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Kevin Kisner played beautifully last week to bring us a 100/1 part-place return in a tournament won in style by the hard-charging Robert Streb. So this week we move on to one of my favourite events of the whole season. The CIMB Classic in Malaysia is now a fully-fledged PGA Tour event with origins that stretch back to 2010 when Ben Crane won for us at 40/1. Initially hosted at The Mines Resort across 2010-12, the tournament is now based at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club where Ryan Moore won a Monday Play-off last season against Gary Woodland.
With the CIMB Classic now being part of the official Tour schedule The field comprises of 78 players (60 PGA Tour, 10 Asian Tour and 8 Sponsor's Exemptions). The Top 60 available players from the closing 2014 FedEx Cup rankings have travelled to Malaysia. With a $7 million purse up for grabs across a limited field with no cut, you might have expected a far stronger tournament this week, but players of the ilk of Charlie Beljan, Will Wilcox, Trevor Immelman and Kyle Stanley - all with limited Tour status - have hot-footed across the Pacific to fill the 60 PGA berths.
This week's preview walks you through some interesting angles that have shaped my final selections:
Course Guide: The Kuala Lumpur G&CC West Course is an original Nelson and Wright design. The course is a short (6,985 yard), scoreable Par 72, which features the traditional split of 4 Par 3, 10 Par 4 and 4 Par 5 holes. 7 of the Par 4s are sub-425 yards with 5 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, West Course, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Designer: Nelson & Wright, 1992, Parslow, 2007; Course Type: Resort; Par: 72; Length: 6,985 yards; Water Hazards:10; Fairways: Seashore Paspalum; Rough: Seashore Paspalum, 2"; Greens: 6,500 sq.ft average Seashore Paspalum; Stimpmeter: 11ft. Course Scoring Average 2013: 70.04, Difficulty Rank 28 of 43 courses.
Course Overview: The West Course at Kuala Lumpur G&CC is an interesting test. 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. The series of Par 5s are also quite daunting as they ranked the 12th hardest across 43 courses on the Tour last season. Malaysia's climate dictates that the course traditionally features soft fairways with little roll (expect the same this week with lift-clean-and-place in operation) and last year also featured gnarly Paspalum rough. Yes, longer players are at an advantage, but this is definitely a Total Driving track where strong 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.
Tournament Stats: We have generated some key player statistics for this week's CIMB Classic that are well worth a look. Naturally they'll help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well at this event: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader History | Top 20 Finishes
Published Predictor Model: Our published Predictor Model is viewable here. You can build your own model using the variables available if you prefer. Key players included in the upper reaches of the Predictor include Ryan Moore (Rank 1 + Defending Champion), Brendon De Jonge, Kevin Streelman, Chris Stroud, Charl Schwartzel and Lee Westwood. Value each-way punts include Scott Stallings and Tim Clark.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: Here we list a view of players in the CIMB field and respective recent skill stats. These rankings are based on an 11 tournament window that stretches back to the PGA Championship and includes both PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players must have played in a minimum of 3 main Tour tournaments to be included and rankings are based on average performance relative to the rest of the field:
Winners Prices: 2013: Ryan Moore 33/1; 2012: Nick Watney 20/1; 2011: Bo Van Pelt 25/1; 2010: Ben Crane 40/1.
Tournament Trends: It's worth noting that the West Course has played host to both the CIMB Classic in 2013 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 and 2014) Lee Westwood. 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 4 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 with Ryan Moore's win here last season delivered with a winning total of -14/274 powered by 24 Birdies (Tournament best at 33% Hole Conversion) with 10 Bogeys.
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 Par 5s.
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My final selections are as follows:
2 solid points at the Ryder Cup (he shot -5 across 16 holes in his singles defeat to Jimmy Walker) and a strong closing 54 holes (-11) at Silverado suggest that Lee Westwood is finding form at the right time. We all know that Lee has had a poor 2014 and, at 46th in the OWGR, the former World Number 1 is vulnerable to dropping outside the magic Top 50 for the first time since 2007. Truth is that Lee is both a Par 72 and Far East specialist with 5 wins in Malaysia, South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia all coming since April 2011 on his favoured layout. On a course where he won in April, at an event that will feature soft conditions, 20/1 is a backable price. RESULT: T13
Number 2 in my CIMB Predictor, Brendon De Jonge came extremely close to his maiden PGA Tour win last week at Sea Island. I'm a believer that De Jonge will win on Tour and it could happen as quickly as this week in Kuala Lumpur on a course that's picture perfect for the neat and tidy Zimbabwean. Brendon finished 2012 strongly with 2nd (TPC Summerlin), 4th (Sea Island), 4th (The Mines Resort) in consecutive tournaments and the World Number 80 appears on far too many resort scoring leaderboards to ignore this week. 3rd in Puerto Rico, 4th in Malaysia and 3rd in Mississippi highlight a player who can handle intense humidity and a late Round 1 draw won't hinder a fast start. RESULT: T13
Kevin Streelman at 40th in the OWGR can rubber-stamp his place in the 2015 Major Championships this week in Malaysia and we all know that the Arizona resident certainly has the firepower to shoot low scores after fast finishes in 2014 at Kapalua (3rd -17/275), TPC River Highlands (1st -15/265) and 2 weeks ago at TPC Summerlin (2nd -18/266). Top 3 finishes in Puerto Rico (2010) and El Camaleon (2009) highlight a player comfortable in humid conditions. He's striking the ball beautifully at the moment as highlighted in our recent Player Skills Rankings and arrives in Kuala Lumpur with course experience and in the knowledge that he contended in the inaugural 2010 Classic. His breakthrough 2013 season highlights that the streaky Streelman can play at a high level over a run of consecutive tournaments. RESULT: T26
He might be unfashionable but John Senden is in the Top 2 when it comes to main Tour Current Form and, unlike Gary Woodland, he secured a Top 18 finish as recently as TPC Summerlin 2 weeks ago. At 50 in the OWGR, Senden has no worries about the Major Championships next season as he qualified for East Lake this term, but the CIMB has been a happy hunting ground with a strong 7th at the tournament in 2011 plus a Top 16 in 2012. Senden's ball-striking right now is exemplary and he will get plenty of looks at birdie opportunities on a course that's sure to suit. A look at his PGA West, Doral, Deere Run and TPC Boston records highlight a player that's sneaky low when he needs to be. RESULT: 7th
I will close with Scott Stallings who naturally could finish 78th or win this week. Calling the right week with Stallings requires a little slice of luck, but there's no doubt that the 3-time PGA Tour winner has been putting increasing well since Sedgefield. With confidence growing on the greens, his ball-striking is upwardly mobile which as we all know is as potent combination as any on Tour. A 64 in soft conditions at TPC Boston was the best closing round and 21st at Silverado was the result of only 10 Bogeys (5th in field). His approach play is undoubtedly improving and if he hits fairways this week in softer conditions that suit expect the Tennessee man to shine in humid conditions he loves. RESULT: T19