The PGA Tour heads to the Far East this week for the CIMB Classic in Malaysia where Ryan Moore is bidding to win the event for the third time in a row. Read Steve's detailed preview of the event here...
“I was sorely tempted by Stenson and Ryan Moore and if they get allotted the all important early tee time on Thursday I might yet get either or both onside but for now I’m having a tiny bet on just one player – Danny Lee.”
Having been an unofficial tournament for the first three years, the CIMB Classic, first staged in 2010, became an official PGA Tour event in 2013. Co-sanctioned with the Asian Tour, it's the only PGA Tour event staged in Asia and having spent three years at The Mines, it moved to Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club when it became an official PGA Tour event so this will be the third time the course has hosted.
The West Course, Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
West Course - Par 72, 6,967 yards.
Stroke index at the Malaysian Open in February - 72.58
Designed by Nelson & Haworth, the design team also responsible for Sheshan International - home of the WGC HSBC Champions event, the West Course has been the venue for the Malaysian Open on the European Tour for the last six years. It was also the venue for that event back in 2006 when Charlie Wi won but it was completely remodelled after that renewal so that form might not be an awful lot of use.
The fairways and rough are Seashore Paspalum and the greens are Seaisle Supreme. With so much precipitation, the greens are always receptive and they'll do really well to get them to run at 11. Water is in-play on 13 holes and the fairways are described as undulating.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting very early on Thursday morning.
Last Five Winners
2014 - Ryan Moore -17
2013 - Ryan Moore -14 (playoff)
2012 - Nick Watney -22
2011 - Bo Van Pelt -23
2010 - Ben Crane - 18
What Will it Take to Win The CIMB Classic?
Neither length or accuracy off the tee appear crucial here - it's all about finding the greens and putting well. I've looked at the last eight results here (six Malaysian Open Opens and two CIMB Classics) and only two winners have ranked worse than eighth for Greens In Regulation and Louis Oosthuizen (the 2012 Malaysian Open champ) is the only winner to rank outside the top-12 for putting.
Other stats to consider are Birdie Average and Par 4 Scoring - six of the eight winners have ranked first or second for birdies made (Moore made 25 last year and 24 in 2013) and no winner has ranked outside the top-12 for Par 4 Scoring.
Is There an Angle In?
Given Moore has already won back-to-back here, I could be at risk of being accused of stating the bleeding obvious but course form does seem to count for plenty with a number of players performing well here on numerous occasions.
Getting as early a start as possible on day one is often advantageous. With delays highly likely, getting your first round done and dusted before the afternoon storms and delays start occurring is far more favourable to hanging around waiting for the storms to clear, before having to finish up round one on day two.
I haven't been able to get the splits from last year's renewal but the early starters in this event where advantaged to the tune of 1.27 strokes two years ago and all six winners of the Malaysian Open winners here were drawn in the morning on day one.
This isn't a huge field so the time differential isn't as pronounced as it is in the Malaysian Open but I'd still favour those starting early on Thursday.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
The cream rises to the top at the Malaysian Open and Ryan Moore was fairly well fancied for both his victories in this event so I don't expect to see a big outsider win.
Although the gap between the Asian Tour and the European Tour is narrowing all the time there's still a massive gulf in class between the PGA Tour and the Asian Tour and I wouldn't be interested in backing any of the Asian Tour players.
Cameron Smith, who looks destined for the very top and who subsequently finished fourth at this year's US Open, finished fifth last year and Prom Meesawat and Angelo Que finished tied eighth (beaten by seven strokes) but course specialist, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, was the only Asian Tour representative to finish inside the top-15 two years ago and I won't be in a rush to back any of them this time around.
Anirban Lahiri came from a long way back to win the Malaysian Open in February but he put a big shift in on Saturday and he had plenty of help from his rivals. He trailed by nine strokes at halfway before a superb third round 62 saw him climb the leaderboard but he still trailed by five with a round to go. It looked as though he had too much on his plate despite the sensational 62 but the four men ahead of him - Paul Waring, Alejandro Canizares, Bernd Wiesberger and Lee Westwood - all performed really poorly with rounds of 73, 74, 74 and 75 respectively and the Indian was able to win by a stroke with a final round 68.
That clearly shows that you can overcome a slow start but only in exceptional circumstances and I'd definitely favour the early pace setters - especially given how poor the weather can be in this part of the world as there's always a chance of a reduced-length 54-hole tournament, rendering a slow start impossible to overcome.
Prior to Lahiri's success in February, all the winners here had been up with the pace all the way.Ryan Moore was fifth and three off the lead after round one last year but was third at halfway and tied for the lead through three rounds and he was never outside the top-two all week when he won here a year earlier. At the Malaysian Open, prior to Lahiri's win, both Lee Westwood in 2014 and Aphibarnrat a year earlier, led from flag fall. Louis Oosthuizen, in the 2012 edition, trailed by just two after round one and was never headed thereafter and Manny Manassero was never outside of the front four when he won here in 2011.
This event wasn't live on TV last year but it is this time around so if you're going to trade in-running, the three hardest holes on the course are holes 11, 12 and 13. If the leader is going to lose his way on the back-nine on Sunday, over that run of three holes is highly likely to be where it happens.
I'm surprised to see Henrik Stenson playing here instead of Turkey. In his two starts in the Turkish Airlines Open (previewed here) he's finished seventh in 2013 and third last year so he'd have been well fancied there despite the presence of Rory McIlroy.
He's making his course debut at the Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club so that's against him but he's been in great form of late, finishing second in four of his last eight starts. I can see him going well and at around the 7/1 mark he looks a fair price but he just doesn't win often enough for my liking and I'm reluctantly leaving him out.
Kevin Na finished runner-up yesterday for the second time in two weeks and for the ninth time on the PGA Tour. He was second here 12 months ago too so he doesn't lack for course or current form but he really does struggle under the gun and I'm not in the least bit interested in him at such a short price.
Hideki Matsuyama should have just the right game for the venue but he played in the first two renewals here and he failed to break the top-20 so I'm more than happy to leave him out too.
Sergio Garcia finished 11th here in 2013 and tied second last year so is clearly suited to the venue but he isn't in the best of form and he's incredibly hard to get across the line, so he's very easy to dismiss.
I was sorely tempted by Stenson and Ryan Moore and if they get allotted the all-important early tee time on Thursday I might yet get either or both onside but for now I'm having a tiny bet on just one player - Danny Lee.
The Korean-born New Zealander has had a great year already, getting his first win on the PGA Tour at the Greenbrier Classic in July and contesting in some big events (he finished second at the Tour Championship as recently as last month). He played here for the first time last year and finished 13th but was severely hampered by a poor third round and I can see improving on that performance considerably.
Danny Lee @ 28/1 (Sportsbook)
I'll be back on Thursday or Friday with the In-Play Blog.
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