The First Look: CIMB Classic
October 05, 2018
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
- October 05, 2018
Pat Perez cruises to a four-shot victory at CIMB
Justin Thomas, twice a winner in Malaysia and fresh off a stellar Ryder Cup individual debut, and victorious European Ryder Cupper Paul Casey top the roster as the new PGA TOUR season begins its three-week swing through Asia.
Billy Horschel, who notched a trio of top-3 finishes in last month’s FedExCup Playoffs, and BMW Championship winner Keegan Bradley are among eight other entrants who reached last month’s TOUR Championship. Asia’s hopes for a homegrown winner lie largely in Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat.
FIELD NOTES: Brandt Snedeker, who won the regular-season finale in Greensboro, joins Thomas and Horschel to give TPC Kuala Lumpur three former FedExCup champions. … Snedeker and two-time CIMB champion Ryan Moore are among 30 players jetting to Malaysia from the Safeway Open that opened the new PGA TOUR season. … The field boasts seven major champions, including World Golf Hall of Famers Ernie Els and Davis Love III. … Marc Leishman heads a list of five players from the International squad that competed in last year’s Presidents Cup at Liberty National. … Ten berths are reserved for leading Asian Tour players; a local exemption was awarded to Malaysian pro Kim Leun Kwang. ... Hideki Matsuyama withdrew from the event.
FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 500 points.
STORYLINES: Thomas, whose 4-1 mark in his Ryder Cup debut was the bright spot in a flat U.S. effort, seeks to parlay that momentum into a third CIMB title in four visits. He was a combined 49-under par while winning in 2015 and ’16. … Moore also has a chance to become the first to three wins in Malaysia, having won back-to-back in 2013-14. … Defending champion Pat Perez now takes his turn at doubling up, drawing inspiration from the success of Moore and Thomas before him. … Aphibarnrat makes his debut as a full PGA TOUR member, gaining his card largely via two top-5 finishes in World Golf Championships events. … The CIMB Classic is still seeking its first Asian champion, though Aphibarnrat came close in 2013 when he finished one stroke out of joining Moore and Gary Woodland in a playoff.
COURSE: TPC Kuala Lumpur (West), 7,005 yards, par 72. No stranger to high-level events, TPC Kuala Lumpur opened 28 years ago Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club and is the rare venue to serve as host to PGA TOUR, European Tour and LPGA stops. The West course was site of the Malaysian Open for seven years, while the club's East course was site of the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia for eight editions until a changing financial landscape made last year’s edition its last. With the PGA TOUR’s arrival on the horizon, the West’s original 1991 Nelson & Haworth layout was given a thorough redesign in 2008 by Ted and Geoff Parslow.
72-HOLE RECORD: 261, Bo Van Pelt (2011 at The Mines Resort & GC). TPC Kuala Lumpur record: 262, Justin Thomas (2015).
18-HOLE RECORD: 61, Nick Watney (4th round, 2012 at The Mines), Justin Thomas (2nd round, 2015 at TPCKL).
LAST YEAR: Perez augmented his career renaissance with his second victory in 11 months, building a seven-shot advantage before throttling back to win by four over Bradley. A 3-under-par 69 was enough to close things out in humid Kuala Lumpur, giving Perez two wins in 25 starts since returning from shoulder surgery one year earlier. The 41-year-old veteran also won the 2016 OHL Classic in the third start of his comeback, ending a 7 ½-year drought since claiming his only other victory in Palm Springs. Bradley used a Sunday 67 to finish alone in second, his highest finish since sharing runner-up honors at the 2014 Arnold Palmer Invitational. Thomas placed 17th in his bid for a three-peat, falling off the pace by the weekend with early rounds of 70-71.
HOW TO FOLLOW
TELEVISION: Wednesday-Thursday, 10:30 p.m.-2:30 a.m. ET (Golf Channel). Friday-Saturday, 11 p.m.-3 a.m. (GC).
PGA TOUR LIVE: None.