Having seen the new season start last week, we’re now out in Malaysia for the CIMB Classic.
Played at TPC Kuala Lumpur since 2013, it’s a 7,000 yard par 72. Bad weather and rain is expected at this time of year which should suit the bigger hitters as there will be less roll on the fairways. With no cut, four rounds are guaranteed for all players which means we need to look for players who can score as they won’t be as heavily penalised for finishing down the field. With a winning score last year of -26 for Justin Thomas, we can expect birdies!
It seems to be a course than can suit the eye with a number of players having incredible records over just the three years – Ryan Moore has already won twice, with Kevin Na and Gary Woodland both also having two top three finishes here.
As noted, it’s all about the birdie makers here. In my opinion, the top of the field looks very even, so I’ll be looking for players who are likely to be less owned. The lower end looks pretty bare, so choosing birdie makers from the bottom will be important.
Hideki Matsuyama ($11,300) – I like all the players above $11k, but I feel Hideki might be the lowest owned so for GPPs, he’s my man. As a Japanese golfer, he has had plenty of experience playing in Asia which should hold him in good stead. He has progressive form in this event finishing in the top 25 in all three appearances including 5th last year. In his top 5 last year, he hit 25 birdies which is important for DK scoring. He warmed up for this event with a win in his native Japan last week, and finished 5th in the Tour Championship.
Adam Scott ($10,900) – I’m surprised Scott sits below the $11k range. His recent form has been incredible with figures of 4-4-4-8 in the FedEx Cup. He has played this tournament once, last year, finishing runner up which shows he likes the course. A global player, he’s won all over the world so won’t be phased by the different environment. His long game has been in fantastic shape, and if he gets the putter rolling, he could win this with ease.
Ryan Moore ($10,600) – In 3 years at the course he has hit 73 birdies. Absolutely insane, and perfect for DK scoring. He’s won the tournament twice and finished 10th last year. His recent form has been fantastic with three top 8s in the FedEx Cup playoffs which led him onto the Ryder Cup team. I expect him to be highly owned but he really looks like a must play.
Sergio Garcia ($10,100) – Despite the reasonable price, I expect to be the lowest owned high-end player. He shouldn’t be. In 17 tournaments this season he has 8 top 10s including a win. While his current form is no better than solid, his game suits the course well as proven by a runner up here in 2014. Even finishing 24th last year he managed 19 birdies and an eagle. Another global player, he has five wins on the Asian Tour showing that playing in these conditions doesn’t faze him.
Kevin Na ($9,900) – Just below the top end sits Kevin Na. The man who loves this time of year, with five of his last eight post Tour Championship tournaments finishing in the top 7. Played well last week to finish 7th and he has great form in this tournament with consecutive top 3s in his only two visits here. These included 45 birdies and 1 eagle. If that’s not enough to make him a GPP and cash play, I don’t know what is!
Gary Woodland ($9,600) – Woodland’s form recently had been so impressive he was in the discussion for a Ryder Cup wildcard. Despite not making it, he comes in off four top 25s in the FedEx Cup. This is a course that suits him well as shown by 2nd place finishes in both 2013 and 2014. Last year, despite a low finish, Woodland still managed 14 birdies and an eagle. A huge hitter who has an aggressive game, he’s perfect for the no cut format.
Scott Piercy ($8,900) – Last week Scott Piercy finished two shots off the winner despite hitting 11 more shots than him over the weekend. Having led after two rounds he probably should’ve won. Disappointing, definitely, but it shows his games in good shape. Coming back to a place where he finished 7th in his first and only visit, he should be able to carry on his good form.
Daniel Berger ($8,500) – One of the most exciting young players on tour, I’m excited to see how Berger progresses this season. Having finally got a win under his belt, he reached the Tour Championship for the second time in two attempts. A fantastic ball striker, he is another player to keep onside when there are four guaranteed rounds as he has a propensity to make birdies. Despite finished 64th of 78 last year, he still managed 18 birdies, showing his ability to score for the DK format.
Si Woo Kim ($7,900) – A player who is continually underestimated.His rookie season was superb including a win at the Wyndham and a playoff loss at the Barbasol. He carried on his good form in the FedEx Cup with three top 20s. He’s returned to Korea in the last few weeks, finishing second in his homeland showing that his form is still strong. His debut at the tournament; however, with his strong ball striking, I expect his game to suit. A good price for one of the classier players in the field.
Alex Cejka ($7,400) – I really like this play. Cejka had been withdrawing from tournaments since the Olympics; however, he sneakily made his comeback last week in Macao with a solid top 20. He comes to a tournament where he finished top 20 in his only appearance last year. With a strong tee to green game and scrambling, the course should suit well. I expect him to be low owned.
Jamie Lovemark ($7,400) – This is very much a GPP play. A huge hitter, he started his season nicely last week with a solid top 20 in the Safeway Open. Having made his last five cuts, he’s shown some nice form. Another huge hitter, he has great touch around the green finishing top 30 in birdie average and birdie or better % last season – very important in a no cut event. Given the fact that he’s never played this course before, it’s more of a feeling that it will suit. With the need for birdies, I feel this format will work in his favour.
Danny Lee ($6,700) – Danny Lee has struggled the second half of this year; however, in making the cut last week he hit two solid rounds to show that his game could be coming around. He has only played the course once but finished 13th in 2014 showing the course could suit. A really low price for a player with potential upside.
John Senden ($6,600) – Four solid rounds last week was a good way to start the year. Having played the course twice, he has two good finishes including a 7th in 2014. A solid all-around game he has proven one of the better par 4 scorers on tour. With four rounds guaranteed, he could be one of the under the radar players at a low price.
David Hearn ($6,500) – Despite missed the cut last week, Hearn has shown some decent form recently with a top 10 in the Deutsche Bank Championship. Has played the course twice improving to a top 30 finish last year, including 19 birdies.
The World Ranking Play:
Branden Grace ($8,400) – Ranked 4th in the field in the world ranking, he’s down in 17th in terms of price. While he may have struggled slightly since the USPGA, he’s another worldly player who’ll be comfortable playing in Asia. Finished 17th on his debut here last year with 19 birdies and 1 eagle. As a better play than last year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him repeat this at a discounted price.
Paul Casey ($11,600) – Fading the hottest player in the field is normally a stupid move – and it might just be – but with so few good options at the bottom, playing other top end plays will save some cash to spend elsewhere. While he has been racking up top 10s, his last win anywhere was more than two years ago. I fear for his winning upside. Additionally, having played here twice he’s not finished in the top 20. For the price, I feel there are better options in the top tier.