Flaw­less play sees Smith grab lead at CIMB Clas­sic

The Witness - - SPORT -

AUS­TRALIAN Cameron Smith blitzed the TPC Kuala Lumpur with a flaw­less eight­un­der­par 64 to take a one­stroke lead over a top­qual­ity field after the open­ing round of the $7 mil­lion CIMB Clas­sic in Malaysia yes­ter­day.

Smith, who won his first PGA ti­tle at the Zurich Clas­sic team event in May, picked up five shots on the way out and three more over the last five holes to stand a shot clear of Thai Poom Sak­sansin and Amer­i­cans Xan­der Schauf­fele and Kee­gan Bradley.

World num­ber four Justin Thomas, who has won the tour­na­ment for the last two years with a com­bined score of 49­un­der, left him­self with some work to do in his quest for a “three­p­eat” after post­ing a two­un­der 70. Hideki Mat­suyama, who passed up the chance to de­fend his Ja­pan Open ti­tle to play in Malaysia this week, is a spot above Thomas in the world rank­ings and matched his score yes­ter­day after mix­ing four birdies with two bo­geys.

Schauf­fele, who edged Thomas by a stroke to win the Tour Cham­pi­onship in At­lanta last month, never looked back after open­ing with a birdie and then chip­ping­in from off the green for an­other at his third hole.

The 23­year­old Cal­i­for­nian PGA Tour rookie of the year for 2017, picked up an­other five shots over the re­main­ing 15 holes and sug­gested his er­ror­free 65 had been as much the re­sult of avoid­ing the lush trop­i­cal rough as any­thing.

“It was bor­ing, which I guess is a good thing out here,” he said.

“I hit a lot of fair­ways, kind of made an easy day out of it. I tried to copy ev­ery­thing [Justin] did as I fig­ured he’s a good guy to im­i­tate out here.”

PGA Cham­pi­onship ti­tle­holder Thomas also picked up shots in two of his first three holes but his round never re­ally got go­ing de­spite the birdiefriendly con­di­tions. Two bo­geys on his back nine left him six shots off the pace in a share of 23rd but the 24­year­old can­not be writ­ten off after eras­ing a four­shot deficit in the fi­nal round to re­tain his ti­tle last year.

Kevin Na nailed a 45­foot putt for a birdie at the 15th and then holed an iron for an ea­gle at the 16th but bo­geyed the last to drop to a share of fifth with fel­low Amer­i­cans Gary Wood­land and Pat Perez after card­ing a 66.

Davis Love III also threat­ened the grip of the twen­tysome­things at the top of the leader­board with five straight birdies from the sec­ond but the 53­yearold stum­bled on the back nine and fin­ished tied for eighth after a 67.

PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES

South Africa’s Charles Schwartzel in ac­tion dur­ing round one of the CIMB Clas­sic in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, yes­ter­day. Schwartzel fin­ished the day six shots be­hind leader Cameron Smith of Aus­tralia.

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