Thomas, Matsuyama six shots back after opening round in Malaysia

Thomas was beaten 3&1 by Hideki Matsuyama in the Sunday singles

Justin Thomas said Wednesday he hoped to ride a wave of recent success to the "unbelievable achievement" of a third victory in a row at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia.

The 2017 FedEx Cup victor and two-time defending champion in Malaysia began his 2017-'18 PGA Tour season with a good-but-not-great two-under 70 at TPC Kuala Lumpur, his second-worst round in the event.

One shot behind Smith are Thailand's Poom Saksansin, American Keegan Bradley and freshly crowned Tour Championship victor Xander Schauffele, also from the US. He won his first tour title here two years ago.

If Justin Thomas is going to win his third straight CIMB Classic, he's got some work to do.

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Thomas has barely had time to pause for breath after a frenetic finish to the campaign and will take a proper break only after playing next week's CJ Cup, South Korea's first PGA Tour-sanctioned event. The last player to win his first start in a tour event was Jim Benepe at the 1988 Western Open.

Schauffele, the US tour rookie of the year, said he was taking plenty of notice of how Thomas approaches this course and is trying to keep it simple.

Smith shot an error-free 64 with five birdies on front nine and three on back nine.

"The rough has been up apparently compared to past year, that's what Justin told me", he said. "I tried to copy everything [Justin] did as I figured he's a good guy to imitate out here".

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"It was pretty simple really, hit a lot of good shots today and made a lot of good putts", he said.

He's chasing his second title of the year after winning the Zurich Classic in April.

Lahiri, third past year at the same event, is coming of a tied-9th finish in the last start on the PGA Tour in the BMW Champion- ships, the third leg of the FedExCup play-offs.

The American trio of Kevin Na, Gary Woodland, and Pat Perez were also in contention in the Asian Tour event after carding 66s.

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