Saturday, 21 October, 2017

Cameron Smith holds early one-shot lead at CIMB Classic in Malaysia

Thomas is looking to win the event for a third year in a row Thomas is looking to win the event for a third year in a row
Nellie Chapman | 13 October, 2017, 09:36

Australian Cameron Smith blitzed the TPC Kuala Lumpur with a flawless eight-under 64 to take a one-stroke lead over a top-quality field after the opening round of the US$7 million (S$9.5m) CIMB Classic yesterday.

Smith, 24, victor along with Jonas Blixt at last April's Zurich Classic of New Orleans, made eight birdies in his first start of the new tour season.

Thomas mixed five birdies with three bogeys to join Hideki Matsuyama in the group on two under, while Paul Casey is third from bottom of the leaderboard after a five-over 77. His previous best start in 63 tour events is a T-2 at the 2016 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, where he eventually finished T-11. PGA Tour rookie of the year Xander Schauffele is making his first start since winning the Tour Championship. He changed the script today after hitting the ground running with four red circles in his first six holes.

"I was supposed to make a list of goals before I came out here and I failed to do so, which might be a good thing", Schauffele said. "I pretty much tried to copy everything he did because I figured he's a good guy to imitate out here".

The Australian posted eight birdies in a blemish-free display in Kuala Lumpur to top the leaderboard ahead of Keegan Bradley, Tour Championship victor Xander Schauffele and Thailand's Poom Saksansin.

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.

World number three Matsuyama will likely be the 24-year-old's main rival again at the event this year, and could push him to the limit in the sweltering tropical conditions.

Also tied in second is Keegan Bradley. He won his first tour title here two years ago.

Three players are tied for fifth with 66s: Kevin Na, Gary Woodland and Pat Perez.

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