Be­lea­guered Thomas strug­gles

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - SPORTS -

Justin Thomas col­lected the Jack Nick­laus Award as the U.S. PGA Tour player of the year a cou­ple of days be­fore head­ing to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in a bid to win his third suc­ces­sive CIMB Classic.

Lit­tle won­der then the two-time defending cham­pion was slightly off his game in the first round on Thurs­day, man­ag­ing only a 2-un­der-par 70 to sit six strokes be­hind leader Cameron Smith of Aus­tralia.

Smith opened with a blem­ish-free 8-un­der 64 and leads a U.S. PGA Tour event af­ter the first round for the first time in 64 starts.

Kee­gan Bradley, Xan­der Schauf­fele and Poom Sak­sansin of Thai­land were tied for sec­ond at 7 un­der.

Bren­dan Steele, com­ing off a vic­tory last week at the Safe­way Open, had an open­ing 67 to be three shots off the lead.

Thomas has barely had time to catch his breath af­ter win­ning the FedEx Cup and play­ing in the Pres­i­dents Cup. He won his first tour ti­tle here two years ago. He suc­cess­fully de­fended it last year, and has had a trans­for­ma­tive 2017 in which he’s won five ti­tles and his first ma­jor, the U.S. Open.

He’s aim­ing to be the first player to win the same tour­na­ment three years in a row since Steve Stricker at the John Deer Classic from 2009-’11.

LPGA Tour: Sung Hyun Park birdied her last two holes for a 6-un­der 66 and a share of the lead in the KEB Hana Bank Cham­pi­onship in In­cheon, South Korea, as she bol­stered her bid to win rookie of the year and player of the year hon­ors.

Park was tied for the first-round lead with Min-Sun Kim and Min­jee Lee.

Park, who won the U.S. Women’s Open this year for her first ma­jor and is No. 2 in the world, was play­ing Thurs­day in the fea­tured group at Sky 72 Golf & Re­sort com­pris­ing the top three play­ers in the world rank­ing.

The top-ranked So Yeon Ryu opened with a 72, while Lexi Thomp­son had a 69.

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