Thomas fal­ters in CIMB Clas­sic ti­tle de­fence

Oman Daily Observer - - FRONT PAGE -

KUALA LUMPUR: Two-time de­fend­ing cham­pion Justin Thomas got off to a shaky start at the CIMB Clas­sic on Thurs­day with a two-un­der­par 70, which left him lan­guish­ing at the back of the pack.

Aus­tralian Cameron Smith, ranked num­ber 151 in the world, took the lead with a sparkling eight-un­der-par 64.

Thomas was in tied 23rd place and other favourites also fared badly at the PGA Tour event in Malaysia, with both Ja­pan’s Hideki Mat­suyama and In­dia’s Anir­ban Lahiri trail­ing the lead­ers.

Thomas is com­ing off the back of a break­through sea­son dur­ing which he racked up five wins in­clud­ing a maiden ma­jor vic­tory and was named the 2017 PGA Tour Player of the Year.

The world num­ber four is hop­ing for a third con­sec­u­tive win at the CIMB Clas­sic, and opened his cam­paign with three birdies in the first nine holes at TPC Kuala Lumpur.

But the Amer­i­can, who started on the 10th, fal­tered after his promis­ing start and hit three bo­geys, leav­ing him to play catch-up against Smith.

It was his sec­ond-worst round in his CIMB Clas­sic ca­reer.

Smith scored eight birdies be­come the solo overnight leader.

“It was pretty sim­ple really, hit a lot of good shots to­day and made a lot of good putts,” he said.

“Same plan to­mor­row. Really smart off the tee and just try and get in the fair­way and then really ag­gres­sive into the greens and ob­vi­ously hole some putts.”

One shot be­hind Smith to are Thai­land’s Poom Sak­sansin, Amer­i­can Kee­gan Bradley and freshly crowned Tour Cham­pi­onship win­ner Xan­der Schauf­fele, also from the US.

Schauf­fele, who hit a course low of 65, said he had “hit a lot of fair­ways and kind of made an easy day out of it”.

In­dia’s Lahiri, in tied eighth place with a five-un­der 67, said he was “a lit­tle dis­ap­pointed”.

“Ob­vi­ously got off to a red hot start and then couldn’t cap­i­talise on the (higher) scor­ing part of the golf course,” he said.

The golfers could be in for a tough day on Fri­day, with thun­der­storms set to de­scend on Kuala Lumpur.

The $7 mil­lion CIMB Clas­sic is jointly sanc­tioned by the Asian Tour and PGA Tour. First round (par 72): 64 - Cameron Smith (AUS) 65 - Poom Sak­sansin (THA), Xan­der Schauf­fele

(USA), Kee­gan Bradley (USA) 66 - Kevin Na (USA), Gary Wood­land Perez (USA) - Bren­dan Steele (USA), Anir­ban Lahiri (IND), Phachara Khong­wat­mai (THA), Davis Love III (USA), Rafa Cabr­era Bello (ESP), Kang SungHoon (KOR) 68 - Michael Kim (USA), Kim Wee (KOR), Hud­son Swaf­ford (USA), Thomas Pi­eters (BEL), Chez Reavie (USA) 69 - Jim Her­man (USA), Ian Poul­ter (ENG), David Lip­sky (USA), Jonas Blixt (SWE) - CT Pan (TPE), Jazz Janewat­tananond (THA), Nick Tay­lor (CAN), Ben Crane (USA), Mor­gan Hoff­mann (USA), Jamie Love­mark (USA), Scott Brown (USA), Justin Thomas (USA), Charl Schwartzel (RSA), Danny Chia (MAS), Patrick Rodgers (USA), Luke List (USA), Hideki Mat­suyama (JPN), Kelly Kraft (USA) 67 70 (USA), Pat

Cameron Smith

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