Justin Thomas is targeting a flying start to the new season with a third victory in the space of four years in the CIMB Classic.
Thomas secured his first PGA Tour win in Kuala Lumpur in 2015 and successfully defended the title the following year, but missed out on a hat-trick when he could only finish 17th in 2017.
And having missed out on a second successive FedEx Cup title in 2018 the former world number one is determined to get plenty of points on the board in the early stages of the wraparound season.
“I always feel it’s important to play in the fall (autumn) because you don’t want to get too far behind,” Thomas told a pre-event press conference. “These are big events, no cut, big purses and great fields where you’re able to get some points, you’re able to make a lot of money, you’re able to get a lot of world ranking points early or at least the opportunity to do so.
“It would be great to take two or three months off and not play any golf or anything, but these are courses and places I obviously enjoy coming to and I’ve had success at, and because of that it’s huge to be able to get off to a good start because you’re not behind the eight-ball.
“Once you get to January, February, March, you don’t feel like you’re as pressed to play well. Obviously if you don’t play well in these, then you’re still in that situation, but you feel hopefully you can play well enough here to move high enough in the FedEx Cup.”
Thomas took a week off after the Ryder Cup – where he was the top American points scorer at Le Golf National – and hopes his hard work in the gym will help him fight off fatigue after the long journey to Malaysia.
“I feel fresher and I would like to hope that that’s from the work that I’ve put in off the course,” he added.
“I’m still tired, don’t get me wrong, but I felt last year when I got here I was pretty out of it. I’m excited for these two weeks. I think I have an opportunity to play well and hopefully knock off a win or two, but at least give myself chances.”
Tommy Fleetwood insists he will be happy if Ryder Cup partner Francesco Molinari succeeds him as European number one.
Fleetwood is second in the Race to Dubai behind Open champion Molinari, with whom he created history by becoming the first European pair to win all four of their matches together in a Ryder Cup at Le Golf National.
The duo will be reunited in the first two rounds of this week’s British Masters at Walton Heath, with team-mate Thorbjorn Olesen completing the marquee group, as Fleetwood seeks to close the gap of 1.4million points to the other half of the ‘Moliwood’ pair.
Fleetwood, who will play in China and Turkey before contesting the season-ending event in Dubai, said: “I’m a long way behind, but it’s the opposite of last year in that I led all year last year and this year for the final few events I’m kind of chasing it now.
“I might get nowhere near and it’s a stretch as a goal to think about it, but I’d love to play Dubai with a chance. I’d love to get in contention in a couple of events and maybe win one.
“If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. It’s kind of in Fran’s hands a little bit, as well. There’s probably people I would prefer to beat, but if it was me and Fran that it came down to either way I’m going to be more than happy, whichever way that would turn on.
“I think we won’t hold it against him. With the year he’s having, I think he might deserve it.”
Fleetwood went straight from the Ryder Cup to last week’s Dunhill Links Championship and finished runner-up at St Andrews in what was his 24th tournament of a busy season.
And, although the 27-year-old enjoys playing such a full schedule, he admits it is beginning to take its toll.
“You always get to a stage where you need a week off and I think the most exhausted I’ve been through the year this year was Germany and France after the US Open,” said Fleetwood, who finished runner-up to Brooks Koepka at Shinnecock Hills.
“I think that was where I pretty much crashed at that point. It’s about knowing when your cut-off point is and knowing when that’s coming, either having the whereabouts to pull out or, if you’re going to play, not worry too much about your form and read too much into it.
“At the moment I feel absolutely fine, but like I’m getting close to that point where I need a week off again.”
Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard denied Ryder Cup winner Tyrrell Hatton a third straight Alfred Dunhill Links Championship title after a storming final round at St Andrews.
Hatton had taken a four-stroke advantage into a final round which was brought forward due to the threat of high winds in the area, but it was Bjerregaard who dealt best with the conditions.
The Dane’s five-under-par 67 earned him a 15-under total of 273, enough to win by one stroke from Hatton and his fast-finishing Ryder Cup team-mate Tommy Fleetwood, whose 69 earned him a share of second place.
World number 92 Bjerregaard had claimed his only previous tour win at the Portugal Open in 2017 and he needed to produce something special on Sunday to add to that here after beginning the day playing catch-up to defending champion Hatton.
But starting on the 18th hole under the ‘shotgun’ system in which all contenders began the final round at the same time, Bjerregaard immediately reduced the deficit with a birdie.
Nevertheless Hatton also began strongly and at one point held a five-stroke advantage before falling away with four bogeys on the back nine.
Bjerregaard still faced an anxious wait after a bogey on his final hole, the 17th, but Hatton missed a birdie putt on his last which would have forced a play-off.