KUALA LUMPUR, MY – Twice is nice. Just ask Justin Thomas.
There hasn’t been a successful title defence on the PGA TOUR since Matt Every won the 2014-2015 Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard. That is, until JT returned to TPC Kuala Lumpur.
Thomas entered the week at the CIMB Classic as the defending champion after winning in 2015 by one-shot over Adam Scott. He’s leaving with his second win on TOUR, both of which came in Malaysia.
The 23-year-old talked about his second win during his press conference. “It was obviously a fun day. It couldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for my finish yesterday. That was huge for me and put me in a good position to have a chance to win today. I definitely owe a lot of it to that.”
That finish he was talking about was the five-straight birdies to finish his third round after starting the back nine with a bogey, double bogey, and another bogey.
He began the final round four-shots back of Anirban Lahiri and ended up with a three-shot victory. Lahiri had an up and down day that started with a quadruple bogey on the par-5 third hole. Lahiri hit his tee shot into a tree forcing him to hit another tee shot.
Lahiri’s next three holes resulted in a birdie, eagle, and another bogey. He eventually finished his day at even and 19-under for the tournament, four shots back of Justin Thomas.
JT talked about his round with Lahiri. “You know, Anirban, he really played well. He hit some really, really good putts that didn’t go in, and you know, there’s nothing for him to be down or upset about. Obviously he had a lead going into today but I think me shooting 8-under is going to help a little bit, if that makes sense.”
With his final five holes on Saturday and his bogey-free 64 on Sunday, Thomas collected 13 birdies in his final 23 holes of the CIMB Classic.
Horse for the course might be an understatement, but TPC Kuala Lumpur sets up well for the Alabama product.
“I think the main thing right now is that I just played really well this week. I feel like I would have played a lot of courses really well but this place obviously suits my eye, and I think the fact that there’s a lot of wedges and scoring clubs bodes well for me,” said Thomas.
He only has a night to celebrate the victory before getting back to work. He’s flying out to China for the WGC-HSBC Champions at 8:30 a.m. local time.
Thomas made 29 birdies this week at the CIMB Classic, just three short of the PGA TOUR all-time record for birdies in a 72-hole event of 32.
He has also pledged to donate $250 to those affected by Hurricane Matthew. His 29 birdies this week combined with the 22 birdies and one eagle made at the Safeway Open brings the grand total to $13,000 in donations. His pledge will continue through next week at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
What might be the most impressive part about his win is that Thomas was awake at 4 a.m., but for good reason.
“Yeah, the Alabama game kicked off at 3:30 our time. Woke up at about 4:00 and got the computer and streamed it and just laid in bed and watched it and probably woke up a couple people in the rooms next to me. But was very pleased with our performance and it was definitely a good start today. I don’t know how today would have gone if they had lost.”
Thomas finished at 23-under for the tournament, three shots shy of the tournament record which he set last year. His exempt status on the PGA TOUR now extends through the 2018-19 season.