KUALA LUMPUR • Justin Thomas enjoyed a welcome return to Kuala Lumpur yesterday, when the American golfer kicked off the defence of his CIMB Classic title by surging into a share of the lead at the US$7 million (S$9.7 million) co-sanctioned event.
Thomas, who claimed his sole PGA Tour title at the TPC Kuala Lumpur course last year when he edged out Adam Scott by a stroke, tallied nine birdies and a lone bogey in his first round this time to sign for an eight-under 64.
"It was a good day, it was solid. If there's any such thing as an easy eight under, that was it," he said in a post-round interview.
Derek Fathauer, who was bogey free for his round, and Keegan Bradley matched Thomas' total to move top of the leader board, as the American trio opened a one-shot advantage over in-form Englishman Paul Casey.
Thomas made a fast start with three birdies in five holes. But a bogey on the par-four sixth stalled his progress and two more pars left the 23-year-old struggling for momentum, as he approached the ninth tee on two-under for his round.
After finding the middle of the fairway, a pin-point approach shot to within five feet set up the first of six birdies in eight holes, as he re-acquainted himself with a course he seems to thrive on.
"I just kind of went along with my business today," Thomas added.
"I hit it real close and made a few putts, it was a pretty low-stress day."
The event is co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour.
Day 2: StarHub Ch204, 10.30am