Beleaguered Thomas struggles
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.