Thomas banks on resolve to retain CIMB crown

CIMB Classic winner Justin Thomas shaking hands with Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak during the award ceremony, as chairman of CIMB Group Nazir Razak applauds. The American attributed his latest win to "the biggest five holes" he played in the
CIMB Classic winner Justin Thomas shaking hands with Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak during the award ceremony, as chairman of CIMB Group Nazir Razak applauds. The American attributed his latest win to "the biggest five holes" he played in the third round.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

KUALA LUMPUR • Justin Thomas fired a final-round eight-under 64 to overturn a four-shot overnight deficit and retain his CIMB Classic title yesterday.

The 23-year-old American golfer capitalised on overnight leader Anirban Lahiri's quadruple-bogey nine on the par-five third hole to retake a lead he had held over the first two days. He then eased clear to win by three shots with a 265 total.

"This is what you play for, to get into these situations and handle them well, like I did, and it's just a great start to the year," said Thomas, after cementing victory in the second event on the 2017 PGA Tour calendar.

Lahiri, last year's Asian Tour Order of Merit winner,was searching for a maiden PGA Tour win at the TPC Kuala Lumpur course but the five-shot swing after he lodged his tee shot in a tree left the Indian with too much to do.

He had to settle for a tie for third after a 72 with American first-round co-leader Derek Fathauer (67), four strokes back.

Japan's Hideki Matsuyama birdied the last two holes to sign for a 66 and claim second place on 268.

After looking imperious in the first two rounds, Thomas suffered a mid-round meltdown on Saturday when he dropped four shots in three holes.

But a run of five consecutive birdies from the 14th kept him in touch with a surging Lahiri.

He maintained his hot streak yesterday with four birdies on his opening five holes to forge a two-shot lead over his faltering Indian playing partner. Thomas felt the closing stretch the previous day had set up his victory charge.

"I felt like maybe that was the biggest five holes I had played in my life because it gave me a chance," he said. "If I am going into today eight or nine back then I have no chance, so it gave me a lot of momentum and kept me in striking distance."

He managed to keep his challengers at bay with some solid scrambling after the turn, before an exquisite approach from 108 yards set up birdie on the 16th hole. He moved four clear of the field when he sank a monster putt on the next hole.

The US$7 million (S$9.8 million) limited-field event is co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour.

Thomas pocketed US$1.26 million, 500 FedExCup points and an invite to the winners-only Tournament of Champions next year.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2016, with the headline 'Thomas banks on resolve to retain CIMB crown'. Print Edition | Subscribe