2016 CIMB Classic Article cover photo
09 December 2016

2016 CIMB Classic

Justin Thomas secures a back-to-back CIMB Classic title

Thomas finished at 23-under overall at TPC Kuala Lumpur posting a flawless eight-under 64 to erase a four-stroke overnight deficit in the only PGA tour event he has ever won, three shots ahead of Japan's Hideki Matsuyama, whose final-round 66 was not enough to keep up. Both of the 23-year-old Thomas's two PGA Tour wins have been at the CIMB Classic. Thomas also put in a solid showing at the Safeway Open, the PGA Tour's season-opener, finishing just four strokes off the lead.
"I feel like I just need to continue to build on this momentum and try to use this as kind of a springboard to the start of the year," he said. "To try to move up in the world rankings and get in that top ten, get in that top five."
Widely regarded as one of golf's upand- coming young players, Thomas's deft wedge play and approach shots were a major plus in Malaysia's hot and humid conditions, which were ideal for scoring. With the win, Thomas extends his exempt status through the 2018-19 PGA TOUR Season. If not otherwise exempt, Thomas earns a spot into the following PGA TOUR events in 2017: Tournament of Champions, CareerBuilder Challenge, Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, Masters Tournament, RBC Heritage, THE PLAYERS Championship, DEAN & DELUCA Invitational, the Memorial Tournament, Quicken Loans National and PGA Championship.
Thomas made a total of 29 birdies. The PGA TOUR all-time record for birdies in a 72-hole event is 32, set by Mark Calcavecchia (2001 Waste Management Phoenix Open) and Paul Gow (2001 B.C. Open). Thomas joins Ryan Moore (2013-2014) as players to successfully defend their CIMB Classic title. Since becoming an official PGA TOUR event, the duo are the tournament’s only winners. Thomas becomes the first player to successfully defend a title since Matt Every won the 2014-2015 Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard.
Thomas said he especially drew confidence from being able to lead the first two rounds and come back for the win after faltering in round three. On Saturday he was cruising toward the title when he dropped four shots in a threehole stretch to start the back nine. That put India's Anirban Lahiri in the driver's seat with a four-stroke lead coming into the final round. But on Sunday it was Lahiri's turn to falter, stumbling on the par-five third hole with a quadruple-bogey nine after his errant tee shot got stuck in a tree, forcing him to take a penalty and return to the tee.
Although he clawed back with a birdie and an eagle on the next two holes, a bogey quickly followed and failure to convert putts down the stretch sealed his fate. "I fought back as best I could, but I just couldn't get the putts to fall on the back nine," he said, calling the outcome a "tough pill to swallow". Lahiri, the 2015 Asian Tour Order of Merit winner, ended up tied for third at 19-under with Derek Fathauer of the United States, with Australia's Marc Leishman two strokes further back. Thomas pockets US$1.26 million, 500 FedEX Cup points and an invite to the winners-only 2017 Tournament of Champions.
The CIMB Classic is co-sponsored by the Asian and PGA Tours and is the second event of the PGA Tour's 2017 schedule. It debuted in 2010.