KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Justin Thomas gathered the Jack Nicklaus Award as the U.S. PGA Tour participant of the calendar year a few of days ahead of heading to Malaysia in a bid to win his third successive CIMB Vintage.

Minor wonder then the two-time defending champion was marginally off his game in the first round Thursday, controlling only a 2-below-par 70 to sit 6 strokes driving leader Cameron Smith of Australia.

Smith opened with a blemish-totally free eight-below sixty four and prospects a U.S. PGA Tour occasion immediately after the first round for the first time in sixty four begins.

Keegan Bradley, Xander Schauffele and Poom Saksansin of Thailand were tied for next at 7 below.

Brendan Steele, coming off a victory last week at the Safeway Open up, had an opening sixty seven and is three shots off the direct.

Thomas has hardly had time to capture his breath immediately after successful the FedEx Cup and actively playing in the Presidents Cup. He gained his first tour title listed here two yrs in the past. He productively defended it last calendar year, and has had a transformative 2017 in which he has gained five titles and his first major, the U.S. Open up.

He is aiming to be the first participant to win the exact same match three yrs in a row considering that Steve Stricker at the John Deer Vintage from 2009-eleven.

Schauffele, the U.S. tour rookie of the calendar year, claimed he was using a good deal of recognize of how Thomas approaches this training course and is attempting to preserve it easy.

“The tough has been up apparently in contrast to last calendar year, which is what Justin told me,” he claimed. “I pretty significantly tried to copy all the things that he did for the reason that I figured he is a excellent dude to imitate out listed here.”

Thomas blended five birdies with three bogeys. Schauffele and Poom made seven birdies to go into early competition, though Bradley eagled the twelfth hole to make amends for his sole bogey.

Smith posted a blemish-totally free round of 8 birdies, like five on the front 9 for a sixty four.

“The placing was quick, actually,” Smith claimed.

He is chasing his next title of the calendar year immediately after successful the Zurich Vintage in April.

The American trio of Kevin Na, Gary Woodland and Pat Perez are also in competition in the Asian Tour occasion immediately after carding 66s.

Hideki Matsuyama, the 2016 runner-up, faltered with two bogeys to sit with Thomas in a tie for 23rd position.

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