NBA is back! Earn between a 5% and 50% bonus on your NBA accas with bet365's Paylay Bonus - full details here!
This week we move on to one of my favourite events of the whole season. The CIMB Classic is now into its third season as a fully-fledged PGA Tour event, but the origins of this tournament go back to 2010 when Ben Crane won at The Mines Resort where we were on board at 40/1. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and Adam Scott have all played this event in the past, but none of them have ever triumphed - instead a champions' list that starts with Ben Crane and moves on to Bo Van Pelt, Nick Watney and Ryan Moore, who goes for a hat-trick of titles this week, highlights a tournament where 'under the radar' quality tends to come through.
The CIMB Classic field comprises 78 attendees including the Top 60 available players from the closing 2015 FedEx Cup rankings, 10 from the Asian Tour and 8 Sponsor's Exemptions. A $7 million purse this week makes the CIMB the richest tournament on the PGA Tour this autumn outside of next week's WGC and field strength corresponds well with Henrik Stenson, Hideki Matsuyama, Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia and Patrick Reed all in Kuala Lumpur. This week's field also includes Tour Championship qualifiers Danny Lee, Daniel Berger, Paul Casey, Robert Streb, Steven Bowditch, Kevin Kisner, Scott Piercy, Kevin Na and Harris English. Throw in Presidents Cup hero Branden Grace and Asian Tour No.1 Anirban Lahiri and there's plenty to look forward to in Malaysia, with players such as Francesco Molinari finding themselves in the uncommon position of sitting on the alternates list.
The European Tour enters its Final Series this week with the Turkish Airlines Open kicking off the entertainment. Rory McIlroy headlines with prospective Ryder Cup team members such as Donaldson, Dubuisson, Fitzpatrick, Lowry, McDowell, Poulter, Sullivan, Westwood, Wiesberger and Willett all in attendance. Paul Williams has cast his eye over the action at the Montgomerie Maxx Royal course and you can read his thoughts on that event here.
Course Guide: The Kuala Lumpur G&CC West Course is an original Nelson and Wright design. The course is a short (6,990 yard) scoreable Par 72, that features the traditional split of four par-3, ten par-4 and four par-5 holes. Seven of the par-4s are sub-425 yards with five of those at 400 yards or less. Greens averaging 6,500 sq.ft. run to 11 on the stimpmeter and feature Seashore Paspalum.
Kuala Lumpur G&CC, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Designer Nelson & Wright, 1992, Parslow, 2007; Course Type: Resort; Par: 72; Length: 6,990 yards; Water Hazards: 10; Fairways: Seashore Paspalum; Rough: Seashore Paspalum 2"; Greens: 6,500 sq.ft average featuring Seashore Paspalum; Stimpmeter: 10.5ft; Course Scoring Average 2013: 71.97 (-0.03), Difficulty Rank 28 of 43 courses; 2014: 71.30 (-0.70), Difficulty Rank 30 of 52 courses.
Course Overview: The West Course at Kuala Lumpur G&CC is an interesting test where players can choose to be aggressive or conservative with equal opportunity. At under 7,000 yards for a par 72, the course is short for PGA Tour professionals but does have teeth. With plenty of undulations, uneven fairways and water in play across 10 holes, this is no pushover. Take the par-5s which are quite daunting - indeed they've ranked as the 12th and 11th hardest par-5 sets across the whole Tour in the past 2 seasons. Malaysia's climate dictates that the course traditionally features soft fairways with little roll (expect the same this week) and although rough length varies, players continually quote that the ball is difficult to control from the wet Paspalum. Yes, longer players are at an advantage, but this is definitely a Total Driving track where consistent and accurate (in equal measure) wedge play is required so as to take advantage of the receptive Seashore Paspalum greens. It's also worth remembering that these types of green tend to favour players who have a handle for putting on Bermudagrass, even if it isn't their preferred putting surface.
There are a couple of course detail changes for this year that should help to produce lower scoring. At the 14th a new tee has been introduced adding 5 yards to the hole, but at 280 yards the players will now have a straight shot at the driveable par 4. The difficult par 5 18th hole, which played as the toughest of the par 5s last year, has been slightly reconfigured to give players more space to land their tee shots. The fairway will play 5 yards wider this year, encouraging more players to go for the green in two shots.
Over the course of both the 2013 and 2014 renewals the West Course has certainly been quirky in its nature. Par 5s on any golf course are traditionally where players take advantage, but difficulty ranks across the West Course read: Par 3 - 41st, Par 4 - 30th and Par 5 - 11th. Moore's win 12 months ago was powered by a -5 -9 -3 split (Par 3,4,5) and it's clear that par 4 scoring is critical, although the new reconfiguration on the 18th will undoubtedly help the power merchants. Fairways and greens aren't overly difficult to hit, but miss the green and scrambling proved difficult (12th hardest on Tour) in 2014. There's no 36-hole cut at the CIMB Classic.
Winners: 2014: Ryan Moore (-17); 2013: Ryan Moore (-14); 2012: Nick Watney (-22); 2011: Bo Van Pelt (-23); 2010: Ben Crane (-18).
Tournament Stats: We've published some key player statistics for this week's event that are well worth a look. Naturally they'll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Top 20 Finishes.
Published Predictor Model: Our published CIMB Classic predictor is available here. You can build your own tailor-made model using the variables listed on the left-hand side. Key players in the Top 5 of the Predictor are Henrik Stenson (Predictor number 1), Hideki Matsuyama, Robert Streb, Danny Lee and Paul Casey.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on a 10-tournament window that stretches back to Wyndham Championship / Made in Denmark and includes both PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players must have played in a minimum of 3 main Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:
Winners & Prices: 2014: Moore 33/1; 2013: Moore 33/1; 2012: Watney 20/1; 2011: Van Pelt 25/1; 2010: Crane 40/1. For a summary of winners' odds on the PGA Tour for the past 5 years based on the 2015 schedule click here.
Weather Forecast: The latest PGA Tour weather forecast for Kuala Lumpur is here. As you'd expect in a tropical rainforest climate, players can expect heat, humidity and electrical storms this week. 85mm of rain has fallen across Sunday and Monday so expect wet fairways and receptive greens from the off. Further thunderstorms are promised across all 4 days of competition with interruptions to play a real threat. Heat (up to 32 degrees Celsius) and humidity is a given, but wind will not be a factor this week.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of Ryan Moore's victories here gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
This same course has hosted the Malaysian Open since 2010 so it's also worth looking at data from that tournament to note similarities. Here are the key stats from 2011-2015:
Tournament Skill Averages:
So let's take a view from a few players as to how Kuala Lumpur G&CC sets up when the PGA Tour visits and what skills the course favours:
Lee Westwood: "I like the variation to it. I like that it makes you think. You know, there's driver off a lot of holes, but you don't have to hit driver. It gives you options even on the par‑5s. It's tightened up quite a bit on holes like 3 and you could hit 3‑wood up there, but if you want to take it on with driver, it's possible. I think it's a good golf course strategically wise, as well. And then you need to use your common sense and have good course management skills. I think there are a lot of opportunities to take holes on out there, but at the same time there are a lot of opportunities to play conservatively and take par on certain holes. It gives you chances with regard to the par‑5s, making birdie on those, and I think hitting the fairway is going to be paramount, especially if the conditions are wet. You don't want to be coming out of the rough because the greens seem to stay firm. Hitting a lot of fairways and setting up iron shots that you can be aggressive with."
Keegan Bradley: "Every hole out there you can make bogey. There is no easy hole. If you drive the ball on the fairway though, you have to have a lot of wedges, you have a lot of par‑5s you can reach in two. So I think the most important thing this week is to hit the ball on the fairway, and I've done that for the first couple of rounds. Yeah, I mean there are some holes that there is a carry of 290 or a lot of guys might have to lay‑up, where I'm just trying to smash it over those bunkers and get it into play. But there are a bunch of holes where I can hit driver or lay back. But I've chosen these first two days to hit driver and be aggressive."
Gary Woodland: "Yeah, it's tough. The good thing is it's soft so it is playing longer than the number, and the ball is going a long way, though. The key is to get the ball in the fairway. You do that, the greens are good enough that you can make putts. I've been driving the ball well. I'm still hitting a lot of drivers for me, so I keep driving it well and see what happens tomorrow."
Ryan Moore in 2014: "I think it was playing very much like it did last year. It was a little less rough overall for the golf course than it was last year, so it makes scoring a little bit easier. But it's a good test of golf. It tests every part of your game and you gotta put it in the fairway, and once you're in the fairway, you gotta hit good shots, and you know, always have to make putts."
Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for both of Ryan Moore's victories here at Kuala Lumpur G&CC:
It's worth noting that the West Course has played host to both the CIMB Classic in 2013/2014 and the Maybank Malaysian Open on the European Tour since 2010. Winners of the Malaysian Open have been 2010: Seung-yul Noh; 2011: Matteo Manassero; 2012: Louis Oosthuizen 2013: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 2014: Lee Westwood and 2015: Anirban Lahiri. A fair mix of long-hitters and accurate types. The key on the West Course is to minimise costly mistakes which, with plenty of water in play, are numerous.
From a CIMB Classic perspective, all of the 5 renewals to date have been low-scoring affairs. The Mines Resort course wasn't as tight as the West Course and yielded winning scores of -18/266, -23/261, and -22/262. Ryan Moore's wins here were delivered with scores of -14/274 and -17/271 (rough was lighter last year). He topped the birdies column in both wins with 24 and 25 respectively. All winners of the CIMB have been ranked between 22-52 in the Official World Golf Ranking, all have been previous PGA Tour winners and all have had a liking for low-scoring resort golf. All CIMB winners have also had decent results on Florida-type courses and can score heavily on both Par 4s and Par 5s.
My selections are as follows:
On a course where all-round consistency is key, Paul Casey shines like a beacon for me this week. If you place any value in my 10-tournament rolling skill stat analysis then you'll see that Casey sits 3rd in Driving Accuracy, 1st in Greens in Regulation and 15th in Putting Average. He sits in the Top 5 in this week's Predictor Model and it's clear that his decision to focus solely on the PGA Tour - in turn scuppering his Ryder Cup chances - is paying huge dividends. The Scottsdale, Arizona resident sits at 24th in the OWGR which is his highest spot since November 2011 and his 2015 Tour Season stats make for interesting reading: 58th in Driving Accuracy, 5th in Greens in Regulation, 9th in Proximity to Hole, 36th in Birdie Average, 29th in Bogey Avoidance, 10th in Par 4 Scoring Average and 13th in Par 5 Scoring Average. A quality ball-striker by nature, Casey has worked on his distance scrambling (over 30 yards) this year and in his last appearance at East Lake he was 12th for Scrambling, 5th for Putting average and 1st for All-Round (winner Spieth was 3rd), on a course notoriously difficult on and around the greens.
However amidst all of this positive momentum, Casey still hasn't won in 2015. Indeed on a CV that includes 15 professional wins, 13 of them have been on the European Tour, 1 on the Korean Tour and a single PGA Tour win at the GC of Houston in 2009. So Casey is undoubtedly a motivated man who knows he's playing well and will want to grab another PGA Tour win as soon as possible. The CIMB Classic and its limited field format is a cracking opportunity for Casey who has always played well in the Far East. 2 wins in China and a win in South Korea headline a CV that contains multiple Top 10s across the HSBC Champions, Volvo China Open, BMW Masters, Shinhan Donghae Open, BMW Asian Open and the Barclays Singapore Open. 37th here 12 months ago was at a time when he had just won the KLM Open and Casey was getting used to the challenges of home life provided by the birth of his first son Lex, so let's take the positives from that performance (15th Driving accuracy & 11th Greens in Regulation) and suggest that Casey will be far closer to contending 12 months on. RESULT: T24
Danny Lee under the tutelage of Butch Harmon has been a revelation in 2015. Lee, who won the Johnnie Walker Classic at The Vines in Perth as an amateur in 2009, has always been undoubtedly talented, but Harmon has moulded and shaped the 25 year-old into a player who can now challenge at the top level. His win at Old White TPC in July has seemingly filled the New Zealander with masses of confidence and the Texas-based World Number 39 has since gone on a tare which has included 3rd at Deere Run, 4th at Robert Trent Jones GC, 6th at Firestone South and 2nd last time out in strokeplay competition at East Lake. Not too shabby and Lee's introduction to the President's Cup 3 weeks ago in South Korea saw him net his first full point (with Bae) and push experienced campaigner Dustin Johnson all the way in the singles under the most severe pressure.
So why Danny this week? Well Lee is a proven talent on Paspalum surfaces for a start. 2nd (-19/269) at Trump International in Puerto Rico in 2014 is notable as was 3rd (-15/269) at El Camaleon in Mexico last November. Tropical, humid locations seem to be perfect for the South Korean-born New Zealander, especially when you throw in the Perth win from 2009 and further strong finishes across Waialae, Palm Harbor, TPC Sawgrass (Valley Course) and a run at the Zurich Classic title at TPC Louisiana in April. Accurate from the tee and also with a wedge in hand, soft conditions are perfect for Danny who has plenty of West Course experience to pull on. 17th at the Maybank Malaysian Open in 2011 became a DQ after he signed for an incorrect score and 13th here last term included an excellent Greens in Regulation performance. 12 months on Lee is a much better all-round player who has developed the mental strength to contend and win. RESULT: WD
55/1 about Robert Streb is an attractive price this week on a player who's an undoubted all-rounder. At 33rd in the OWGR and a recent Tour Championship participant, Streb finds himself in a new situation where he can select a schedule that includes the very best global tournaments. So the 28 year-old, who's now based in Florida, finds himself in Malaysia for the first time with the HSBC Champions event at Sheshan in Shanghai his next port of call. His rise across the 2014/15 season has been quite phenomenal with his first PGA Tour win at Sea Island last October quickly followed by Top 10 finishes across Jackson, Kapalua (his first winners-only tournament) and TPC Scottsdale. Those expecting a decline were sorely disappointed as Streb kicked into overdrive with 4th at Quail Hollow followed by a play-off defeat to Danny Lee at Old White TPC. At his first World Golf Championship appearance at Firestone South in August Streb finished a magnificent 5th, followed immediately by his first Top 10 finish at only his 4th Major appearance at Whistling Straits. So it's easy to see that Streb has adapted to new courses and high-level tournaments easily and those results at Quail Hollow, Old White TPC and Whistling Straits were in soft/receptive conditions.
Long and consistent ball-strikers such as Lahiri, Oosthuizen, Westwood, Garcia, and Woodland have all had recent success here on the West Course, so I have no hesitation in playing Streb this week who is long and consistent from the tee, excellent with a wedge in his hand and can play both par 3s (2nd Scoring Average last season) and 4s (18th Scoring Average) at a high level. 3rd in this week's Predictor Model shows he could be an excellent fit for the West Course this week. RESULT: T53
Watch these tips on YouTube with Steve Bamford: Golf Betting System YouTube Channel