KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS) - American Justin Thomas came close to joining golf's exclusive 59 club after a spectacular birdie blitz in Malaysia on Friday, but instead had to make do with the halfway lead at the PGA Tour's CIMB Classic.
The 22-year-old from Kentucky, in his second year on Tour after a solid rookie season, looked set to achieve golf's magical mark when he reached 11 under after 15 holes of his second round at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.
But he could only par his way in over the closing three holes, including the generous par-five last, to miss out on becoming the seventh player to shoot a 59 on the PGA Tour and first since American Jim Furyk two years ago at the BMW Championship.
Still Thomas, who fired nine birdies and an eagle, will take a one shot lead into the weekend after posting a 15-under 129 tally at the US$7 million (S$9.7 million) co-sanctioned Asian Tour event, the third of the new PGA Tour season.
American Brendan Steele led the chasing pack after a bogey free nine-under 63 left him at 14-under and in sight of only his second PGA Tour title and first in more than four years.
Overnight leader Scott Piercy fell down the field into a share of third after a modest 69, with two bogeys halting his progress, left him at 13-under.
That was a mark matched by Japan's Hideki Matsuyama, who followed up his opening 65 with a 66 on Friday, to sit level with American Spencer Levin (64).
The event, which has no cut and is in its sixth year, has always provided a bounty of birdies for the field and the 2015 edition has proved no different with only 10 of the 78 players over par after the second round.
One of them was Singapore's Mardan Mamat, who turns 48 on Saturday. He shot a 73 to add to his opening 74 for a three-over 147 to be tied for 73rd. He enjoyed four birdies but spoilt his card with two bogeys, and a triple bogey on the 13th hole.