Young American Justin Thomas played his way around TPC Kuala Lumpur in eight under par 64 to co-lead the CIMB Classic with Keegan Bradley and Derek Fathauer.
Thomas shot both the course record (61) and tournament-low score (26 under par) to win in Malaysia last year and has since risen to 35th in the world rankings.
‘I’ve never had the opportunity to defend before. The only other time I won professionally was the Web.com [Tour] and I wasn’t there the next year. It’s cool. It’s fun being back,’ said Thomas.
— Asian Tour (@asiantourgolf) October 20, 2016
The 23-year-old from Kentucky made five birdies on the inward nine to sign for 64, proving his affinity for the island track.
‘Yeah, it was a good day, it was solid. If there’s such thing as an easy eight under, it was. I wedged it great and took advantage of the first three par fives …just went along my business today. It was a pretty low-stress day,’ he said.
Bradley went out in 30 strokes and eagled the 10th on the way to his share of the lead, while Fathauer’s path was a bogey-free 18 peppered with birdies.
Tyrone van Aswegen led the South African charge with a three under par 69 that was a true reflection of his ability. The world number 266 started on the 10th and cruised to five under par, but he double-bogeyed the sixth hole to slip into a share of 16th place.
Brandon Grace and Ernie Els each shot two under par 70 to join an 18-way tie for 26th place. The jam-packed leaderboard was indicative of the getable conditions, so both Grace and Els will be targeting a low round on Friday.