Charles Howell III … Not dissimilar to plucking red-hot Chesson Hadley for a spot in this space a week ago – Hadley went on to tie for third at the Safeway Open – it's hardly a stretch to circle CH3 to make noise at any time. However, he enters his fourth appearance at the CIMB Classic without a top-60 finish in his last five starts of 2017. At the same time, his slumps are akin to clockwork, which means that he should be poised to take flight again. His annual upswing begins right around now. The trend has been cemented by a pair of top 10s at TPC Kuala Lumpur, coincidentally in each of the first odd-numbered years it hosted.
Cameron Smith … TPC Kuala Lumpur is where the Aussie laid the foundation in earnest for his future on the PGA TOUR. It was three years ago that he tied for fifth in what was his first-ever start on the circuit. Now 24 years of age, he's a veteran of 63 appearances, 14 of which have resulted in a top 25, including in his last start at Conway Farms (T12) in September. For the 2016-17 season, he ranked eighth in putts per GIR, ninth in birdie-or-better conversion percentage while standing over par-breaker opportunities and fourth inside 10 feet.
Sung Kang ... His second round at TPC Kuala Lumpur last year was one of the crazier experiences for any golfer all season. He hit only eight greens in regulation and took just 18 putts. His scorecard reflected six holes on which he didn't putt even once! It was also a valuable loop as he signed for a 69 en route to a T21 in the tournament. The 30-year-old from South Korea popped into the top 85 of the Official World Golf Ranking earlier this year. Although he's cooled since, he's missed only three cuts in the last five months. It's a promising baseline with no cut this week.
Richy Werenski … The 25-year-old cobbled together a late push to qualify for the FedExCup Playoffs, so he's back this season as a PGA TOUR sophomore. He established himself as a ball-striker throughout his rookie campaign, but it was a measured improvement while putting that was responsible for the surge. During his 6-for-6 run to conclude 2016-17, he rose from 176th with a clip of -0.455 in strokes gained: putting to 102nd at a cool 0.000. No reason to think he won't extend what he unlocked for his debut on the receptive and scorable greens of TPC Kuala Lumpur.
Gavin Kyle Green … Often known without his middle name, what no one can take away is what he's accomplished is rapid-fire format on the Asian Tour. The 23-year-old from the CIMB Classic's host nation of Malaysia is a rookie on the circuit, yet he sits atop its Order of Merit. He celebrated his breakthrough victory just a week-and-a-half ago in Taiwan. Despite his youth, it was already an overdue coronation given he settled four runner-up finishes from March through September. And two years before the long hitter represented his homeland in the Olympics in Rio in 2016, he was the first amateur ever to capture victory on the Asian Developmental Tour.