Maybank Malaysian Open: Get with the early pacesetters, says The Punter

Steve's only pre-tournament pick, Kiradech Aphibarnrat
Steve's only pre-tournament pick, Kiradech Aphibarnrat

Steve was tempted by the favourite but in the end he's backed the defending champ only, deciding to save his ammunition for the In-Play. Read his in-depth preview here...

"In addition to his win here last year, he finished third in the CIMB Classic in what was a far deeper field than this and he also finished third here at a massive price back in 2010."

Tournament History

The Maybank Malaysian Open dates right back to 1962 and it's been a co-sanctioned European and Asian Tour event since 1999. 


Venue

Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club


Course Details
West Course - Par 72, 6,967 yards. Stroke Index in 2013 - 72.43

Designed by Nelson & Haworth, the design team also responsible for Sheshan International - home of the WGC HSBC Champions events, the West Course has been the venue for this event for the last four years. It was also used for the CIMB Classic on the PGA Tour back in October last year and it also staged this event in 2006 when Charlie Wi denied Thongchai Jaidee a hat-trick of event wins but it was completely remodelled after that renewal so an examination of the last four stagings and the CIMB Classic result is the way to go.

The fairways and rough are Seashore Paspalum and the greens, running at 10 on the stimpmeter, are Seaisle Supreme. Water is in-play on 13 holes and the fairways are described as undulating. 

According to the European Tour website, one or two changes have been made ahead of this year's event. A bunker has been removed on the 18th hole and run offs have been introduced to several green complexes.


Useful Sites

Course Site
Course Map
Twitter Link
Tee Times
Weather Forecast


TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 07:00 on Thursday and Friday and 4:00 over the weekend.


Last Five Winners

2013 - Kiradech Aphibarnrat - 13 (54 holes)
2012 - Louis Oosthuizen -17
2011 - Matteo Manassero -16
2010 - Seung-yul Noh -14
2009 - Anthony Kang -17


What will it take to win the Maybank Malaysian Open?

At a shade under 7,000 yards, the West Course isn't a monster, so length of the tee isn't that important here, and neither it appears is accuracy. Seung-Yul Noh ranked just 51st for driving accuracy when he won in 2010, Louis Oosthuizen was 35th in 2012 and this week's defending champ, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, was ranked just 29th for fairways found last year.

Accurate iron-play and exceptional scrambling have been the keys to success here and those stats could be even more important this time around with the installation of the aforementioned new runoff areas. A neat and tidy game gets it done here.


Is there an angle in?

With the exception of the defending champion, who clearly loves KL, I'd be very wary of backing an Asian Tour representative. They've been readily outclassed by their European rivals in recent renewals and are likely to be so again. Other than, Aphibarnrat, China's Ashun Wu was the only other Asian Tour player in the top-21 last year and that was just three rounds played.


Is there an identikit winner?

All the winners here have been top-class and the leaderboards have been jam-packed with quality. The cream tends to rise to the top, and that's even under exceptional circumstances.

As it does this year, the event immediately followed the US Masters in bother 2011 and 2012 and in both renewals we witness remarkable performances by players that should by rights have been good for nothing.

Rory McIlroy had led by four strokes with a round to go at Augusta and was still in front at the turn but a disastrous tee-shot on the 10th kicked off a ruinous back-nine and he dropped to tied 15th. It was remarkable he even made the trip here after such a meltdown and it was simply incredible that he nearly won - trading heavy odds-on before Manassero got the better of the argument late on.

Twelve months later, after losing a dramatic playoff to Bubba Watson, Louis Oosthuizen overcame jetlag to somehow win the event, claiming afterwards that the longest continuous sleep he'd managed since leaving Augusta had been four hours.

Logic would suggest that taking on anyone that competed at last week's US Masters would be a sensible tactic but after those two have denied logic so spectacularly, I don't think we should.


In-Play Tactics

Aphibarnrat led from flag fall and was never headed last year - albeit over only three rounds. CIMB Classic winner, Ryan Moore, led by two after round one, was down to second at halfway but back in front with a round to go. Oosthuizen trailed by just two after round one but was never headed thereafter and Manassero was never outside of the front four when he won a year earlier in 2011.

So it's fair to say it's a frontrunners course and although the forecast suggests we might be ok this year, afternoon storms are always a possiblity in this part of the world and if it gets reduced to three rounds again, a sluggish start will be impossible to overcome.


Market Leaders

I was sorely tempted to back pre-event favourite, Lee Westwood, who was only a 13.012/1 shot to finally break his major duck last Sunday morning. If Rory and Oosty can overcome their Augusta disappointments and contend here I'm pretty sure Lee can too.

The Worksop Wonder has a great record when he gets on his travels with multiple wins all over the world, including one in this event in 1997, but after much deliberation I've decided to leave him out. The fact that he's not played the course before tempers my enthusiasm, as does the fact that he's shot a round in the 70s in each of his last four outings.

Louis Oosthuizen lost his way last week after hitting the front with four to play on day two but after three missed cuts in-a-row his tied 25th at Augusta was still encouraging. It was encouraging enough though and having the memory of him hobbling badly at the World Matchplay still fresh in my mind, I'm happy to leave him out of my calculations.

The Italian duo of Francesco Molinari and Matteo Manassero haven't been playing well enough of late and the only other short one I came close to backing was Spain's Rafa Cabrera Bello, who's in fair form and who has great course form.

His 22nd placed finish in the event 12 months ago looks like a disappointing event on the back of his third in 2012 and his fourth the year before but he had what can only be described as a journey from hell to get to KL and we can readily dismiss his slow start in 2013. I can see him contending but he's far from prolific and I'm happy to leave him out too.


Selection

Given the strong record of frontrunners, I'm going to concentrate on the event more closely after round one but I did feel compelled to take the 35/1 on the Sportsbook about defending champ, Aphibarnrat.

His form has dropped off quite badly after the death of his coach before Christmas and he's still looking for a replacement but he plays this course so well I thought he was still worth chancing.

In addition to his win here last year, he finished third in the CIMB Classic in what was a far deeper field than this and he also finished third here at a massive price back in 2010.


Selection
Kiradech Aphibarnrat @ 35/1 (Sportsbook)


Although the RBC Heritage won't have even started (previewed here), if I do get involved in-running at this event, I'll kick off the In-Play Blog sometime around Thursday lunchtime. However, if nothing tickles my fancy I may well wait until Friday.


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

You can read The Punter's 2015 Malaysian Open Betting Preview behind the link.

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