Bril­liant Thomas

> Amer­ica over­turns four-shot deficit to de­fend CIMB ti­tle

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

JUSTIN THOMAS fired a fi­nal round eight-un­der-64 to over­turn a four-shot deficit at the start of the day and suc­cess­fully de­fend his CIMB Clas­sic ti­tle in Kuala Lumpur yes­ter­day.

The 23-year-old Amer­i­can cap­i­talised on overnight leader Anir­ban Lahiri’s quadru­ple bo­gey nine on the par-five third hole to re­take a lead he had held over the first two days be­fore eas­ing clear to win by three shots with a 23-un­der to­tal.

“This is what you play for, to get into these sit­u­a­tions and han­dle them well, like I did, and it’s just a great start to the year,” Thomas said in a green­side in­ter­view af­ter seal­ing vic­tory in the sec­ond event on the 2017 PGA Tour cal­en­dar.

Lahiri was search­ing for a maiden PGA Tour win at the TPC Kuala Lumpur course but the five-shot swing af­ter he lodged his tee shot in a tree left the In­dian with too much to do and he had to set­tle for a tie for third, four strokes back.

Ja­pan’s Hideki Mat­suyama birdied the last two holes to sign for a 66 and claim sec­ond place on 20-un­der, with Lahiri (72) and Amer­i­can first round co-leader Derek Fathauer (67) round­ing out the top four a fur­ther shot adrift.

Af­ter look­ing im­pe­ri­ous in the first two rounds, Thomas suf­fered a mid-round melt­down on Satur­day when he dropped four shots in three holes be­fore a run of five con­sec­u­tive birdies from the 14th kept him in touch with a surg­ing Lahiri.

Thomas main­tained his hot streak yes­ter­day with four birdies on his open­ing five holes to forge a two-shot lead over his fal­ter­ing In­dian play­ing part­ner and the Amer­i­can felt the clos­ing stretch the pre­vi­ous day had set up his vic­tory charge.

“I felt like maybe that was the big­gest five holes I had played in my life be­cause it gave me a chance,” he added. “If I am go­ing into to­day eight or nine back then I have no chance, so it gave me a lot of mo­men­tum and kept me in strik­ing dis­tance.”

Thomas man­aged to keep his chal­lengers at bay with some solid scram­bling af­ter the turn be­fore an ex­quis­ite ap­proach from 108 yards set up birdie on 16. He moved four clear of the field when he sank a mon­ster putt on the next.

“I had lit­tle stretch there yes­ter­day where I played pretty poorly but (caddy) Jimmy (Johnson) did an un­be­liev­able job this week keep­ing me calm when it got tough ... I made some key up and downs on 12 and 13 and it feels great,” Thomas added.

Aus­tralia’s Marc Leish­man fired a six­un­der 66 to fin­ish alone in fifth place on 17un­der, one ahead of Amer­i­can Kee­gan Bradley (68), who wilted on the back nine af­ter climb­ing into con­tention go­ing out. – Reuters

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