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Golf roundup: Thomas blazes to CIMB Classic lead

Associated Press

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia — Justin Thomas had an eagle and nine birdies in shooting a course-record 61 at the CIMB Classic on Friday, taking the lead into the weekend at the PGA Tour’s event in Malaysia.

Thomas moved to 15-under 129 at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club for a one-stroke lead on American compatriot Brendan Steele, who shot a 63 and matched Thomas by having an eagle at the par-5 3rd hole.

First-round leader Scott Piercy had two bogeys on the front nine to shoot a 69 and was in a share of third place, two shots off the leader, along with Spencer Levin, who had a round of 64, and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, who shot 66.

Former No.1 Adam Scott was at 10 under, and two-time defending champion Ryan Moore at 8 under.

For Thomas, a 22-year-old from Louisville, Kentucky, this is the third time he has led at the halfway point of a tour event, but is still seeking his first victory.

His superb round, which included six birdies in a seven-hole stretch from No.9 to 15, disguised his physical struggles as he coped with jetlag and the oppressive tropical heat.

“Thank God for the air-conditioning,” he joked as he walked into his post-round media conference.

“I never have been to this part of the world before and my body is still adjusting. Today was a little better. I even slept in, until 5.30 a.m.”

The extra sleep paid off as he briefly threatened the magical score of 59, requiring birdies from two of the last three holes, but he could not get it done.

Nick Watney also shot a 61 in this tournament in 2012 but that was at a different course with a par of 71.

If Thomas keeps up this form, he could comfortably break the tournament record score of 23-under, set by Bo van Pelt in 2011.

“Being five-under through the first five holes — which are pretty scoreable — made a difference,” said Thomas, whose previous low round was also a 61 at the par-70 Sony Open in Hawaii.

“That got me in that attack mind frame. I did well and gave myself easy birdie putts.”

Piercy also struggled in the heat, slipping down the leaderboard after having been at 13-under following three straight birdies to start his round.

“The heat got to me a little bit today and I made some mistakes,” Piercy said.

LPGA

South Korea’s Sei Young Kim took advantage of Chinese teen Lin Xi-yu’s wind-blown collapse to take the lead in the Blue Bay LPGA on Hainan Island, China.

Kim made a 3-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th for an even-par 72 in difficult conditions along the South China Sea at Jian Lake Blue Bay.

The 22-year-old Kim had a 2-under 142 total. She won playoffs this year in the Bahamas and Hawaii in events also played in strong wind on tropical seaside layouts.

The 19-year-old Lin opened with a 67 to take the first-round lead and was 7 under and five strokes ahead after five holes. She bogeyed eight of the last 13 holes for a 77 that left her two strokes behind.

She was one of many to struggle on a day when only five off the 78 players broke par and the scoring average soared to 75.464. Top-ranked Lydia Ko was tied for 47th at 8 over after a 75.

Norway’s Suzann Pettersen had the best round of the day, a 3-under 69 to jump from a tie for 22nd to a tie for second at 1 under with Taiwan’s Candie Kung and Americans Ryann O’Toole and Austin Ernst.

Champions

Former UCLA players Scott McCarron and Steve Pate shared the lead at 8-under 63 after the first round of the Toshiba Classic.

McCarron is making his eighth start on the tour after turning 50 in July. The three-time PGA Tour winner eagled the par-5 15th and had six birdies and an eagle at Newport Beach Country Club in California.

The 54-year-old Pate eagled the par-5 third and had five birdies. He won six times on the PGA Tour.

Billy Andrade and Rod Spittle were a stroke back in the final full-field event of the season. Defending champion Fred Couples was two shots behind at 65 along with Kevin Sutherland, Paul Goydos, Jay Don Blake, Olin Browne, Scott Dunlapand Peter Senior.

The top 30 on the money after the tournament will qualify for the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship next week at Desert Mountain in Scottsdale, Arizona.

European Tour

South Africa’s Jaco van Zyl held on to Turkish Airlines Open lead, following his opening 11-under 61 with a 69 at The Montgomerie Maxx Royal in Antalya, Turkey.

Van Zyl stretched his lead to seven shots during the second round with five birdies on his first 10 holes. But he then found the water twice for his first two bogeys of the week, letting Englishmen Richard Bland (65) and Chris Wood (66) to close within two shots. Van Zyl had a 14-under 130 total.

France’s Victor Dubuisson (64) and Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti (66) were 11 under, and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy (67) was another stroke back along with France’s Alexander Levy (65).