Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: American Justin Thomas underlined his status as a rising star when he claimed a one-stroke win at the US$7 million CIMB Classic with a tournament record of 26-under-par 262.
The 22-year-old Thomas, the joint third round leader, closed with a six-under-par 66 over the West Course at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club, a Golf Facility Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation.
Despite a double-bogey on the 14th hole, Thomas edged out Major champion Adam Scott of Australia, who signed off with a sparkling 63, for his first PGA Tour title.
Co-overnight leader Brendan Steele of the United States shot a 68 to settle for tied third place alongside countryman Kevin Na who claimed his third straight top-three finish after posting a 67 in the event which is sanctioned by the PGA Tour and Asian Tour.
Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama was the best placed Asian in fifth place after a 67 while Anirban Lahiri of India finished tied 21st to put one hand on the Asian Tour Order of Merit crown.
Thomas, a former All-American and a close friend of world number two Jordan Spieth, overcame a wobble on 14 with three successive birdies to take a one-shot lead into the par- five 18th hole with Scott already in the clubhouse.
He ran his first putt five feet past the hole to give the Aussie a glimmer of hope of a play-off but then coolly converted his par putt to pocket the US$1.26 million champion’s cheque. Thomas is expected to break into the world’s top-30 with his breakthrough victory.
“It was really nice to make those birdies after that double on 14. I’m probably more proud of that than winning the tournament. The only thing you could do is what I did, just laugh it off. It was that bad of a shot in the circumstance,” said Thomas of his miss-hit approach shot.
“I told myself I had four holes left, that I was leading at that point, fortunately, and if I was tied or one back when that happened it would have been a huge deal. I really felt very calm and great all day.
“The only time I really was nervous and jittery was on 18 probably hitting that bunker shot. And obviously the putt, if you couldn’t tell by how far past I hit it (first putt).”
Thomas, playing his second season on the PGA Tour, became the seventh consecutive golfer in his 20s to win on the PGA Tour.
“I expected to win a lot sooner than this, honestly. I always had high expectations for myself and I definitely played well enough last year in some events to win. I understand that wining is difficult and it doesn’t happen that often,” he said.