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October 23 2013

3:07 PM

Stats suggest: CIMB Classic

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Kiradech Aphibarnrat is trying to win at Kuala Lumpur for the second time in 2013.

By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Insider

Phil Mickelson and Bo Van Pelt, to name two in the field at this week's CIMB Classic, have said that Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club's West Course will not be easy. Interpret that any way you wish, but the rhetoric doesn't preclude the potential (and likelihood for) low scoring.

By both accounts, the most challenging factor is the lush rough. This will demand accuracy off the tee and probably prevent many approaches from it to stick to the greens. However, the course will max out at just 6,967 yards, so it's not like the field of 78 will be wielding drivers all week long. The likelihood of precision off the tee takes a back seat to the default tendency toward it statistically when swinging shorter clubs. And this isn't a U.S. Open with greens approaching 14 on the Stimpmeter. he greens at Kuala Lumper G&CC are expected to run at 11, which favors aggressive play.

As chronicled all week, the West Course may be new to the PGA TOUR but it's accustomed to hosting the world's elite. The Malaysian Open is a tournament co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours. It's been contested on the West Course five times, including in each of the last four years. Charlie Wi won the first edition in 54 holes in 2006, but that was prior to the renovation. The course reopened in 2008 and the event returned in 2010.

Seung-yul Noh (2010), Matteo Manassero (2011) and Louis Oosthuizen (2012) have taken home trophies since the redo, but only Manassero has followed the profile for success as argued by Mickelson and BVP. The Italian may be best known for being short hitter, but you don't amass five European Tour victories by the age of 20 without being a terrific putter, which he is. But he dissected the West Course to the tune of 43 (of 56) fairways and 61 greens in regulation en route to his triumph.

Manassero's model plays anywhere, but Noh and Oosthuizen created their own mold. Noh missed 24 (of 56) fairways and 24 GIR, but swallowed only seven bogeys all week. Oosthuizen missed 22 fairways but still found 59 GIR and set the tournament record with a 17-under 271 with an eagle and 20 birdies against just five bogeys.

Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat emerged with the title at the 2013 Malaysian Open. The tournament was played in the latter half of March and was limited to 54 holes due to inclement weather. He split only 25 of 42 fairways during his three rounds. He even closed with a 2-under 70 (to post 13-under through three rounds) despite hitting only eight greens in regulation. He's back this week to attempt a rare "intra-year" repeat.

While the stats suggest that eagles and birdies will seriously outweigh bogeys and worse this week, riding shotgun is the intrigue of how the scoring compares to the pre-tournament opinion.

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