birdie Smith upstages quality field at CIMB Classic
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[October 12, 2017]
KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) -
Australian Cameron Smith blitzed the TPC Kuala Lumpur with a
flawless eight-under-par 64 to take a one-stroke lead over a
top-quality field after the opening round of the $7 million CIMB
Classic on Thursday.
Smith, who won his first PGA title at the Zurich Classic team event
in May, picked up five shots on the way out and three more over the
last five holes to stand a shot clear of Thai Poom Saksansin and
Americans Xander Schauffele and Keegan Bradley.
World number four Justin Thomas, who has won the tournament for the
last two years with a combined score of 49-under, left himself with
some work to do in his quest for a "three-peat" after posting a
Hideki Matsuyama, who passed up the chance to defend his Japan Open
title to play in Malaysia this week, is a spot above Thomas in the
world rankings and matched his score on Thursday after mixing four
birdies with two bogeys.
Schauffele, who edged Thomas by a stroke to win the Tour
Championship in Atlanta last month, never looked back after opening
with a birdie and then chipping-in from off the green for another at
his third hole.
The 23-year-old Californian, PGA Tour rookie of the year for 2017,
picked up another five shots over the remaining 15 holes and
suggested his error-free 65 had been as much the result of avoiding
the lush tropical rough as anything.
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"It was boring, which I guess is a good thing out here," he said.
"I hit a lot of fairways, kind of made an easy day out of it. I
tried to copy everything (Justin) did as I figured he's a good guy
to imitate out here."
PGA Championship title-holder Thomas also picked up shots in two of
his first three holes but his round never really got going despite
the birdie-friendly conditions.
Two bogeys on his back nine left him six shots off the pace in a
share of 23rd but the 24-year-old cannot be written off after
erasing a four-shot deficit in the final round to retain his title
Kevin Na nailed a 45-foot putt for a birdie at the 15th and then
holed an iron for an eagle at the 16th but bogeyed the last to drop
to a share of fifth with fellow Americans Gary Woodland and Pat
Perez after carding a 66.
Davis Love III also threatened the grip of the twentysomethings at
the top of the leaderboard with five straight birdies from the
second but the 53-year-old stumbled on the back nine and finished
tied for eighth after a 67.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney; Editing by Peter Rutherford)
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