Rookie of Year Xander Schauffele trails by 1 at CIMB Classic


The 2017 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele has come out swinging against the “Sophomore Jinx.”

Schauffele and two others trail Cameron Smith by a shot after Smith fired an 8-under-par 64 in the opening round of the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur Thursday.

Smith fired eight birdies – gaining 3 shots over more over the last five holes –  to stand a shot clear of Schauffele, Keegan Bradley and Poom Saksansin.

Smith won his first PGA title at the Zurich Classic team event in May. A native of Australia, Smith said he plays comfortable in Malaysia.

“Course is great, it’s really hot here. Just tried to keep the hydration up, drunk as much water as I possibly could,” said Smith, according to the Australian Associated Press.

“The plan from there was really simple: just hit some fairways and (be) really aggressive into the greens and yeah, my ball-striking was really good today.

“I’ve obviously played quite a bit in Asia so I feel like it’s just back to what it was a few years ago.”

PGA Tour Player of the Year Justin Thomas, who has won the tournament for the past two years with a combined score of 49-under, left himself with some work to do in his quest for a “three-peat” after posting a two-under 70.

Schauffele, who edged Thomas by a stroke to win the Tour Championship in Atlanta last month, never looked back after opening with a birdie and then chipping-in from off the green for another at his third hole.

“It was boring, which I guess is a good thing out here,” he said.

“I hit a lot of fairways, kind of made an easy day out of it. I tried to copy everything (Justin) did as I figured he’s a good guy to imitate out here.”

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