Tough start for Juvic Pagunsan in PGA Tour's Malaysia stop

Justin Thomas from United States practices during the 2017 CIMB Classic at TPC Kuala Lumpur Bukit Kiara. Pix by Aizuddin Saad

Justin Thomas from United States practices during the 2017 CIMB Classic at TPC Kuala Lumpur Bukit Kiara. Pix by Aizuddin Saad

Australian Cameron Smith blitzed the TPC Kuala Lumpur with a flawless eight-under 64 to take a one-stroke lead over a top-quality field after the opening round of the US$7 million (S$9.5m) CIMB Classic yesterday.

Smith, who broke his duck on the PGA Tour in May at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans alongside Jonas Blixt, made birdies at the third, fourth and fifth and picked up further shots at the seventh and ninth to approach the turn in 31.

US PGA champion Justin Thomas has won the event for the past two years and started the defence of his title with an opening 70 that featured five birdies and three bogeys. "I hit a lot of fairways, kind of made an easy day out of it". "The rough has been up apparently compared to previous year, that's what Justin told me at least". "I pretty much tried to copy everything that he did because I figured he's a good guy to imitate out here".

World number three Matsuyama will likely be the 24-year-old's main rival again at the event this year, and could push him to the limit in the sweltering tropical conditions.

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While Thomas' puts himself in a tougher spot to start the event, he can feel better knowing he overcame a four-stroke deficit entering the final round a year ago and still won the event.

"I was supposed to make a list of goals before I came out here and I failed to do so, which might be a good thing", Schauffele said.

Once known as "Jordan Spieth's friend", the Louisville, Kentucky-born golfer returns to Southeast 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. The former PGA Championship victor has a history for fast starts at the CIMB Classic, having shot no worse than 66 in the first round in his four appearances in Malaysia. Among those with 67s who are tied for eight are Brendan Steele, last week's victor at the Safeway Open, and Davis Love III.

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