Thursday, February 22, 2018
Golf

Justin Thomas struggles early, coughs up lead at CIMB Classic

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Defending champion Justin Thomas endured a terrible start to the third round of the CIMB Classic, faltering with three bogeys and double bogey to finish with 1-under 71 Saturday.

Thomas was swiftly overtaken by Anirban Lahiri, who shone at the TPC Kuala Lumpur with nine birdies for 65 to open up a four-shot lead going into the final round today.

Thomas, who went into the round with a two-stroke lead, had two bogeys and double bogey in the first three holes of the back nine.

"Yeah, it was really just terrible golf for the first 13 holes. To be 4-over par out here, it was a very weird feeling. I don't know," he said.

At least Thomas ended the penultimate round with five consecutive birdies.

"It was great to have that finish," Thomas said. "I feel like that showed a lot of me and I hope that I can ride the momentum into" today.

Lahiri's low score positioned him at 19 under, which could have been better if not for double bogey on the 12th hole.

"I just told myself that I got rid of my double bogey early in the round (Saturday) and just tried to focus on what I needed to do," said Lahiri, who was runner-up at the Asian Tour's Macau Open last week.

Russell Knox played another solid round for 68 to move into a tie for second with Thomas.

LPGA: Jessica Korda caught Minjee Lee in the Blue Bay LPGA in Hainan, China. Ariya Jutanugarn made up even more ground to move into contention for her sixth victory this season.

Korda shot 6-under 66 at Jian Lake to make up seven strokes on Lee for a share of the lead, and Jutanugarn had 65 to cut her deficit from 10 to two shots and get in the final group today.

In hot and mostly calm conditions four days after Typhoon Sarika hit the South China Sea beach resort, Korda had five birdies in a six-hole stretch and got up and down for another on the par-5 18th.

"I missed a lot of birdie opportunities at the beginning and I was just saying in my head, 'Stay patient,' and, 'Stay positive,' " Korda said. Friday "I was 4 over through seven and then battled back to shoot even par. I was really proud of myself to keep myself in it."

Lee had 73, also getting up and down for birdie on 18 to match Korda at 11-under 205. She began the day six strokes ahead of Caroline Masson.

The second-ranked Jutanugarn had the best round of the day on the course with difficult-to-hit valleys and plateaus on the large greens.

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