If there's one certainty about this week's CIMB Classic, it's that a current PGA TOUR rookie won't win. After Emiliano Grillo and Smylie Kaufman emerged with titles in the first two events of the season, rookies will be shut out at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club's West Course. This is because no current rookies are in the field of 78.
But it doesn't mean that the champion may not eventually qualify as a rookie. If a non-member, who hasn't played more than seven times in a previous PGA TOUR season, wins, accepts membership and either totals 10 starts or finishes inside the top 125 in FedExCup points or earnings, he'll qualify for rookie eligibility. You can't rule this out, as a smattering of Asian Tour regulars are included in the field in this co-sanctioned event with that circuit. It's a dynamic not unfamiliar to some, given that Kuala Lumpur G&CC has hosted the Maybank Malaysian Open (co-sanctioned by the European Tour) annually since 2010, albeit earlier in the year (at some point from February through April).
If a non-member -- or anyone else for that matter -- breaks through this week, he'll need to go through two-time defending champion Ryan Moore. The course first hosted in 2013 and Moore is the only winner it's seen. On both occasions, Gary Woodland served as a runner-up, first in a playoff, and then as one of three T2s three strokes in arrears of Moore's 17-under 271 a year ago.
At just 6,985 yards, this week's test is the most difficult of the five par 72s under 7,000 yards on the PGA TOUR schedule. Not surprisingly, it still averaged a benign 71.299 a year ago. The quartet of par 5s at Kuala Lumpur G&CC ranked 11th-most challenging of all courses in 2014-15 at 4.79. The 18th hole was the seventh-hardest par 5 among 167 all season, holding its own at 5.019. The field need not worry about grinding out a cut, however, as there isn't one.
After ranking T25 in par-5 scoring in his first title here, Moore drifted to T39 on the par 5s last year. Instead, he co-led the field in both par-3 and par-4 scoring. He also checked up at T8 in greens in regulation and fourth in putts per GIR. Kuala Lumpur G&CC ranked 37th in both fairways and greens hit in 2014, but a defensive 12th in scrambling.
The region has been reeling after a severe drought of late, but rain is a certainty throughout the week. Hot and humid air will help fuel storms, especially in the afternoon. Conditions like these prompted preferred lies in all eight prior rounds of the tournament at Kuala Lumpur G&CC.