CIMB Classic: In-form Ryan can claim the hat-trick, says The Punter

Ryan Moore - bidding to win the CIMB Classic for a third time
Ryan Moore - bidding to win the CIMB Classic for a third time

The PGA Tour is off to Malaysia this week for the limited field CIMB Classic. Read what Steve thinks it will take to win in KL with his in-depth preview here...

“I’m going to keep things simple here and play only the very obvious Ryan Moore before the off. At 16/1 with the Sportsbook, he’s a lot shorter than he was when he won here in either 2013 or 2014 but justifiably so given he’s in the form of his life.”

Tournament History

First staged in 2010, the CIMB Classic was an unofficial tournament for the first three years. It became an official PGA Tour event in 2013. It's a limited field competition with only 78 competitors, including Malaysian pros Danny Chia and Gavin Green, who have given invites. There are also ten spaces reserved for Asian Tour members.

The CIMB Classic is 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 just the fourth time the course has hosted the event.


Venue

The TPC Kuala Lumpur (West), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


Course Details

West Course - Par 72, 7,005 yards.
Stroke index in 2015 - 69.62

Formerly known as the Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club, the 36-hole property, which also includes the East Course, became the TPC Network's newest member this summer.

The Nelson & Haworth designed West Course opened in 1991 and it was given a thorough redesign in 2008 by Ted and Geoff Parslow. Nelson & Haworth were also responsible for next week's venue WGC HSBC Champions venue - Sheshan International.

In addition to being the host course for this event since 2013, the West Course was also the venue for the now defunct Malaysian Open on the European Tour between 2010 and 2015 and it was also the venue for that event back in 2006 when Charlie Wi won but that was before the redesign 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 as fast as 11 on the stimpmeter. Water is in-play on 13 holes and the fairways are described as undulating.


Weather Forecast


TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 3:30 on Thursday morning


First Six Tournament Winners

2015 - Justin Thomas -26
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 is crucial here - it's all about finding the greens and putting well. I've looked at the last nine results here (six Malaysian Open Opens and three CIMB Classics) and only three 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. Last year's winner, Justin Thomas, only ranked 30th for GIR but the first three GIR performers all finished inside the top-six and Thomas topped the Putting Average stats.

Other stats to consider are Birdie Average and Par 4 Scoring. Thomas made more birdies than anyone else 12 months ago and seven of the nine winners have ranked first or second for birdies made. No winner has ranked outside the top-12 for Par 4 Scoring. It's basically a birdie-fest.


Is There an Angle In?

Last year's one and two, Thomas and Adam Scott, were playing the course for the very first time but course form tends to hold up nicely here as a rule. In the last three years alone, Ryan Moore has won the event twice, Gary Woodland has finished runner-up twice and Kevin Na has finished second and third.

Getting as early a start as possible on day one is a plus. With delays highly likely, getting your first round done and dusted before the afternoon storms and delays start occurring is far more favourable than hanging around waiting for the storms to clear, before possibly having to finish up round one on day two.

The early starters on day one have averaged less than the afternoon starters in each of the three years the event has been staged here and they were advantaged to the tune of 1.27 strokes three 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 used to be in the Malaysian Open but I'd still favour those starting early on Thursday.


Is There an Identikit Winner?

Justin Thomas was matched at no bigger than 29.028/1 last year and having been well backed he went off at around the 24.023/1 mark, so he was the latest in a run off fairly well fancied winners.

Moore went off at around 32.031/1 when defending in 2014 and that was just a few ticks shorter than he was in 2013 and the three winners at The mines, before the tournament was made an official PGA Tour event, were all fairly well touted before the off. This isn't an event for outsiders.


In-Play Tactics

Thomas sat tied for 16th and six adrift after round one 12 months ago but a sensational 61 saw him take up the running at halfway and he was tied for the lead with a round to go. Yet another winner here to be up with the pace.

Anirban Lahiri came from a long way back to win the Malaysian Open in February last year 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 Thomas' win and Lahiri's success last year, 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 in 2014 but he 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.

If you're going to get up nice and early and 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.

The course finishes with a par five but birdies aren't that easy to come by there. It measure well in excess of 600 years and only averaged 4.81 last year with five holes playing easier.


Market Leaders

There may only be 78 in the line-up but it's a very competitive heat and the Sportsbook go 14/1 the field. And they can't separate the front three - Paul Casey, Patrick Reed and Hideki Matsuyama.

With form figures reading 2-2-4-3, Casey is the man in form but he's far from easy to get across the line. He started well in the Safeway Open last week and was matched at just 2.35/4 during round two but once again the Englishman came up short when it came to the crunch. He still has only one PGA Tour title to his name and in two starts here he's finished 37th and 24th. I'm more than happy to look elsewhere.

Patrick Reed's course form figures aren't an awful lot better than Casey's. His three visits have yielded a set of figures reading 40-26-10, so he is at least trending in the right direction. The Ryder Cup star has been putting well for much of the summer and if can ride the Hazeltine momentum wave he could improve again on his meagre course form but I'm happy to swerve him also.

Hideki Matsuyama contended here at the third time of asking when he finished fifth behind Thomas 12 months ago, having previously finished 25th and 21st so he's another going in the right direction with regards to course form and he'll be feeling good about his game after his win in his homeland on Sunday in the Japan Open. He ranked second for Greens In Regulation last week and that would have been the reason he won as he only averaged 1.8 putts per green and that's very high. He ranked as low as 41 for Putting Average there, in what was an infinitely weaker field than this and that's my huge concern. Matsuyama is absolute machine from the fairway but his putting is far from a thing of beauty and he's not for me.

It may not have been a strong field in Japan last week but Adam Scott somehow contrived to miss the cut. He's another with putting woes and despite his runners-up finish on debut last year, he's another I'm happy to leave alone.


Selection

I'm going to keep things simple here and play only the very obvious Ryan Moore before the off. At 16/1 with the Sportsbook, he's a lot shorter than he was when he won here in either 2013 or 2014 but justifiably so given he's in the form of his life.

He flopped at the Wyndham Championship, a week after winning the John Deere Classic in August, and he didn't get competitive at the BMW Championship, but he's recently finished seventh at The Barclays, eighth at the Deutsche Bank Championship and runner-up at the Tour Championship and he also played superbly when making his Ryder Cup debut last time out.

He could only finish tenth last year when attempting to take the title for a third year-in-row but that was a huge ask and at a venue he clearly loves, I'd be surprised if he didn't at least contend again this time around. The 16/1 available is perfectly fair.


Selection:
Ryan Moore @ 16/1 (Sportsbook)

I'll be back later this evening or tomorrow morning with my Portugal Masters preview.



*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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