KUALA LUMPUR • American Justin Thomas' hopes of a "three-peat" at the CIMB Classic are fading after he carded a disappointing 71 in the second round yesterday.
Thomas, who has won the tournament for the last two years with a combined score of 49 under, was tied for 33rd at three-under 141.
He also equalled his poorest round score in the competition - a 71 in the third round last year.
The 24-year-old, however, managed to erase a four-shot deficit in the final round to claim his second CIMB Classic title.
As it stands, Thomas is 10 shots behind second-round leader and compatriot Pat Perez.
The 41-year-old returned to the course with a hot putter after a lengthy delay due to a storm, carding a seven-under 65 to claim a one-stroke lead at the halfway stage of the US$7 million (S$9.4 million) tournament in Kuala Lumpur.
Perez was one-under when he made the turn, but then scorched the course by picking up six birdies on his final eight holes to end with a two-day total of 131.
Birdies Pat Perez made on his final eight holes in round two.
Fellow American Xander Schauffele, who started a shot behind overnight leader Cameron Smith of Australia, carded a 67 to sit a shot behind Perez.
"I don't want sunshine at all. It's too hot, way too hot," Perez said. "I like it just the way it is right now, perfect. Cloudy, no wind.
"I didn't think I really played that well. I got off to a slow start, we had the break and just went out. I like the front, I play better on the front.
"Made some decent shots and I putted pretty well today. My short game was good so that saved me."
The event, co-sanctioned by the PGA and Asian Tours, features a smaller than usual field and there is no cut with the 78 players scheduled to complete all four rounds.
Players were taken off the course during the second round yesterday due to the threat of lightning, which caused a delay of close to four hours.
Overnight leader Smith struggled, shooting a second-round 71 and slipped down to a share of third spot - four shots off the pace - with South Korean Sung Kang (68) and Belgian Thomas Pieters (67).
World No. 3 Hideki Matsuyama, who was in the same group as Perez, carded a 68 and was tied for eighth after starting his round with two birdies in three holes.
"I'm going to try to hit it better," Perez said.
"You're going to have to putt well anyway. Anytime you're trying to win, you've got to putt well. So the guy that wins hits it pretty good, but he putts the best, he scores the best.
"I've got to try to do the same thing on the weekend. Obviously (like) Justin, as he did it with low scores last year, the last two years."
Day 3: StarHub Ch204, 11am