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Sunday, October 20, 2013

CIMB Classic - Preview

For numerous reasons, the CIMB Classic is an easy week to take an eye off the ball for gamers, but in this week's Preview hopefully you'll see some value in keeping your head in the game. Especially for one-and-done players. After all, the purse is a big $7,000,000 with $1.2 million to the winner.

Nick Watney is the defending champion, having posted 22-under at The MINES Resort and Golf Club to win the third edition of this tournament in 2012. Problem number one; the tournament has changed venues. It will now take place at Kuala Lumpur G&CC, so all bets on course history are off.

Still noteworthy, despite an obvious attempt at a global fields with a few players even I've never heard of (Siddikur Rahman and Shaaban Hussin last year anyone?), all of the winners and runners-up in the first three editions of the Malaysian event have been PGA TOUR regulars, and all but one are American. Your winners are Nick Watney, Bo Van Pelt and Ben Crane. Robert Garrigus, Bo Van Pelt, Jeff Overton and Brian Davis have played bridesmaid.

The LPGA Tour plays an event at this course , but not sure it's wise to read anything into Lexi Thompson's win there a few weeks ago. Lexi is noted as long for a woman, but it would be reckless on my part to assume that length is necessarily rewarded over putting, GIR, scrambling, etc.

***(Correction: the LPGA event was at the same site, but played the East Course rather than the West. Good thing we put zero credence into Lexi's success)***

What is worth peeking back at, is the Malaysian Open on the European Tour. Kuala Lumpur hosted the 2006 and 2010-2013 editions of that event.

So what do we know, or think we know, about Kuala Lumpur? The West Course is listed as a 6,951 par 72, for starters. Three of the four par 5s are under 540 yards, with the par-5 18th stretching out to 634 yards. I don't have to tell anyone that the first three par 5s will be reachable by most players with long irons unless there is elevation I'm unaware of or a significant head wind. Somewhat surprising given the overall yardage, three of the four par 3s are 199 yards or longer.

Only two of the par 4s are listed as over 450 yards, with four of them under 400 yards and two of them under 340 yards.

I see at least two potential ways to have success on this course. Bombers should enjoy the par 5s and have an advantage with club selection on the long par 3s. A noted long player who is good on approaches of the 175-225 range should score well on these holes. Conversely, strong wedge players and smooth putters will find themselves with numerous green lights on the relatively short par 4s.

One doesn't have to look back any further to March and the 2013 Malaysian Open to see this play out. The winner, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, was second in par-3 scoring and fourth in par-5 scoring while reaching the putting surface in two shots on three occasions (2nd in the field). Eduardo Molinari finishes a stroke behind him and was third in par-4 scoring and fourth in GIR. He was still -.42 on the par 5s and -.08 on the par 3s, but not in the top 10 in either.

A couple of other notes related to the Maybank Malaysian Open at Kuala Lumpur:

  • Charl Schwartzel finished 4th in the 2013 Maybank Malaysian Open and 6th in 2012 and was 11th in 2011. 
  • Louis Oosthuizen won the 2012 Maybank Malaysian Open 
  • Martin Kaymer has several top 10s at this course. 
  • Seung-yul Noh won the 2010 Maybank, with K.J. Choi the runner-up.
  • Oh, and Charlie Wi won the 2006 edition.

The cream has risen to the top of the weak fields. 

We'll be back tomorrow to try and make some sense of the field and offer some power rankings. Until then, best of luck and happy research.

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