Fri, Oct 13, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Smith charges to CIMB Classic lead with flawless 64

Reuters, KUALA LUMPUR

Australian Cameron Smith yesterday blitzed the Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club with a flawless eight-under-par 64 to take a one-stroke lead over a top-quality field after the opening round of the US$7 million CIMB Classic.

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 final five holes to stand a shot clear of Thai Poom Saksansin and Americans Xander Schauffele and Keegan Bradley.

World No. 4 Justin Thomas, who has won the tournament for the past 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 two-under 70.

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 yesterday after mixing four birdies with two bogeys.

Schauffele, who last month edged Thomas by a stroke to win the Tour Championship in Atlanta, Georgia, 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, this year’s PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, 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.

“It was boring, which I guess is a good thing out here,” Schauffele 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 titleholder 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 last year.

Taiwan’s Pan Cheng-tsung finished tied for 23rd after carding a two-under 70.

Additional reporting by staff writer

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