KUALA LUMPUR — American Justin Thomas came close to joining golf’s exclusive 59 club after a spectacular birdie blitz in Malaysia Friday but instead had to make do with the halfway lead at the PGA Tour’s CIMB Classic.
The 22-year-old from Kentucky, in his second year on Tour after a solid rookie season, looked set to achieve golf’s magical mark when he reached 11-under after 15 holes of his second round at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.
But he could only par the remaining three, including the generous par-five last, to miss out on becoming the seventh player to shoot a 59 on the PGA Tour and first since American Jim Furyk two years ago at the BMW Championship.
“It was obviously a great day. It was one of those days when you kind of get unconscious and get rolling out there. They don’t happen too often,” the world No. 64 told reporters.
Still Thomas, who fired nine birdies and an eagle, will take a one shot lead into the weekend after posting a tournament-record 15-under 129 tally at the $7 million co-sanctioned Asian Tour event, the third of the new PGA Tour season.
The in-form American is chasing his first PGA Tour win. He achieved his best finish of tied third two weeks ago at the season-opening Frys.com championships.
American Brendan Steele led the chasing pack after a bogey free nine-under 63 left him at 14-under and in sight of only his second PGA Tour title and first in more than four years.
Overnight leader Scott Piercy fell down the field into a share of third after a modest 69, with two bogeys halting his progress, left him at 13-under.
The 13-under mark was matched by Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, who followed up his opening 65 with a 66 on Friday, to sit level with American Spencer Levin (64). The event, in its sixth year, has always provided a bounty of birdies for the field and the 2015 edition has proved no different with only 10 of the 78 players over par after the second round.
Kim leads windy Blue Bay
South Korea’s Kim Sei-young took advantage of Chinese teen Lin Xi-yu’s wind-blown collapse to take the lead Friday in the Blue Bay LPGA.
Kim made a 3-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th for an even-par 72 in difficult conditions along the South China Sea at Jian Lake Blue Bay.
The 22-year-old Kim had a 2-under 142 total.
Top-ranked Lydia Ko was tied for 47th at 8 over after a 75. She opened with a 77, her highest score since a career-worst 80 in high wind last year at Royal Birkdale in the Women’s British Open.
Norway’s Suzann Pettersen had the best round of the day, a 3-under 69 to jump from a tie for 22nd to a tie for second at 1-under with Taiwan’s Candie Kung and Americans Ryann O’Toole and Austin Ernst.
Ernst followed her opening 68 with a 75.
Kung had a 72, and O’Toole shot 73.
Third-ranked Stacy Lewis of the United States had a 73 to join Lin, Canada’s Alena Sharp (70), Australia’s Minjee Lee (70) and Americans Kim Kaufman (72) and Jane Park (74) at even par.
China’s Shanshan Feng was 4 over after a 75. Michelle Wie also was 4 over after a 72. — Agencies