Smith, 24, victor along with Jonas Blixt at last April's Zurich Classic of New Orleans, made eight birdies in his first start of the new tour season.
Much has changed for 24-year-old Thomas since his last trip to TPC Kuala Lumpur, when he was still an unproven, if highly regarded, talent coming off his rookie season.
Smith, an Australian, posted a blemish-free round of eight birdies, including five on the front nine for a 64. His previous best start in 63 tour events is a T-2 at the 2016 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, where he eventually finished T-11.
With four birdies in first five holes and nine in his first nine holes on the backstretch of the course, Lahiri looked set for a real low number.
Thomas has barely had time to pause for breath after a frenetic finish to the campaign and will take a proper break only after playing next week's CJ Cup, South Korea's first PGA Tour-sanctioned event. "I tried to copy everything (Justin) did as I figured he's a good guy to imitate out here". "Hit a lot of fairways and kind of made an easy day out of it", Schauffele told reporters.
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"I was supposed to make a list of goals before I came out here and I failed to do so, which might be a good thing", Schauffele said. Now instead of struggling for starts he has a three-year exemption and is embarking on a three-week stretch of no-cut events in Asia.
Tied with Schauffele in second place is Thailand's Poom Saksansin, a 24-year-old two-time Asian Tour victor making his first start in a PGA Tour event.
Poom Saksansin hopes to be the first player since Jim Benepe in 1988 to win on his PGA tour.
Last week: Brendan Steele won the Safeway Open.
Smith, who broke his duck on the PGA Tour in May at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans alongside Jonas Blixt, made birdies at the third, fourth and fifth and picked up further shots at the seventh and ninth to approach the turn in 31.