THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES would be added to the TOUR’s 2017-18 FedExCup Regular Season schedule, with the 78-player event becoming the country’s first official PGA TOUR tournament. Seven months later, the TOUR revealed the tournament’s eligibility categories as top PGA TOUR players along with players from the Korean Tour and the Asian Tour will compete in the 72-hole event, scheduled for October 19-22 at Jeju Island’s NINE BRIDGES.
Using the tournament slogan ‘Bridge to Realization’, THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES strives to provide players from the region an opportunity to compete at a high-class level against the best players in the world. With that in mind, THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES is likely to field the most Korean players in PGA TOUR history.
The tournament has set aside five playing spots for members of the Korean Golf Tour. The winners of both the KPGA Championship (June 22-25) and the newly sanctioned Genesis Championship (September 21-24) will receive invitations to THE CJ CUP. In addition, the top-three players from the Genesis Points, the Korean Golf Tour’s Order of Merit, will also earn invitations to the tournament. The Order of Merit deadline for Genesis Points is after the Caido Series Only Jeju Open (October 9).
“We have watched the growth of golf in South Korea for the last decade-plus and recognize the high-quality skills that Korean players possess as they have competed and won on the PGA TOUR. We look forward to veteran Korean players competing in THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES and anticipate up-and-coming Korean players also taking full advantage of the opportunity to compete on the worldwide stage the PGA TOUR offers,” said Ty Votaw, PGA TOUR Executive Vice President, Global Business Affairs.
“Having a PGA TOUR Regular Season tournament in Korea is extremely meaningful. It’s also exciting that many Korean prospects will get an opportunity to compete at the world-class level. I am confident that THE CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES will play a major role in developing Korean men’s golf,” said KPGA Chairman Hwee-Bu Yang.
The tournament has also reserved two exemptions for Asian Tour players—the Order of Merit leader and the Korean player with the highest Order of Merit standing as of October 9. In addition, the top-three available Korean players in the Official World Golf Ranking, also on October 9, will earn invitations, as well. If any of these three players are already qualified based on their position in the FedExCup or placement within the KPGA or Asian Tour, the exemption(s) will go to the next-highest-ranked player(s).
CJ also will have eight exemptions to offer, with five of those reserved for PGA TOUR members. The other three exemptions have no restrictions.
It is anticipated that there could be upward of 20 players either born in Korea or of Korean descent playing in this inaugural event. Si Woo Kim, a two-time PGA TOUR winner, the 2017 PLAYERS Championship included on his resume, has significantly moved up the FedExCup standings since his victory at TPC Sawgrass in Florida in mid-May. He is currently ranked 22nd. Sung Kang, 30th in the FedExCup standings, is also likely to secure a spot. Numerous other players of Korean heritage, including James Hahn (66th), Kevin Na (81st), Byeong Hun An (85th) and Seung Yul Noh (87th) could also become eligible based upon their standing at conclusion of the FedEx Cup.
“We have worked hard to secure spots for regional players. It will be a wonderful opportunity for them to make their dreams come true. In a PGA TOUR tournament with the largest number of Korean players, we expect a lot of excitement and anticipation from golf fans, many who will be watching PGA TOUR golf for the first time,” said CJ Group Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President Wookho Kyeong.
The PGA TOUR has a rich history in Asia, with the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in China and the CIMB Classic in Malaysia official tournaments on the current schedule. In 2004, the TOUR held the unofficial, 38-player Shinhan Korea Golf Championship, also on Jeju Island, won by Arron Oberholser, and in 2015, The Presidents Cup went to Asia for the first time, with the U.S. team defeating the International team in Incheon, Korea, in the biennial event. Korean Sangmoon Bae and New Zealand’s Danny Lee, who was born in Korea, played for Captain Nick Price’s International squad. In addition, the TOUR has actively been involved in contesting the World Cup of Golf, a tournament that has been held in Asia 13 times, beginning in 1957 in Japan.