Oct 18, 3:41 am

Thailand’s Poom Saksansin made an early statement by opening with a flawless seven-under-par 65 to take a share of second place at the US$7 million CIMB Classic on Thursday.

The cherubic Thai created a huge impression in his debut appearance when he fired seven birdies including four on the trot after the turn at the TPC Kuala Lumpur.

Poom, together with Americans Keegan Bradley and Xander Schauffele, trail Australian Cameron Smith by a single shot heading into the second round of the CIMB Classic.

Smith returned to the scene of his early Asian Tour playing days where he continued to produce another assured performance with a sparkling 64.

The Australian, who came through the Asian Tour Qualifying School in 2014, was one of the revelations that year where he also finished tied-fifth finish at the CIMB Classic.

Did you know?

  • Cameron Smith enjoyed a great rookie season on the Asian Tour in 2014. He finished second once followed by five other top-10 finishes including a tied fifth finish at the CIMB Classic.
  • Smith finished tied fourth at the 2015 U.S. Open to earn a special temporary membership. He finished that year with enough FedExCup points to earn a full PGA Tour card the following season. He won his first PGA Tour title in April this year at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
  • He played solid golf in the opening round, missing only two fairways and greens in regulation while amassing 25 putts.
  • Smith is among the leading three players who are bogey free. Poom and Schaffele, who are tied second, also returned with a flawless card.
  • Poom is making his first appearance at the CIMB Classic. He birdied the opening hole (10) before making eight straight pars. He carded four straight birdies after the turn and closed with two birdies.
  • He had 11 one putts in his round today, the lowest as compared to the leader Smith (nine) and Schauffele (four).
  • The Thai is a two-time Asian Tour winner. He won his first title in Indonesia last year before injuring his back. He returned to his best form when he won the TAKE Solutions Masters in India in August. Also finished tied second in Japan last month.
  • Earlier in his career, Poom played mostly on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) where he won once in 2015. Since then, his career has been on the upswing. He turned professional in 2013 at the age of 20 because he did not want financial support from his parents.
  • This is Poom’s first PGA Tour start. The last player to win on the PGA Tour in his first start was Jim Benepe at the 1988 Beatrice Western Open.
  • Schauffele is playing in his first CIMB Classic. He enjoyed a fantastic 2016-2017 PGA Tour season where he won twice including the TOUR Championship before being voted as the Rookie of the Year.
  • He missed only one fairway and green today but struggled on the greens where he totalled 30 putts.
  • Schauffele returns to his Asian roots this week. His father is half French and German while his mother is Taiwanese and grew up in Japan. This is his first time in Malaysia.
  • Kevin Na was the Rookie of the Year on the Asian Tour in 2002 where he won once. He has a good track record at the CIMB Classic where he finished tied third and second in 2014 and 2015. He is on -53 in his last 13 rounds at the TPC Kuala Lumpur.

Players’ Quotes

Cameron Smith First round 64 (-8): “It was pretty simple really, hit a lot of good shots today and made a lot of good putts.  The putting was made pretty easy actually, ball striking today stood out today for me so it was a good round. Well, I grew up in Brisbane.  It’s kind of similar to this but obviously not as bad as this.  But yeah, I enjoy the heat.  I always play well in the heat for some reason, I honestly can’t tell you why.  You’ve got to hit the ball straight and then there’s plenty of opportunities with your wedges as well. I’ve to keep the game plan pretty much the same really.  Just smart off the tee, try to hit the fairways and then really aggressive into the greens was the goal today and it worked so I’ll keep that one. I just have to keep myself hydrated.  I drank as much water as I possibly could.  Yeah, and then the plan from there was just really simple, just hit some fairways and really aggressive into the greens, and my ball striking was really good today.”

Poom Saksansin (Tha) First round 65 (-7): “My iron shots and putting were good. I holed a lot of putts today.  I played without any expectations. I just kept playing and the ball kept going in. This is a big event but there is no cut so I’m only feeling 50% pressure. The longest hole here for me is on the 13th hole. The rest is okay for me. I just want to play good here.”

Xander Schauffele (Usa), First round 65 (-7): “It was boring, which I guess is a good thing out here.  Hit a lot of fairways and kind of made an easy day out of it.  The rough has been up apparently compared to last year, that’s what Justin told me at least.  I pretty much tried to copy everything that he did because I figured he’s a good guy to imitate out here. I’m just trying to go with kind of what feels comfortable for now.  A couple of those ones where I hit iron off the tee, I still had wedge in my hand so Austin and I figured we could still be aggressive.  The greens are kind of firm, but I figure with the gap or pitching wedge we could still stop it within a couple feet.  So it might change as the week goes on, but we’ll see. I’m just excited to be out here.  I always wanted to travel through golf, and the fact that I can kind of play Malaysia, Korea and China is awesome, especially with these events.  No cuts is always nice. You know, I figured if I can kind of stay relaxed and stay comfortable, my game kind of holds strong.  So I guess I do expect it.  Everyone does at a certain point but this is all still new to me.  I had a two week offseason so my head’s still in the clouds with everything.”

Keegan Bradley (USA), First round 65 (-7): “Yeah, it was fun.  It was a good round, played well the whole way around. I putted really well and played the par-five nice on the back, or on my back, the front.  You’ve got to play the par five well out here to do well. For my eagle on 3, I hit driver, 3 iron to like six feet and made it.  It was a really good shot, it’s a tough pin. I played well here in the past so I really enjoy coming here.  The people are great, it’s a great tournament. I’ve been playing well and it’s just a matter of putting them all together.”

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