LAS VEGAS -- Talk about a commute. Dozens of PGA TOUR players left Las Vegas on Sunday evening en route for an event in Asia that started just four days later. They were scheduled to arrive in Malaysia approximately 48 hours before their first-round tee time.
The effort was worth it, though, for awaiting them was the first official PGA TOUR event in Asia, the CIMB Classic in Malaysia. The 78-man event has no cut, guaranteeing FedExCup points for all TOUR members in attendance. The CIMB also will be an official victory for the first time, awarding 500 FedExCup points, and a Masters invitation, to the winner.
“It’s hard to say no to that," Harris English, who finished 40th at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, said about the guaranteed FedExCup points. "I’ve never played in Asia, and being young, 24 (years old), I want to see what Kuala Lumpur has to offer.”
The World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions will be held the following week in Shanghai, China. That event also will offer FedExCup points for the first time and be counted as an official victory.
The PGA TOUR has its “swings,” like the West Coast Swing and Florida Swing. Now there’s the Asian Swing. Some players in the CIMB field are traveling to Asia for the first of two consecutive TOUR events; others, like Charles Howell III, made the trip solely for the CIMB. The inclusion of FedExCup points was one reason Howell made his first trip to this event.
“The FedExCup points make it worthwhile. The points weren’t all of it, but were a lot of it,” Howell said, referring to the factors that convinced him to play this year. “I’ve been exempt before and not played. Now that these events count, it’s hard not to play.”
Phil Mickelson, Keegan Bradley, Bubba Watson and Sergio Garcia are also making their first appearance at the CIMB. Mickelson and Bradley are among the seven Presidents Cup participants in the field, along with Graham DeLaet, Bill Haas, Marc Leishman, Ernie Els and Hideki Matsuyama. This year’s field was increased from 48 to 78 players and the purse was increased from $6.1 million to $7 million.
The CIMB field consists of the top 60 available players from the 2013 FedExCup standings, top 10 from the Asian Tour order of merit, and eight sponsor exemptions. The top 10 finishers, including TOUR non-members, earn spots in the McGladrey Classic on Nov. 7-10 in St. Simons Island, Ga.
Having no cut gives players one less thing to worry about. "It's huge," English said. "It feels a lot more relaxed."
Many of the TOUR's top events -- the World Golf Championships, final two FedExCup Playoffs events (BMW Championship, TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola) and Hyundai Tournament of Champions -- don't have cuts. No-cut events carry a certain status.
Josh Teater will play his first no-cut event this week. "You can't beat that," he said. Daniel Summerhays was excited that the CIMB guaranteed he'd earn FedExCup points in his first three events of the 2013-14 season; he ranked 32nd in the FedExCup after finishing 40th at the Frys.com Open and 23rd at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
The CIMB Classic also has a new course this year. The tournament will be played on the West Course at Kuala Lumpur Golf And Country Club. The Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia was held earlier this month at the East Course. Lexi Thompson won that event; her older brother, Nicholas, is in the CIMB field. The event also gives players the opportunity to explore a new part of the globe.
“It’s a cool city,” Ryan Moore said of Kuala Lumpur; he finished fifth in the 2010 CIMB Classic. “It’s a fun place to go. I enjoy wandering around the city. It’s good food.”
Thirty-six of the 78 players in the CIMB field played the previous week’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas. They’re scheduled to arrive in Malaysia mid-day Tuesday. Those who are in the pro-am are guaranteed 18 holes of practice on the tournament’s eve. The ones who are not participating in the pro-am either have to scramble Tuesday to get in 18 holes after a trans-continental trip or limit their preparations to nine holes of practice. All of them will have to overcome the nagging jet lag. It's worth it, said Brendan Steele.
“It’s a great opportunity,” he said. “It’s a lot of work to get there, and it’s a big difference in culture and golf course and weather and everything, but it’s a great opportunity.”