Thomas comes full circle at CIMB Classic

Justin Thomas tees off on the first hole during the final round singles matches of The President's Cup golf tournament at Liberty National Golf Course in Jersey City, New Jersey, USA, on Oct 1, 2017.
Justin Thomas tees off on the first hole during the final round singles matches of The President's Cup golf tournament at Liberty National Golf Course in Jersey City, New Jersey, USA, on Oct 1, 2017.PHOTO: USA TODAY SPORTS

KUALA LUMPUR • Only weeks after capping his brilliant season with the US$10 million (S$13.6 million) bonus as FedExCup champion, Justin Thomas heads back to his happy hunting ground at the CIMB Classic, seeking a hat-trick of titles in Malaysia.

Much has changed for the 24-year-old American since his last trip to TPC Kuala Lumpur, when he was still an unproven, if highly regarded talent coming off his rookie season.

A three-stroke win to retain his CIMB Classic title last year underlined his pedigree, however, and was the springboard for a stellar campaign featuring five wins, including a maiden Major title and last month's FedExCup triumph.

"It would be an unbelievable achievement," he said of winning a third straight CIMB Classic title. "It's so hard to win out here and there are so many great players - it would be awesome."

The PGA Championship winner returns to South-east Asia as the PGA Tour's Player of the Year and in the wake of an impressive debut for the United States in their dominant Presidents Cup win.

Repeating his heroics will be a stiff challenge, but the co-sanctioned CIMB Classic could be the perfect platform for another fine season for the world No. 4. That is if fatigue can be kept at bay.

After the frenetic finish to last season, Thomas will take a break only after playing next week's CJ Cup, South Korea's first PGA Tour-sanctioned event.

He will also be up against a quality field in the PGA Tour's second event of the 2017-18 season, including Japan's world No. 3 Hideki Matsuyama.

Apart from Thomas, eight other Major winners are in the restricted field of 78 at the US$7 million tournament, including Americans Keegan Bradley, Stewart Cink and Jason Dufner, and South Africans Ernie Els, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel.

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2017, with the headline 'Thomas comes full circle at CIMB Classic'. Print Edition | Subscribe