Here we go:
- Sergio Garcia - In addition to being the class of the field on paper, he posted a solid T11 in this event last season. He ranked second in both strokes gained: tee-to-green and par-4 scoring average last season. Both should be solid predictors of success this week.
- Hideki Matsuyama - With a pair of top 10s to start the PGA TOUR season and solid strokes gained: tee-to-green numbers and par 4 scoring stats, he's an obvious choice for the top of any list. I will throw out one big asterisk. There has been some noise that he may experiment with equipment this week. If that proves true, he may not be the best option in formats such as the OAD (one and done).
- Charl Schwartzel - He does a high percentage of his heavy lifting when the clock turns to winter in the northern hemisphere. With the field being light at the top, he's an obvious candidate to stand out. He tied for 15th in Perth last week and was eighth in strokes gained: tee-to-green last season.
- Lee Westwood - Started his 2014-15 PGA TOUR season by making some noise with a T12 at the Frys.com Open. While 2013-14 was a far cry from his best effort, Kuala Lumpur sets up well for his game. He's traditionally an elite ball-striker and that is what is typically rewarded on this layout.
- Ryan Moore - A big tilt towards course history, Moore won this event last year when it called Kuala Lumpur home for the first time. It was a pretty big surprise that he missed the cut in Las Vegas two weeks ago when one considers that he is a past champion there and it was a hometown event.
- Kevin Chappell - We've seen Ben Martin and Robert Streb each break through the last two weeks, and Chappell is a name that is near the top of the list of those expected to earn his first win in the near future. Tied for eighth in his last start leading up to this week and ranks high in SG: tee-to-green and par-4 scoring average. Add to that, it's a limited and fairly weak field. Big opportunity for Chappell.
- Paul Casey - Tied for ninth in the Volvo World Match Play a few weeks back. Seems close to returning to a top-flight player, and an event like this one provides him with the perfect opportunity.
- Gary Woodland - Last year's runner-up (playoff) is making his 2014-15 debut in Malaysia this week. Was 14th in both SG: tee-to-green and par-4 scoring average last season.
- Graham DeLaet - Much like Chappell, he's expected to enter the winner's circle for the first time sooner rather than later. That he tied for seventh here last year, which only heightens expectations. That could be a good or a bad thing.
- John Senden - I feel like I'm a broken record, but yet another solid ball-striker who posted a solid T18 at the Shriners two weeks ago.
- Will MacKenzie - His playoff loss in Sea Island last week was reminiscent of the way he played in the first half of the 2013-14 season. This week should serve as a barometer. If last week was a fluke, then taking this week to watch and learn will be the smart play. If he stays hot this week, then you'll likely have several more opportunities to ride his wave at some point this season.
- Ryo Ishikawa - While this isn't a home game for him, it's certainly more comfortable for the young Japanese player than for most. He's posted respectable T19s and T28s in his last two PGA TOUR starts and ranked inside the top 15 in SG: tee-to-green and par-4 scoring average.
Next 5: Stewart Cink, Brendon de Jonge, Jason Dufner, Billy Horschel and Marc Leishman.
Yes, I know I left out Patrick Reed. If I went with a "Next 6" instead of "5", he probably would have been the one.
One and Done:
I'll keep it short and sweet. This is the perfect spot for Lee Westwood. There's not another start he will make on the PGA TOUR in a field as weak at the top as this one and where his game is as good of a fit. Maybe he performs and maybe he doesn't, but this is the right play.
Best of luck to all!