With the HSBC Championships taking place next week a number of PGA Tour players have taken the opportunity to get a head start on the jetlag by playing at this week’s CIMB Classic in Malaysia. The tournament has only been part of the PGA Tour schedule for two years previously and is the only event co-sanctioned by the PGA and Asian Tours without the involvement of the European Tour.
For the past two years the CIMB Classic has been played around the West Course at the Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club and this year is no different. That’s great news for Ryan Moore who is looking to win here for the third year in a row. He’ll only have to beat a limited field of 77 other competitors but among them are major champions and Ryder Cup winners so he’s sure to be pushed all the way.
The West Course is one of just five par 72 courses on the PGA Tour that measure under 7,000 yards but it is ranked as the toughest of the lot. Kuala Lumpur often has very humid conditions so the ball tends to stick on the fairways making the course feel and play much longer that its 6,985 yards. The flip side of the conditions is that the ball should stay on the greens if the players manage to hit them and greens in regulation percentage has proved to be a vitally important indicator of success at this course.
Not only is Henrik Stenson the highest ranked player in the field and the bookies’ favourite but no player hit a higher percentage of greens than him on last season’s PGA Tour. The 39-year-old has one of the highest ball flights in the world of golf which allows him to stick the ball to the putting surface with even the longest irons in his bag. He’ll no doubt be hitting his trusty three wood off the tee a great deal this week so finding the fairways should not be an issue either. As ever, the putter will be the key club for Stenson but if he has a good week putting he’ll look a big price at 7/1 with Coral.
Stenson will receive a great deal of attention from the galleries in Kuala Lumpur as will Sergio Garcia. Both players have decided to miss the Turkish Airlines Open in favour of the CIMB Classic and both have a good shot of winning. Unlike Stenson, Garcia has recent form here having tied for second last year and with his unbelievable iron play the 18/1 that Betfred are offering looks too tempting to ignore.
Stenson may have topped the GIR stats last season but the man topping them this time around is Stewart Cink. The veteran American hit over 80% of greens last week at the Shriners Open but was unable to convert enough of his chances to trouble the top of the leaderboard. At a course where scoring should be more difficult he may be able to grind his way to a good four rounds and at 150/1 with Ladbrokes he looks the best outside shot for an each-way bet.