The first CIMB Asia Pacific Classic was a great success, with Ben Crane (my tip at 40/1) shooting -18 around the Par 71 resort course to grab victory from perennial runner-up Brian Davis, resort course expert Martin Laird and some bloke called Luke Donald.
It's important to understand how this tournament works, before making any selections. A $6,100,000 prize fund with $1,000,000 going to the winner has started to open American eyes to the fact that they might want to experience golf outside of the US. The fact that the HSBC World Championship event takes place next week in Shanghai also makes the Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia-based event a decent stop off. The numbers have grown from 40 to 48 players this year and the invitational field includes PGA Tour and Asian Tour players. The short field also means that there is no cut. Naturally this isn't part of the full PGA Tour, so no official exemptions or Money List dollars are open to the winner, but 38 World Ranking points are up for grabs. To put that in context Luke Donald received 32 for his Disney win last week and Steve Stricker only received 30 points for his John Deere Classic win in July.
The Mines Resort Golf Club is a Trent Jones Junior setup that rewards attacking golf. Eagles abounded last year around this resort course but accuracy off the tee is an important attribute as water features on 6 of 18 holes. The 6,966 yard Par 71 with a drivable Par 4 and 2 very reachable Par 5s should suit long bombers, however approach play into tightly cropped Bermuda greens, which are surrounded by run off areas, dictates that an excellent approach and short game was the key last year. Heat and humidity is at unparallel levels here so I'm favouring southern state-based players who have a track record on Bermuda greens and who have a reason to perform this week.
Again I must highlight Ladbrokes this week for their excellent 5 place Each Way terms both on the CIMB and Andalucia Masters (6 places). Tie that in with a superb £50 Free Bet account opening offer and in many cases market leading prices and you can see that Ladbrokes are offering unbeatable terms this week. To check out Ladbrokes current prices - and qualify for a £50 free bet - simply click here.
Camilo Villegas has some key reasons to play well this week. His recent uptrend in form where he has delivered 6th at Cog Hill, 6th at Plainfield and 9th at Sedgefield has come at just the right time. Spiderman's World Ranking had slumped unbelievably to 86 prior to Sedgefield due to a total crisis with the putter placing far too much pressure on the rest of his game. However the inevitable move to a belly putter has had immediate results as Spiderman has ranked T1 and T2 in birdie average at Cog Hill and TPC Boston respectively. Camilo's problem, and our prospective gain, is that his poor season and the current combination of no wins, a world rank of 76 and a final PGA Tour Money List position of 77 mean that he will miss out on the Accenture World Matchplay, WGC at Doral and most importantly of all entry to the Masters. Fact is he needs to get back into the World Top 50 as quickly as possible ideally by the close of 2010, which would then see him qualify for Augusta. One look at his CV highlights that Villegas is a true Par 70/71 Bermuda monster and his freshness, allied to the fact that he's targeted this tournament, suggest to me that he's in with a huge shout this week. RESULT: T4
Comparing Robert Garrigus with Jason Dufner would appear like comparing chalk with cheese, but for me Dufner is in a very similar position to that of Big Bad Bob last year. Dufner has always been known as a choker and his capitulation at Atlanta Athletic Club in August when he handed the PGA Championship to Keegan Bradley was an epic fall from grace. However Bob Garrigus faced the same ridicule at this point in the season last year when he'd famously thrown away the victory at TPC Southwind and came back to win the Disney event under the most intense pressure of having to save his PGA Tour card. It can be done. Looking at the real facts: Alabama's finest has jumped almost 60 places in the OWGR this season and 2nd at Scottsdale (-18), 3rd at TPC Louisiana, 6th at Sawgrass and the aforementioned 2nd at the PGA Championship highlight a formidable Bermuda green golf player. 13th last time out at his first ever Tour Championship appearance at East Lake again showed his liking for Par70/Bermuda but also showed that he's acclimatising himself in the upper-echelons of world golf. So I'm expecting the unexpected this week and don't be surprised if Dufner grabs the win in Malaysia this week to cement a spot in the World's Top 30. RESULT: T10
I don't see Oklahoma's Bo Van Pelt struggling with the heat and humidity in Malaysia this week and I have been majorly impressed by the way that BVP has cemented a place in the World's Top 50 this season after his breakthrough 2010. 29th position on the PGA Tour Money List allied to a Tour Championship appearance (his second in a row) mean that he's locked into the Masters, US Open and Open Championships. Van Pelt, like Crane last year, will be playing with no pressure except the goal of cementing even further a place in the World Top 50 which will get him into all of immediate WGC events. We all know that Van Pelt only has a single victory to his name, Milwaukee 2009, but his ability to grab eagles (17th this year on Tour) allied to his undoubted arrival on the world stage (2011: 8th Masters, 14th US Open, 57th Open 9th Tour Championship 2010: 3rd at WGC Firestone, 3rd Muirfield) show to me a player that's likely to take Malaysia in his stride and see as a real opportunity this week. Recent Top 10s at Palm Springs, Copperhead, River Highlands, Hilton Head, Seaside Course, Colonial, TPC Boston and East Lake highlight a player ready-made to contend this week. RESULT: Winner
Now for some value and a Texan who's won all of his 3 PGA Tour titles on Bermuda greens: step forward World Number 64 Ryan Palmer. Ladbrokes have totally overpriced Palmer who is as short as 33s elsewhere, but there is no-doubt that Ryan is in with a real shot this week at a course he played last year. Palmer, like Van Pelt, has had a decent 2011 and would love to grab a year-ending World Top 50 spot and guarantee his place at Golf's top table for the 2nd year running. 2011 yielded appearances in WGC events at Doral and Dove Mountain plus all 4 majors and 10th at Augusta, 21st at US Open, 30th at The Open and 19th at PGA Championship was a great return. However no wins and slipping outside of the World's Top 50 saw him miss out on appearance at Firestone where he finished 2nd in 2010. That, for me, is why Palmer will be hungry to use this week as a platform for next season by catapulting himself back into the World's Top 50. Palmer shot -12 across the closing 54 holes in Disney last week finished 4th on Bermuda at Palm Springs in February shooting -26 across the 5 rounds and his Par 70 record which includes 2nd at TPC Four Seasons (this season) 2nd at Firestone (10) and 1st at Waialee (10) all links in perfectly to Mines Resort this week. RESULT: T7
We finish this week with the enigma that is Rory Sabbatini. I missed out by a single shot on a 66/1 EW return of John Rollins last week at Disney and I place Sabba very much in the same category. Fact is that the Texas domiciled South African has had a decent 2011 with a win on the Par 70 Bermuda of PGA National, plus 4th at El Camaleon and 3rd at Quail Hollow catapulting him back into the World's Top 50 by the second week of May. Since May the cupboard has been bare with only a couple of T20s at Colonial and recently at Plainfield to show and, as usual, you have to question Rory's motivation at times like this. However it's absolute fact that Sabbatini is a both a Par 70 and Bermuda monster and Mines Resort will suit him down to the ground this week. A win here will get him back into the World Top 50 and that will in turn almost guarantee a starting berth at Augusta in April. Wins at Scottsdale, Colonial, TPC Four Seasons and the aforementioned triumph at PGA National clearly highlight that contention this week isn't out of the realms of possibility. RESULT: T28
Odds and bookmaker offers correct 17:50BST 25.10.11 but naturally subject to fluctuation.