Thomas comfortable in his return to CIMB Classic
October 10, 2018
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
- October 10, 2018
Inside the PGA TOUR
2018 CIMB Classic preview
Justin Thomas comes into this year’s CIMB Classic in Malaysia pretty much the same way he came into last year’s CIMB Classic, as one of the best players in the world after a multiple-win season that also saw him take a leadership role with the U.S. Presidents/Ryder Cup Team.
The biggest difference: Thomas is coming off “only” a three-win season, not a five-win season and the FedExCup, coming into this CIMB, which is the only official PGA TOUR tournament in Southeast Asia and the first of three official TOUR events in Asia this month.
“Anytime you win three times in a season, it's still a pretty good season,” Thomas said at his press conference at the CIMB on Wednesday. “Obviously not winning a major was a big difference and not winning the FedExCup, but I played plenty well enough last year to win the same amount of times.
“When you win (five) times in a year, you have a lot of things go your way,” Thomas continued. “You have a couple hot streaks and I just never really had any. I played really consistent good golf kind of throughout the year and I just didn't have as many hot weeks like I did in '16-'17.”
Not that he wouldn’t gladly take a three-win season anytime, he added.
Justin Thomas comments before CIMB
The CIMB, which will celebrate its ninth edition this year, is the second tournament of the new 2018-19 TOUR season. It features a limited field of 78 players comprising of the top 60 available players from the 2017-18 FedExCup points list, eight sponsor exemptions and the top-10 available players from the Asian Tour.
Pat Perez is the defending champion. Others of note also include two-time CIMB winner Ryan Moore, plus Kevin Tway, who is coming off his first TOUR win at the Safeway Open.
Last we saw Thomas, he was going 4-1-0 for the losing U.S. Ryder Cup Team, the best showing by an American. Before that, he came to the TOUR Championship at East Lake with a chance at making history as the first player to successfully defend his FedExCup title. It didn’t go his way as he finished T7 to also finish 7th in the FedExCup, won by England’s Justin Rose.
Still, Thomas took pleasure in friend Tiger Woods’ victory at East Lake, Woods’ first win in over five years. And no one would dispute that Thomas remains a potent threat who not only knows how to end a season in style, he knows how to begin it. Which is to say no one would be surprised if he won at TPC Kuala Lumpur for the third time in four years (2015, ’16).
“It's just a place that I've obviously played well,” said Thomas, 25. “I'm comfortable. I think being a little bit of a longer hitter you have an advantage, but I mean, the fact of the matter is that I've just played well the years I played here. I think my wedge game is a strong suit of mine and you have a lot of wedges out here, so I've been able to take advantage of that.”
You could say that. Thomas is 60 under par over 12 rounds on the West course, but it’s since been resurfaced with Bermuda grass. Thomas praised the quality of the re-grassing while at the same time maintaining that the course’s bones remain unchanged. It’s a shorter track, allowing for multiple pitching- and sand-wedge approach shots—right in his wheelhouse.
It always has been. He’s the same player he was when he lifted his first TOUR trophy at the 2015 CIMB, albeit with a more impressive resume. Now a nine-time TOUR winner, he’s not only won the FedExCup, a World Golf Championship and a major, he’s also tasted world No. 1.
“This is always going to be a special place to me,” Thomas said. “This is always going to be the place I got my first PGA TOUR victory and that's very, very special. Every time I look at that trophy in my office at home, it brings back a lot of great memories, anytime I see videos or clips of it. It was a very instrumental part of my career, for sure.”