2018 CIMB Classic scores, takeaways: Justin Thomas near lead as several players hot in Round 1

It's that time of year again. Alabama football is cruising. October baseball is in the air. Justin Thomas is contending at the CIMB Classic. Thomas shot a 6-under 66 on Thursday in the first round as he goes for his third title there in the last four years.

Thomas capped his day with a birdie to touch off a 32 on his back nine (the front nine on the course). He's three back of leader Bronson Burgoon but well within striking distance and actually closer than he was during his first run here when he was six back of leader Scott Piercy after 18 holes and went on to win by one.

"Kind of up and down," Thomas said of his day. "I got off to a good start and then kind of stalled out a little bit there in the middle. Hung in there and just really didn't hit my irons very well. I just didn't take advantage of a couple opportunities and let a couple go, but kind of found something there those last five holes and was able to at least make a good round of it today."

To his point, Thomas birdied three of his first four and four of his last five but curiously played the middle nine holes in 1 over. This is not a course or a tournament where you're going to find much success playing any stretch of nine holes in 1 over.

J.T. recovered, though, and finds himself T6 and in the middle of a solid pack of good players vying for the second title of the 2018-19 PGA Tour season. He stands out among that pack, though, and remains the Vegas favorite to win this tournament once again.

Here are a few more takeaways from Round 1 of the CIMB Classic.

1. Go low, stay low: In the past three seasons, nothing worse than 23 under has won this event. Shooting 6 under every day on an easy course doesn't necessarily sound that difficult, but the problem becomes that if you have a single bad day (or even nine-hole stretch), you might be out of it. "You have to play well here every day ... a round like today is what could end up winning me this golf tournament," said Thomas after holding together a 66. "Pretty far from my best stuff and getting around here from 6 under is huge."

2. Billy Horschel and Co. stay hot: Horschel, who finished last season on a heater with three consecutive top-five finishes, is 7 under and two back of Burgoon. Paul Casey, who went 1-1-1 at the Ryder Cup, also had a fine first round and shot a 66 to match Thomas. Xander Schauffele, who finished last season with two straight top 10s, is 3 under and definitely in contention. Momentum may or may not be real, but these golfers have continued some nice stretches of golf so far this week at the CIMB Classic, and the eventual winner could certainly come from this threesome.

3. Danny Lee's thrilling (?) ace: Lee made the first ace of the season and reacted as if he'd just lagged a nice 70-foot putt to four feet. Get excited, Danny!

4. Who is Burgoon? The former national champ at Texas A&M is in his third full season on the PGA Tour after several years on a variety of other tours. He finished 111th in the FedEx Cup race last season and notched two top 10s with his best performance being a T2 at the John Deere Classic. If he hangs on to win this week, he will have earned nearly as much for winning this one tournament as he has in his entire PGA Tour career. "I wasn't very good a few years ago," said Burgoon. "I wasn't ready to win, I wasn't able to win. Last year I feel like I banged on the door a couple times. Last year I was close, but definitely needed to get a little bit better. I like my chances."

CBS Sports Writer

Kyle Porter began his sports writing career with CBS Sports in 2012. He covers golf, writes poetry about Rory McIlroy's swing, stays ready on Tiger watch and loves the Masters more than anyone you know.... Full Bio

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