For the first time in his career, Justin Thomas watched someone else leave town with the trophy at the CIMB Classic.
Thomas entered this week fresh off his Player of the Year and FedExCup titles, and he was returning to a course where he had set a tournament scoring record en route to his first career PGA Tour win in his 2015 debut and had successfully defended that title a year ago.
Thomas was looking to become the first player to win the same Tour event three years in a row since Steve Stricker pulled off the feat at the John Deere Classic from 2009-11. While Thomas has Stricker's former caddie, Jimmy Johnson, on the bag, he wobbled out of the gates and ultimately tied for 17th, 13 shots behind winner Pat Perez.
"I was definitely low on gas. It's been a great but long year, for sure," Thomas told reporters. "I really played well the last two days, which was nice to see. I just didn't make enough putts and didn't capitalize on enough opportunities to have a really good finish. But I did the best I could, so that's all I could ask for."
Thomas' final-round 67 included seven birdies and marked his low score of the week at TPC Kuala Lumpur. But any hopes he had of retaining the title for a third straight year vanished earlier in the week, when he opened with rounds of 70-71 amid soft conditions.
Thomas was making his season debut just two weeks after starring at the Presidents Cup, and three weeks after his runner-up at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title. He won't have much time to rest, as Thomas will be one of the headliners in the field next week at the inaugural CJ Cup in South Korea.