Promising young American Justin Thomas claimed his first PGA Tour title with a hard-fought win in the CIMB Classic at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club (KLGCC).
The 22-year-old Thomas recovered from a double bogey at the par-four 14th to birdie his next three holes and save par from a bunker at the last, carding a closing 66 to on KLGCC’s West Course to set a tournament record total of 26-under-par.
Former World No 1 Adam Scott of Australia meanwhile blazed home with a 63 to set the clubhouse target of 25-under-par, which in the end proved just short for the 2013 Masters champion as he settled for second place.
American Kevin Na, joint runner-up here in 2014, and compatriot Brendan Steele shared third place on 24-under-par. Playing with Steele and Thomas who were the joint overnight leaders, Na had a chance to force a playoff but missed a number of birdie opportunities on the closing stretch.
Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama was the best placed Asian in fifth place after a 67 while Anirban Lahiri of India finished tied 21st to put one hand on the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit.
After draining a nervy five-footer on the last green to seal the win, Thomas said: “It’s tough to win. I understand we’re in a sport where the winning percentage isn’t in your favor. I’ve put myself in positions to win, and I just need to continue to do so.”
“It was really nice to make those birdies after that double on 14. I’m probably more proud of that than winning the tournament. The only thing you could do is what I did, just laugh it off. It was that bad of a shot in the circumstance,” said Thomas of his mishit approach shot at 14 that found water.
“I told myself I had four holes left, that I was leading at that point, fortunately, and if I was tied or one back when that happened it would have been a huge deal. I really felt very calm and great all day. The only time I really was nervous and jittery was on 18 probably hitting that bunker shot. And obviously the putt, if you couldn’t tell by how far past I hit it (first putt),” he added.
Thomas is expected to break into the world’s top-30 with his career breakthrough victory. He is the seventh-consecutive winner on the PGA Tour in his 20s, dating back to 27-year-old Jason Day’s triumph at The Barclays.
Ben Leong finished as the best Malaysian after shooting a superb 66, finishing in 64th place on three-under-par. Danny Chia was a shot further back in 68th place on two-under-par, while Arie Irawan was 75th on seven-over-par.
Results (Top 5 and ties):
262 (-26): Justin Thomas 68-61-67-66
263 (-25): Adam Scott 68-68-66-63
264 (-24): Brendan Steele 67-63-66-68, Kevin Na 67-66-64-67
266 (-22): Hideki Matsuyama 65-66-68-67