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October 18 2013

8:08 PM

First Look: CIMB Classic

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Nick Watney is chasing his first TOUR victory since last year's CIMB Classic triumph.

By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM contributor

FIELD: See who's plaiying next week at the CIMB Classic

• COURSE: Kuala Lumpur G&CC (West), 6,951 yards, par 72. Located just five miles from the city’s heart, the original 1991 Nelson & Haworth design was given a thorough redesign in 2008 by Ted and Geoff Parslow. The club is no stranger to high-level tournaments, staging the European Tour’s Malaysian Open in 2006 and again in each of the past four years. The LPGA also has made it a regular autumn stop, as the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia completed its fourth edition just two weeks ago.

• FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 500 points.

• CHARITY: The CIMB Foundation supports some 130 charities, with emphasis on projects relating to community development, education and sports. Among its recipients is Shriners Hospitals for Children, a system of 22 U.S. facilities offering specialty pediatric care.

• FIELD WATCH: British Open titleholder Phil Mickelson, making his first start in Malaysia, and defending champion Nick Watney headline a limited field of just 78 players. Thirteen entrants finished among the top 30 in last season’s FedExCup race. … Hall of Famer Ernie Els and fast-rising Graham DeLaet are among four pros who played for the International team at last month’s Presidents Cup. Three members of the U.S. roster will make the trip: Mickelson, Keegan Bradley and Bill Haas. … California native Berry Henson, who captured the Philippine Open two years ago, will tee it up after landing one of the 10 berths set aside for Asian Tour members. Sponsor exemptions were given to Malaysian pros Rashid Ismail and Nicholas Fung.

• 72-HOLE RECORD: 261, Bo Van Pelt (2011 at The Mines Resort & GC).

• 18-HOLE RECORD: 61, Nick Watney (4th round, 2012 at The Mines Resort & GC).

• LAST YEAR: Though Watney’s flirtation with a historic 59 fell short, his 10-under 61 still set a tournament record and was enough to overcome a four-shot deficit heading into the final day. The Las Vegas pro came to No.18 needing a birdie for the magic number, but drove into the left rough and missed the green with his second shot to close with a bogey. That left Watney at 22-under 262, one stroke ahead of Robert Garrigus (66) and defending champ Bo Van Pelt (66). It was an odd week for Watney, who called on wife Amber to caddie the first round’s final holes when regular looper Chad Reynolds fell ill with dehydration in Malaysia’s humid climate. Watney used a local caddie in Round 2 while Reynolds got his strength back.

• STORYLINES: It’s a new era for the CIMB Classic with a bigger field, bigger purse and full sanction on the FedExCup schedule. Previous editions featured just 48 players, and the $7 million purse is up $900,000 from last year. … Watney seeks his first victory since last year’s visit, though a strong FedExCup finish featured three top-15 finishes in the four Playoffs events. He was runner-up to Zach Johnson at the BMW Championship. … Nicholas Thompson, 77th in FedExCup points last year, can complete a unique brother-sister double by winning at the same place where 18-year-old sibling Lexi captured the LPGA’s annual stop two weeks ago. It was Lexi Thompson’s second career LPGA victory.

• SHORT CHIPS: Seventeen entrants this week will make their third start in as many events of the new 2013-14 season. That list includes Frys.com Open winner Jimmy Walker, Tim Clark and Camilo Villegas. … The highest finish by an Asian Tour member in the Classic’s first three years has been a tie for fifth, recorded by Singapore’s Mardan Mamat in the 2010 edition. South African Jbe’ Kruger was eighth last year.

• TELEVISION: Wednesday-Saturday, 11 p.m.-3 a.m. ET (Golf Channel).

• RADIO: None.

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