Rookie of Year Xander Schauffele trails by 1 after Day 1 of CIMB Classic

GOLF-USPGA-ASIA-MAS MOHD RASFAN/AFP/Getty Images

Rookie of Year Xander Schauffele trails by 1 after Day 1 of CIMB Classic

PGA Tour

Rookie of Year Xander Schauffele trails by 1 after Day 1 of CIMB Classic

The 2017 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele has come out swinging against the “Sophomore Jinx” at the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur.

Schauffele and two others trail Cameron Smith by a shot after Smith fired an 8-under 64 in the opening round Thursday.

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

Smith gained his first PGA Tour victory 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 put himself behind a tall wall in his quest for a “three-peat” here after posting a 2-under 70. He won in 2016 and 2015 with a combined score of 49 under,

Schauffele, 23, beat Thomas by a stroke to win the Tour Championship in Atlanta last month. Schauffele opened with a birdie Thursday, chipped-in from off the green for another at his third hole and rolled on from there.

“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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