After an early wake-up call to watch his alma mater Alabama, the No. 1-ranked football team in the country, steamroll the No. 6 Texas A&M Aggies, Justin Thomas headed TPC Kuala Lampur for the final round of the CIMB Classic.
Turns out, Thomas was just as dominant as his Crimson Tide. The 23-year-old shot an 8-under 64 to come from four shots back and successfully defend his title in Malaysia to capture his second PGA Tour victory at 23-under 265.
“It’s great to win again here,” Thomas said. “It’s obviously a place I’m very comfortable with and I think a lot of that is because of just everything that goes on here. I mean, the fan base and the tournament that Tom puts on, everything, is done very well. It’s very exciting to come back. This is by far my favorite place I’ve been out of the country or that we go to out of the country. It’s definitely worth the 24- or 25-hour travel day that it was to get here.”
With Malaysia being 13 hours ahead of Alabama, Thomas woke up at 4 a.m. to watch the Crimson Tide roll past the Aggies 33-14.
“Just laid in bed and watched it and probably woke up a couple people in the rooms next to me,” Thomas said. “But was very pleased with our performance and it was definitely a good start (to) today. I don’t know how today would have gone if they had lost.”
Instead, Thomas got out to a strong start, making four birdies in his first five holes. His four-shot deficit to Anirban Lahiri quickly dissipated when Lahiri made a 9 at the par-5 No. 3. Even after an eagle and birdie at Nos. 4 and 5, Lahiri was not able to climb out the hole early hole he dug. He finished with an even-par 72 and dropped to T-3 at 19 under.
“That (quadruple-bogey) was just unfortunate, it really was,” Thomas said. “You never want something like that to happen. That’s one of the things that happens when you win, you get a little luckier breaks. You get fortunate. You know, Anirban, he really played well. He hit some really, really good putts that didn’t go in, and you know, there’s nothing for him to be down or upset about.
“Obviously he had a lead going into today but I think me shooting 8-under is going to help a little bit, if that makes sense. It’s not like if he just would have shot even par or something like he did, he would have won. He’s a really good buddy of mine. I like him a lot. We play at the same club in Florida. He’s a good competitor and he’s a great sport out there.”
Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama finished three shots back of Thomas in second after posting a 6-under 66 in his final round.
Thomas made long birdie putts at 16 and 17 that afforded him a cushion going to 18, and essentially sealed the victory. Thomas made 13 birdies and no bogeys in his final 23 holes, which gave him 29 birdies for the week. Thomas, who is raising money for Hurrican Matthew relief by donating $250 for every birdie he makes in a three-tournament span, added another $7,250 to his total this week, bringing the grand total to $13,000 with one event remaining.