Brilliant defending champion Justin Thomas unsatisfied despite CIMB Classic lead

The 23-year-old American cards a bogey-free a six-under-par 66 on Friday to sit two shots clear of India’s Anirban Lahiri

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 October, 2016, 7:13pm
UPDATED : Friday, 21 October, 2016, 10:37pm

Justin Thomas remained composed after a bogey-free a six-under-par 66 on Friday, but that was hardly surprising for a defending champion who continued his mastery of the CIMB Classic to stay on top after 36 holes.

The 23-year-old American used pinpoint wedge shots to once again take advantage of ideal scoring conditions in sultry Malaysia to progress to 14-under overall and two shots ahead of India’s Anirban Lahiri.

“It was a solid day. It was nothing special for sure. First seven holes, I didn’t feel like I played very well,” said Thomas, who shot an eight-under 64 in his first round.

“I’m not crazy satisfied. I’m obviously happy with the round, and I probably would have taken it before the day started but I definitely left some shots out there.”

Watch: Interview with Justin Thomas

It didn’t show, however after keeping himself just off the record-setting pace he rode to victory last year after Thomas won in 2015 by going 26-under-par for the event to earn his maiden PGA Tour title.

Lahiri nearly ended the day level with Thomas, but the 2015 Asian Tour order of merit champion faltered at the finish with a double-bogey seven on the par five 18th.

Watch: Second round highlights

“I’ve been playing well,” said Lahiri, who missed out on winning last week’s Venetian Macao Open after losing to unheralded Thai Pavit Tangkamolpraset in a play-off.

“It’s just very disappointing to finish the way I did. I would have liked to be in a better position the way I’ve played, but it’s not over yet.”

Scotland’s Russell Knox, James Hahn of the United States, and Hideki Matsuyama of Japan were another shot adrift of Lahiri at 11-under at the par 72 TPC Kuala Lumpur.

Knox jumped into contention after carding nine birdies in a 63, which was the lowest score of the week so far, but a mark that may not last given the pace of scoring.

‘Captain America’ Patrick Reed to bring his Ryder Cup heroics to Hong Kong Open at Fanling

Ryan Moore, a two-time CIMB Classic champion in 2013 and 2014, also stayed within sight of Thomas but he’ll need a blistering weekend to catch up.

Moore, who clinched the winning point for the USA in the recent Ryder Cup, shot eight birdies in a 65 but he is six strokes back of Thomas at eight-under alongside several players including UBS Hong Kong Open-bound Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello.

Watch: Interview with Anirban Lahiri

Adam Scott, the highest-ranked in the field at world number six, saw his title challenge all but dissipate after managing only a three-under-par 69 to sit nine strokes off the pace having finished just a shot behind Thomas last year.

American Ryder Cup winner Patrick Reed, who is also confirmed for the Hong Kong Golf Club at the start of December, is a further two shots off the pace at three-under after only managing a 73 having opened with a four-under 68.