Justin Thomas made a blistering start to The CJ Cup at Nine Bridges, firing a nine-under 63 to earn a three-shot lead on Thursday.
The 72-hole stroke play inaugural event will culminate tomorrow as the US$9.25million (RM39.1million) tournament offers 500 FedExCup points, two-year Tour exemption and an invitation to the 2018 Sentry Tournament of Champions for the victor.
The 23-year-old, who started yesterday's opening round tied at second place and three shots off the lead, dropped 10 strokes in his first 12 holes no thanks to five double bogeys on the fourth, fifth, sixth, 11th and 12th.
Ben Leong, who finished tied 24th previous year, failed to progress after carding a successive 75 to finish joint 103th. "It was really hard out there", Thomas said. And then I had a seven-hole stretch there where I basically kind of went unconscious.
Patrick Reed birdied his final hole to move to six under, while Marc Leishman is alongside the American after an eagle at the 18th.More news: 'Missing' journalist Zeenat Shahzadi recovered after more than 2 years
2009 US Open champion Lucas Glover is in a tie for second place alongside Scott Brown of the U.S. on eight under par, whilst Patrick Reed and Marc Leishman are both in contention on six under par.
Tony Finau, Russell Henley, Charles Howell III, Ollie Schniederjans and Venezuela's Jhonattan Vegas are another shot off the pace.
Former world number one Jason Day signed for a 71 to take him to T16 going into Sunday's final round, where even more wind is expected.
Former world No 1 Jason Day is five shots off the lead after an opening 68 which included eight birdies and a double-bogey seven on the 18th, with Tour Championship victor Xander Schauffele a shot further back.