We were a fraction outside of the money places in the first PGA Tour event of the season last week, with Justin Thomas impressing but having to make do with a share of eighth when the dust had settled. A decent enough way to start the campaign, though.
It was Brendan Steele who, well, stole the Safeway Open title after a disastrous collapse from leader Patton Kizzire down the final stretch. In truth, Steel’s final round of 65 was good enough to win any tournament, and he will head to this week’s event, the CIMB Classic, in good spirits.
This is one of the few times that the PGA Tour leaves US soil throughout the season, and in an event co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour we are in Malaysia this week where the players can expect things to be hot, wet and wild….and that’s just the weather forecast.
CIMB Classic 2016 – The Field
The headline acts this week are Patrick Reed, making his bow for the season following his heroics at the Ryder Cup, Paul Casey – with four consecutive top-5 finishes and counting, Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama and former world number one Adam Scott.
That quartet will be joined by the likes of Ryan Moore, a two-time winner of this event, Kevin Na and the two Spaniards who performed so valiantly together in the Ryder Cup despair, Sergio Garcia and Rafa Cabrera-Bello.
The Asian Tour is well represented with players who may be familiar to some readers already; multiple-tour winner Scott Hend, back-to-back event champion in 2016 Jeunghun Wang, and another Japanese sensation set for big things in Ryo Ishikawa.
CIMB Classic 2016 – The Course
The CIMB Classic is held at the Kuala Lumpar Golf & Country Club, a typically Far East concern in that it looks stunning and plays short and, well, rather easy, if last year’s winning score of -26 is anything to go by.
That general theme is likely this year too, with rain predicted in the build-up to the first tee meaning that the greens will be slow and receptive. Wider than average fairways will aid wayward strikers off the tee, and so realistically the CIMB Classic is a birdie-fest where clever wedge play and decent putting are all that is required to lift the trophy. We say all, obviously a healthy dose of bottle and luck won’t go amiss either.
Measuring a short 7,005 yards for its Par 72, we are quietly wondering whether this stretch could be overpowered if conditions favour the brave; certainly food for thought.
CIMB Classic 2016 Betting Tips
Ryan Moore (16/1)
We’re happy to follow in a back-to-back, two-time winner of this event who comes back to one of his favourite courses on the back of the best three months of his career to date. All of the ingredients are in place for a Ryan Moore title surge this week.
Champion in 2014 and the following year, Moore followed up with a respectable tenth last year and so clearly this is a track that plays to his natural strengths of shooting low (he ranks inside the world’s top 20 for Par 4 Scoring and Strokes Gained: Total) and putting the lights out (18th for Total Putting).
It was a halcyon summer for Moore, clinching his fifth PGA Tour title at the John Deere Classic before offering up two top-10 returns in the season-ending FedEx Cup race and losing out in a play-off in the big one: the Tour Championship.
Moore even played his part in Team America’s Ryder Cup victory, so all fingers point towards another big showing from the stocky 34-year-old this week.
Kevin Chappell (33/1 each way)
There is a feeling that Chappell’s first PGA Tour win isn’t far away, and clearly after four runners-up finishes in 2016 it is long overdue!
His consistency has witnessed his price with the bookmakers shrink, nevertheless he is worth investing in for that very reason: he is always in amongst the business end, as his play-off defeat in the prestigious Tour Championship proves.
He’s gone three from three in Malaysia and ranks inside the world’s top 25 for Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green and Going for the Green, so if Chappell’s putter is hot this week surely he will contend.
Scott Hend (80/1 each way)
Hend is a former Asian Tour pro who has since gone on to make waves on the European Tour, bagging two titles including one in the Far East (Thailand) earlier this year. A couple of top-5s in September in Germany and Holland have set the scene for another decent performance in Malaysia, and happily his lack of recognition amongst the American golf community means a very agreeable price of 80/1 is available.
Hend absolutely smashes the ball off the tee, and as we theorised earlier that may come in handy should rain slow down this stretch. He will be in prime position to make plenty of birdies, and as the current Asian Tour Order of Merit winner we don’t have to worry about his bottle under pressure.
Aaron Baddeley (175/1 each way)
Baddeley is one of the best putters on the planet – there aren’t many other strings to his bow, with all due respect, but this Malaysian set-up should suit him.
Don’t forget he won in the summer too at the Barbasol Championship, his fourth PGA Tour title, so he can get the job done when well placed.