Power Rankings: CIMB Classic

October 22, 2012
Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Columnist

Every so often, maybe once or twice a year, a golfer arrives for a title defense after having also won the previous week. This is the convergence at which Bo Van Pelt finds himself for the third edition of the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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After grabbing the 54-hole lead of this event co-sanctioned by the PGA and Asian Tours last year, Van Pelt carded a field-low-tying 64 in the final round to record a convincing six-stroke romp at The MINES Resort & Golf Club. Similarly, after holding the overnight lead entering the final round of the European Tour's inaugural ISPS Handa Perth International in Australia last weekend, BVP held on with a closing 68 to win by two.

The field of 48 at The MINES will want to hit the ground running on Thursday. In its first two years as host, the par-71 layout has yielded actual scoring averages of 68.606 and 69.031. In comparison to courses that host official PGA TOUR events, it would rank among the most vulnerable. In 2010, it would have been the easiest par 71 of the year. Last year, it would have checked in as third-easiest.

En route to his 23-under 261 last year, Van Pelt converted an eagle and 25 birdies to erase just four bogeys, none of which on the back side of The MINES. He played the trio of par 5s - holes 3, 11 and 17 -- in bogey-free 9-under.

Because there is no cut and the field is small, aggressive play is rewarded. That dynamic is further supported by receptive greens due to nonstop moisture in the tropical environs. A strong threat for rain lays the foundation for warm and steamy conditions throughout the tournament. Wind will be a non-factor.

Power Rankings: CIMB Classic
Rank Player   Comment
The defending champ is firing on all cylinders. After consecutive T10s to polish off the FedExCup Playoffs, he took a three-week break before last week's win in Australia. Currently fourth on the PGA TOUR in the all-around and fifth in par breakers.

Runner-up last week in Perth. Tied for 10th in his CIMB debut last year, circling an eagle and 15 birdies during his last three rounds. Sits seventh on the PGA TOUR in greens in regulation, eighth in par breakers and fourth in adjusted scoring.

Returns to Malaysia for the first time since 1999. Last competed in an unofficial event in Turkey two weeks ago. Prior to that, he strung together three top 10s to close out the FedExCup Playoffs. Ten top 10s in 20 starts worldwide in 2012.

Since a T16 at the BMW Championship -- his 17th consecutive cut made on the PGA TOUR -- he's posted a pair of top 10s in South Korea to reach 13 top 20s in 31 starts worldwide this year. Ranks 35th in both greens hit and adjusted scoring.

First-timer at The MINES. Last competed at the Shiners where he closed with an eight-birdie 64 (starting on the 10th hole) to share sixth place for his 10th top-15 finish of the year. The birdie machine ranks 12th on TOUR in par breakers.

Secured his second consecutive top five of the Fall Series with a closing 65 at Seaside on Sunday to finish T4. His actual scoring average over his last eight rounds is 66.125. Ranks eighth on TOUR in greens hit and 26th in par breakers.

Getting his first look at The MINES. Took two weeks off after a T10 at the Shriners. While he's 104th on TOUR in strokes gained-putting, he's a lofty 40th in par breakers. That speaks to his knack for patented, red-hot stretches with his flat stick.

Still in pursuit of his first win on the PGA TOUR, he's enjoyed a career year in other ways, shattering personal bests in cuts made (23), top 10s (six) and earnings ($1.638 million). Opened the Fall Series with a pair of top 10s. Tied for 13th here last year.

The Aussie logged another steady slate on the PGA TOUR this year, going 19-for-22 with five top 10s and advancing to the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola. Ranks 17th in greens hit and 28th in par breakers. Tied for seventh here last year.

Aced the par-3 seventh hole at The MINES last year in a closing 67 to share seventh place. It was one of a field-tying-high two eagles on the week; he also converted 17 birdies. Ranks 25th on TOUR in greens in regulation and 16th in par breakers.
Five more to watch
These players didn't make the top 10 this week, but they're worth keeping an eye on:
JEFF OVERTON ... Last year's distant runner-up set the course record in the second round with a bogey-free, 9-under 62 (one eagle, seven birdies). He has three top 15s in his last five starts on the PGA TOUR, on which he ranks 17th in par breakers.
JOHN HUH ... His magical season just doesn't want to end. After a T13 at the Shriners, he finished solo 12th at the Shinhan Donghae Open in South Korea for his 12th top 20 worldwide this year. The 22-year-old PGA TOUR rookie ranks 48th in par breakers.
SIDDIKUR RAHMAN ... Arguably best known by his first name only, the 27-year-old native of Bangladesh has five top fives on the Asian Tour this year. He ranks 10th on the circuit in greens hit, sixth in putting and 12th in scoring. Tied for 11th at the 2010 CIMB.
BEN CRANE ... The 2010 champion carded four rounds in the 60s in his title defense last year but settled for a share of 20th place. More recently, he's played through some back pain but carded a 62 at Sea Island in the third round of The McGladrey Classic.
THAWORN WIRATCHANT ... The 45-year-old Thai is coming off an Asian Tour-leading third victory, this time in a playoff at the Hero Indian Open. He also has three runner-up finishes among a total of nine top 10s in 2012. Ranks third on his circuit in scoring average.

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