CIMB Classic: TPC Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The PGA Tour is going to begin it’s Asian leg with the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The event will be played at the TPC Kuala Lumpur West Course, a relatively short Par-72 at just over 7000 yards. It was designed by Nelson and Haworth and is co-sanctioned by both the PGA and the Asian tours. The course was completely revamped in 2008 after which it is consistently one of the easiest scoring courses on the Tour.
The shorter length of the course forces some of the bombers to come down a club while teeing off and the easy to hit fairways allow for some creative lines to be taken. The greens complexes are usually in pristine condition and not too hard to reach in regulation. The weather in Kuala Lumpur is expected to be warm and humid with light winds. There is some threat of rain, not an entirely unexpected occurrence at this time of the year.
A reduced field of 78 players will be featuring in this week’s tournament and there will be no cuts. That makes things a lot more open, especially on a course where golfers can get on a hot streak and make up plenty of ground in one round.
The two time winner here Justin Thomas will be in attendance once again although Ryan Moore who won the tournament in 2013 and 2014 will be missing in action. Nick Watney won the even in 2012 while Bo Van Pelt won it in 2011.
Current form will be a big factor in this tournament where players need to be in an excellent space with their game to attack the course. This event is all about scoring meaning the ability to scramble is not as relevant. Justin Thomas scored the most amount of birdies per green in regulation when he won here last year. He also shot 29 birdies, the most of all participants, ranked T13 for driving accuracy, T4 for putts per round and T13 for greens in regulation.
Stats That Matter
The Wolf is going to concentrate on the scoring stats to try and narrow down some of the best contenders.
– Birdie Average
– Strokes Gained: Tee to Green
– Putts per Round
A look at the winning scores from the last few years will put into perspective just how good a scoring course this is. Justin Thomas won with 265 last year, 262 in 2015 while Ryan Moore had 271 and 274 the two years before that. The Wolf thinks this is going to be another year where the winning total will be in the mid 260’s. Some of the players that have a good course history here include Justin Thomas, Hideki Matsuyama, Anirban Lahiri, Cameron Smith, and Gary Woodland.
There are two world-class gofers that stand out from everyone else in this field and those are Justin Thomas and Hideki Matsuyama. The odds on both of them are not too attractive but fading the current hottest player in the world just does not seem like a smart move.
The Wolf recommends sticking with the bookmaker’s favourites Justin Thomas at $5.00. Matsuyama is being offered at twice the odds but his form at the end of last season was pretty poor making Thomas a instant pick this week. Justin Thomas loves this course. He won here the last two years and is coming off his best season to date. His last five tournaments include two victories (PGA Championship and Dell Technologies Open), a T6 (The Northern Trust) and a T2 (Tour Championship). He is also 2nd in birdie average, 5th in putts per round and 6th in strokes gained: tee to green. We will place our biggest bet on Thomas and back a few at odds around him.
Now for some interesting picks.
For the value pick this week the Wolf likes Gary Woodland at $29.00. He has played this tournament 4 times and put in impressive performances including multiple runner up finishes. Woodland also has the game to really get on a tear and start making birdies, something that is absolutely essential to stand a chance here. His form ending the last season was pretty good too with a T19 at the Tour Championship, T27 in the BMW Championship and T18 at the Dell Technologies Championship. Woodland is T17 in strokes gained: tee to green and 56 in birdie scoring. With putting not as big a factor here he will be right in the mix.
The Wolf is also having something on Cameron Smith at $51.00. The price at which he is being offered seems very generous considering that Smith has a T12 and a T7 in his last four starts. Yes, the other two were missed cuts but that is exactly what makes him worth the risk. Smith has played the CIMB Classic two times and recorded a T5 in 2015 to have some excellent memories of playing on this course. His stats are also pretty good with 31st in birdie average, 26th in putts per round and 60th in strokes gained: tee to green. Which Cameron Smith will show up for this year’s CIMB Classic? The one that makes golf look ridiculously easy or the one who completely loses his rhythm? The Wolf is sure hoping it’s the good Cameron Smith we get to see this week!
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