NOTE: If you play PGA TOUR Champions One & Done presented by SERVPRO, the SAS Championship begins on Friday. For my recommendations among notables in the field, scroll to the bottom of the page.
It's so early, but the only reason not to shove you into Justin Thomas at the CIMB Classic is because you use earnings to measure performance.
The CIMB will reward total prize money of "only" $7 million (of which $1.26 million goes to the winner) and its two-time defending champion will present strongly at many more lucrative PGA TOUR stops this season. The rub, of course, is that he'd have to prevail with perfect timing to pay off the patience.
In FedExCup points-based formats like PGA TOUR Fantasy One & Done presented by SERVPRO, the champion in Malaysia will receive 500 points. During the first 45 tournaments of 2017-18, only nine events (four WGCs, four majors, THE PLAYERS) dole out a bigger cut to their winners, but the overall differences are negligible. So, the worthy debate defaults to whether you've already positioned Thomas as one of your horses in the Playoffs where points are quadrupled. He'll be defending at TPC Boston and he'd be a viable anchor at East Lake.
If still unsure, consider the influence of the field at TPC Kuala Lumpur, which is sturdy but not bursting with the options that are promised in the higher-yielding stops. Riffing directly off my Power Rankings in which Thomas sits at the top:
• Brendan Steele (No. 2) won the Safeway Open on Sunday and he's seeking redemption after a final-round fade at last year's CIMB, but he did finish T3 here two years ago. Consider him endorsed if you're holstering Thomas.
• Paul Casey (No. 3) is terrific for the Roster game where a victory isn't necessary because you start four, but stick with him a track where he's contended.
• If Hideki Matsuyama (No. 4) wasn't going to be a regular short-lister, then he'd be an easy call for the CIMB, but he's been struggling of late, so he's better used in the Roster game.
• As expected, Kevin Na (No. 5) was a popular pick at Silverado, but he will be again at TPC Kuala Lumpur. Like Steele, he's another reliable charge who can spell Thomas.
• Scott Piercy (No. 7) would be nifty in two-man earnings games with his success in Malaysia, but consider slotting him for the Shriners in three weeks.
The remainder of the Power Rankings includes interesting choices, but when glancing at them en masse, the absence of an automatic emphasizes the value of sticking with Thomas, who has been a tank engine in both of his appearances at TPC Kuala Lumpur.
The CIMB Classic is scheduled to begin at 8:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday. Adjust accordingly so that you don't miss the earlier deadline. It's a theme that will repeat itself throughout the swing through Asia this month.
RANK PANELIST SELECTION COMMENT 143rd Sean Martin
Anirban Lahiri He’s coming off a top-10 at the BMW Championship and a solid showing at the Presidents Cup. He finished third here last year and T21 the prior year. 360th
Paul Casey Both Ryan Moore and Justin Thomas found their winning ways at CIMB. So will Casey. 380th Jonathan Wall
Ian Poulter I like the fact that he finished T17 in his first CIMB start last year, but this selection is all about current form. Poulter has six top 25s in his last eight starts, which is the kind of consistency you want early in the season. 380th Ben Everill
Cameron Smith I felt awful all week for not opening my account with an Aussie last week (you’ll get a chance soon Matt Jones) so I’m making up for it here. Smith started his move into PGA TOUR life at this venue with a T5 in 2015. 380th Rob Bolton
Justin Thomas Well, I’m 1-1 when back-loading my season to capitalize on the beefier FedExCup points in the Playoffs, but I need only four for that series and few golfers are going to be as obvious as Thomas at the CIMB. 559th Mark Immelman
On the Mark
Kevin Na He has a good track record in Malaysia and his game showed glimpses of good early season form last week.
NOTE: Select golfers committed to the tournament are listed alphabetically. Future tournaments are sorted chronologically and reflect previous success on the courses on which the tournaments will be held in 2017-18. All are pending golfer commitment.
Keegan Bradley … CIMB; Farmers; Waste Management; Genesis; Houston; Memorial; WGC-Bridgestone
Paul Casey … Genesis; Masters; Travelers; WGC-Bridgestone; Dell Technologies; TOUR Championship
Jason Dufner … CareerBuilder; Valspar; DEAN & DELUCA; Memorial (defending); U.S. Open; Wyndham; TOUR Championship
Branden Grace … Heritage; Valero; U.S. Open; WGC-Bridgestone
Charles Howell III … CIMB; Shriners; Mayakoba; RSM; Sony; CareerBuilder; Farmers; Valspar; Houston
Russell Knox … CIMB; WGC-HSBC; Mayakoba; Sony; Honda; Heritage; PLAYERS; Dell Technologies
Jamie Lovemark … RSM; Sony; Arnold Palmer
Hideki Matsuyama … CIMB; WGC-HSBC (defending); Sentry; Waste Management (two-time defending); Genesis; Arnold Palmer; Masters; Wells Fargo; PLAYERS; Memorial; U.S. Open; WGC-Bridgestone (defending)
Kevin Na … CIMB; Shriners; Waste Management; Valspar; Arnold Palmer; Heritage; Memorial; John Deere; Wyndham; THE NORTHERN TRUST
Pat Perez … Mayakoba (defending); Sony; Farmers; Pebble Beach; Houston; Heritage; Valero
Scott Piercy … CIMB; Shriners; Mayakoba; Sony; Houston; John Deere
Charl Schwartzel … Valspar; Memorial; U.S. Open; Open Championship; WGC-Bridgestone
Brendan Steele … CareerBuilder; Waste Management; Honda; Valero; Wells Fargo; Travelers; Barracuda
Justin Thomas … CIMB (two-time defending); Sentry (defending); Sony (defending); Genesis; WGC-Mexico; Valspar; Wells Fargo; Dell Technologies (defending); TOUR Championship
Gary Woodland … Sony; Farmers; Honda; Wells Fargo; Barracuda; Dell Technologies
CHAMPIONS ONE & DONE NOTABLES
The final event contributing to the One & Done will be contested at Prestonwood Country Club in Cary, North Carolina. It's been the only host since the tournament's inception in 2001. A composite layout using holes from the Highlands and Meadows Courses forms a par 35-37=72 with only three par 3s and three par 5s. It tips as 7,237 yards.
Doug Garwood defends what has remained only PGA TOUR Champions title. Due to ongoing renovations on the property at the time, his victory was achieved on only the Highlands Course (a stock par 72 measuring 7,082 yards). It was the first edition since the greens were transitioned from bentgrass to Champion Bermuda. So, despite Prestonwood's long-term connection to the tournament, there's an argument that course history isn't as topical this week.
The champion will receive $315,000 of the $2.1-million purse.
Golfers listed alphabetically. Rob’s serious considerations in bold.
Stephen Ames … Run of top 20s was extinguished at five with a T33 at the Pure Insurance, but he's worth a look. Posted top 20s at Prestonwood in 2015 and 2016.
Billy Andrade … Top 20s in all three prior appearances at Prestonwood, but he's drifted from leaderboards in the last two months.
Scott Dunlap … Decent if you're looking to hold position atop your league with 11 top 20s in 20 starts this year. Also has a T9 in 2015 on the books at Prestonwood.
Joe Durant … Runner-up here in 2015 and T7 last year. Two top 10s in his last three starts of 2017.
Bob Estes … Debutant. Finished 50th at the Pure Insurance. Just two top 20s in seven starts this year.
Steve Flesch … Probably embraced the recent break in the schedule more than most as it occurred on the heels of a T42 at the Pure Insurance. It ended his streak of top 20s at nine.
Doug Garwood … As noted above, he doesn't get the same routing as the one on which he prevailed last year. Doesn't matter, though. At this point, he's best reserved for two-man formats.
Paul Goydos … Horse for a course but keep your fingers crossed. Top 10s here in 2014 and 2015. Four straight top 25s upon arrival, but none went better than a T15 at the Pure Insurance.
Lee Janzen … Serviceable if you're stuck but expectations should be minimal. T5 here in 2015 is his only top 40 in three trips. Solo second at Pacific Links is his only top 20 in last five coming in.
Brandt Jobe … Finally regained consistency for a T15 at the Pure Insurance three weeks ago, but it wasn't enough to erase doubt that crept in after his torrid stretch from late May into early August.
Jerry Kelly … He's caught fire since breaking through at the Boeing in late August. Validated with another win at the Pacific Links three weeks later. Solo second in his last start.
Bernhard Langer … Once again the obvious play if for whatever reason you've gone without him. All-time earnings leader here. Checks all of the other predictable boxes as usual as well.
Tom Lehman … Scaled from a runner-up finish in 2014 to the title in 2015, but he hasn't recorded a top-15 finish in over three months.
Billy Mayfair … Quietly strong season is lacking only a title. Top 10s in three of his last four starts. T22 in his debut at Prestonwood last year.
Scott McCarron … With only three par 5s, he's relatively risky, but you have to burn him if he's still on your board. Four wins and three seconds in 2017. Also second on the money list.
Colin Montgomerie … Sits ninth in earnings thanks to a late surge that includes a win in Japan. Followed top 20s here in 2013 and 2014 with top 10s in the last two editions.
Scott Parel … T44 here in his only appearance in 2015, but it matters little. He arrives having connected six top 20s since late August, the last three for a top 10.
Corey Pavin … There are better options; there are worse options. Perfect choice if you're looking to hold position as a front-runner. So-so track record but hung up top 15s in his last two starts.
Kenny Perry … Chased victory here in 2011 with T6-T11-T3-T3 from 2012-2015. Then finished T55 on the one-off routing. Tied for fifth at the Pure Insurance last time out.
Gene Sauers … Only top 25 in five tries was a T10 in his first in 2012. Coming off a hot summer with four top 10s amid seven consecutive top 25s, but placed T42 in his most recent.
Vijay Singh … Tournament debut. Faded to a T48 at the Pure Insurance in his last outing, his second-worst of just eight starts this year.
Kevin Sutherland … Phenomenal find if you've yet to burn him, but if you need a win, shop elsewhere. Has 14 top 10s this year but zero Ws.
David Toms … Ranks 33rd in earnings, so he hasn't wowed us as a rookie. Placed T15 at the Pacific Links in his last start.
Kirk Triplett … Solo third here in 2013 and winner the following year. Currently 11th on the money list but with only one top 20 in his last five starts, and that was but a T19 at the Shaw.
Below are the final results from 2016-17.
FINAL RANK PANELIST POINTS 18th Jonathan Wall
5463 94th Ben Everill
4300 154th Sean Martin
3881 315th Rob Bolton
3067 385th Mark Immelman
On the Mark
2760 575th Tom Alter