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Players downplay safety concerns at new Korea event

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As the PGA Tour embarks upon uncharted territory with the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges, any lingering concerns about player safety in southeast Asia appear to have been assuaged.

This week's 78-man event is on Jeju Island, the largest island in South Korea and approximately 300 miles south of the nation's capital of Seoul. It marks the first Tour event in South Korea since the 2015 Presidents Cup and the first-ever regular Tour stop held in the country. But South Korea technically remains at war with neighboring North Korea, and global tensions surrounding the bellicose nation continue to grow.

Graeme McDowell won a European Tour on Jeju Island in 2008, and he is playing this week on a sponsor invite. McDowell told reporters Tuesday that the PGA Tour's security department has been in contact with players for "the last few months" leading up to the event.

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"From my point of view, of course the world is a crazy place right now. There are things happening all over the world," McDowell said. "We know that we wouldn't be playing in an event here if it wasn't safe to be here. Thankfully, we are getting great advice and great information."

The inaugural edition is not lacking for starpower, with Justin Thomas, Jason Day and Adam Scott headlining the field. Sixty of the 78 spots have been allocated based on FedExCup standing last season, with No. 96 Camilo Villegas snagging the final spot. A similar provision for the field at last week's CIMB Classic in Malaysia extended to No. 106, Richy Werenski.

Marc Leishman is making his season debut after reaching last month's Tour Championship, and the Aussie has some experience in this part of the world having played on the Korean Tour in 2006. Like McDowell, he believes the Tour has been effective in communicating with participants.

"As far as all the stuff that's happening politically, it was a different time 11 years ago but the same sort of thing was happening then," Leishman said. "There was tensions, but once you are here you are fine. I feel very safe. Obviously a lot of security here, and I am not at all worried. I wouldn't have come if I was worried."