Aussie Smith leads CIMB Classic

Matsuyama optimistic of Malaysia challenge

The $7 million CIMB Classic is co-sponsored by the Asian Tour and PGA Tour, with prize money for the victor of $1.26 million.

Poom Saksansin and American pair Xander Schauffele and Keegan Bradley are breathing down Smith's neck in the event, which is the first of three on the PGA Tour to be held in Asia in successive weeks.

Australian Cameron Smith, ranked number 151 in the world, took the lead with a sparkling eight-under-par 64.

The 67 on Thursday marked the 11th time he scored 70 or under in last 13 rounds at the TPC Kuala Lumpur. "Today's round was really the first time I've picked up a club since the Presidents Cup, but hopefully I can find my game quickly and somehow make it interesting on Sunday", he said at TPC Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.

"It's going to be a little bit different this year, just in terms of everything that's happened and kind of the lack of preparation I'll probably get as opposed to years prior", Thomas said last week.

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"I feel great having finished the first round pretty well", said Park, 24, after her round with top-ranked Ryu So-Yeon and world number three Lexi Thompson at the SKY72 Golf & Resort.

Hideki Matsuyama, the 2016 runner-up, faltered with two bogeys to sit with Thomas in a tie for 23rd place. The last player to win his first start in a tour event was Jim Benepe at the 1988 Western Open.

At 25 years of age, the Ehime-born star is yet to break his Major duck but came agonisingly close this year when finishing tied-second at the US Open - his best result in one of the "big four" tournaments. The Thai is one stroke behind Cameron Smith after the first round of the CIMB Classic.

The American trio of Kevin Na, Gary Woodland, and Pat Perez were also in contention in the Asian Tour event after carding 66s. Among those with 67s who are tied for eight are Brendan Steele, last week's victor at the Safeway Open, and Davis Love III.

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