Kuala Lumpur - Justin Thomas was ho-hum over a bogey-free 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 with a
six-under-par round, going to 14-under overall and two shots ahead of India's
"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 a 64 on Thursday.
"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."
It didn't show, however, on his six-birdie, no-bogey card,
which kept him just off the record-setting pace he rode to victory last year.
Thomas won in 2015 by going 26-under-par for the event to
earn his maiden PGA Tour title. It was the best showing yet in the tournament,
which debuted in 2010.
Lahiri nearly ended the day level with Thomas, however, but
the 2015 Asian Tour Order of Merit champion faltered at the finish with a
double-bogey seven on the par-five 18th hole.
"I've been playing well," said Lahiri. "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 back of Lahiri at 11-under at
the par-72 TPC Kuala Lumpur.
Knox jumped into contention with a nine-birdie 63, the
lowest score of the week so far, but a mark that may not last given the pace of
Ryan Moore, a two-time CIMB Classic champ in 2013 and 2014,
also stayed within sight of Thomas but he'll need a blistering weekend to catch
Moore, who clinched the winning point for the USA in the
recent Ryder Cup, shot an eight-birdie 65. He is now six strokes back of Thomas
Adam Scott, the highest-ranked golfer in the field at world
number six, saw his title challenge all but dissipate, managing only a
three-under-par 69, nine strokes off the pace.
Scott had finished just a shot behind Thomas last year.
As if to punctuate the tropical jungle setting, tournament
officials had to remove a two-metre (six-foot) python from a fairway in the
However, the scaly spectator's appearance did not affect
play, which hadn't yet started.
The $7 million tournament is jointly sanctioned by the Asian
Tour and the PGA Tour and offers US$1.26 million to the winner.
It is the second event of the PGA Tour's 2017 schedule, and
offers 500 points toward the FedEX Cup championship, as well as an invite to
the winners-only 2017 Tournament of Champions.
Leading scores after the second round of the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur on Friday (par 72):
130 - Justin Thomas (USA) 64-66
132 - Anirban Lahiri (IND) 66-66
133 - Russell Knox (SCO) 70-63, James Hahn (USA) 69-64, Hideki Matsuyama (JPN) 69-64
134 - Marc Leishman (AUS) 69-65, Derek Fathauer (USA) 64-70
136 - Brendan Steele (USA) 67-69, Keegan Bradley (USA) 64-72, Zac Blair (USA) 70-66, Kim Si-Woo (KOR) 70-66, Ryan Moore (USA) 71-65, Scott Piercy (USA) 68-68, Rafa Cabrera Bello (ESP) 69-67
137 - Jamie Lovemark (USA) 68-69, Charles Howell III (USA) 68-69, Paul Casey (ENG) 65-72, Ryo Ishikawa (JPN) 69-68
138 - Aaron Baddeley (AUS) 67-71, Kevin Kisner (USA) 68-70, Patrick Rodgers (USA) 70-68, Alex Cejka (GER) 70-68, Vijay Singh (FIJ) 71-67