KUALA LUMPUR: Justin Thomas (pic) will be looking to carry his red-hot form to a successful defence of the CIMB Classic title.
The 24-year-old American, who secured back-to-back victories in 2015 and 2016, is happy to return to the Tournament Players Club (TPC) Kuala Lumpur in Bukit Kiara from Oct 12-15.
“It was obviously special being able to come back and defend the title last year. Having won my first PGA Tour title in Malaysia (in 2015), it’s got a special place in my heart. To go back-to back last year was awesome,” said the Kentucky-born golfer.
Following his second CIMB Classic win last year, Thomas has gone on to win five more tournaments – including a maiden Major title at the PGA Championship in August. He has joined an exclusive club of under 25 players – which includes Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth – to win five or more times on the US PGA Tour in a season.
Thomas, who also shot a magical 59 in Hawaii earlier this year, is now ranked fourth in the world and second on the current FedExCup standings. Earlier this month, he fired a final round five-under 66 to edge fellow American Jordan Spieth to the title at the Dell Championship.
Thomas pointed out that he enjoyed playing at TPC KL.
“The greens are in good condition. I somehow have a comforting feeling out there and I seem to do all right.
“There’s not very much wind. I have a lot of wedges and my wedge game is good.
“That’s why I’m able to make so many birdies because I can roughly get a few kick-ins per day. It just seems to be a place where I play well,” he added.
Belgian Thomas Pieters and Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello, two of the game’s rising stars, as well as Major champions Ernie Els and Davis Love III will also lend their star credentials to the CIMB Classic.
Pieters and Cabrera Bello are both ranked in the world’s top 30. Both Els and Love hold a combined 40 PGA Tour victories and five Major crowns.
The CIMB Classic, now in its eighth year, will feature a 78-player elite field, comprising 60 from the PGA Tour, 10 from the Asian Tour and eight sponsor’s exemptions.
Malaysia will have two representatives.
Danny Chia has already qualified, having won the CIMB National Championship last month. He will be joined by the highest-ranked Malaysian in the Official World Golf Ranking as of Oct 2.