Quick Look at the CIMB Classic
October 11, 2017
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
Inside the PGA TOUR
2017 CIMB Classic preview
Justin Thomas grew up in Kentucky, went to college in Alabama and now lives in Florida, but Malaysia is where it all began for the reigning FedExCup champion.
The CIMB Classic is where Thomas picked up his first PGA TOUR win.
And his second.
Now he’s trying to accomplish the rare three-peat on the PGA TOUR.
“It would be an unbelievable achievement,” said Thomas, who chose a comfortable setting for the first start of his FedExCup defense.
Thomas is 49-under par in eight rounds at TPC Kuala Lumpur, an average of 6.1-under par per round. His scoring average here is 65.9 and he set the course record with a second-round 61 in his 2015 victory. He’s under par in all eight rounds at the CIMB, including seven rounds of 68 or lower. The exception is a third-round 71 last year that taught him a valuable lesson.
Thomas had cruised to a two-shot lead after the first two rounds of his title defense but struggled Saturday, playing the first 13 holes in 4 over par. He made birdie on the final five holes, though, to remain in contention. A final-round 64 gave him a three-shot win over Hideki Matsuyama.
“The only reason that I won this golf tournament last year was because of my finish on Saturday,” Thomas said earlier this week. “If I birdie one of those last five, I'm eight back going into Sunday and I have no chance to win that tournament. … I was just patient and just kind of stayed in the moment and just tried to keep playing and pressing on. Those birdies were the reason I won.”
Last year’s CIMB Classic was the first of his five wins last season. He preached patience after several of those victories, including the PGA Championship, where he also fought his swing during the third round but managed to keep himself in contention.
Thomas admits that he’s tired as he tries to tear up TPC Kuala Lumpur for a third consecutive year. He clinched the FedExCup with a runner-up finish at the TOUR Championship, then went 3-0-1 in his Presidents Cup debut. Last week, he accepted the Jack Nicklaus Award (PGA TOUR Player of the Year) before flying to Asia.
“I had all of four days to reflect on (the season),” Thomas said.
In 2015, he set the tournament scoring record with a 26-under 262, rebounding from a double-bogey at the par-4 14th, where he chunked his approach shot into the water, with birdies on the next three holes. He finished one shot ahead of Adam Scott.
Now Thomas will try to become the first player to three-peat since Steve Stricker at the John Deere Classic (2009-2011). Stricker was Thomas’ captain at this year’s Presidents Cup. Thomas’ caddie, Jimmy Johnson, was Stricker’s longtime.
“I’m hoping that he is the reason for the three-peat and we can get some good vibes through him,” Thomas said.
THREE PLAYERS TO PONDER
1. Justin Thomas: The FedExCup champion returns to the site of his first two TOUR victories. He’s 49-under par in eight rounds at TPC Kuala Lumpur with a scoring average of 65.9.
2. Brendan Steele: The Safeway Open champion and FedExCup leader finished third here in 2016. He has three consecutive top-30 finishes at this event (T25-T3-T26).
3. Gavin Green: The 23-year-old is Malaysia’s rising star. He has finished 2nd and 1st in his past two starts on the Asian Tour to lead that circuit’s money list.
THE LANDING ZONE
The 459-yard, par-4 13th is the toughest hole at TPC Kuala Lumpur, playing to a 4.163 scoring average last year. It was one of just six holes at TPC Kuala Lumpur with an over-par scoring average last year. The hole is uphill, and the elevated green is protected by three bunkers. It was the second-hardest green to hit last year, with only 57 percent of players reaching the putting surface in two shots. Fewer than half the field hit the green in last year’s final round.
Hot and humid conditions are forecast throughout the week, with highs around 90 degrees. Scattered showers and thunderstorms will likely develop each afternoon into the evening hours. Conditions should quiet down during the evenings as the temperature decreases. Slightly drier air will decrease the chance of thunderstorms over the weekend.
Click here for the latest weather conditions from Kuala Lumpur.
My dad's half French, half German. My mom's Taiwanese, grew up in Japan. It's cool that golf has allowed me to start here in Malaysia, then Korea, then China. I'm just excited to start the year off kind of on a different foot.
1. Justin Thomas finally revealed his goals for last season after winning the FedExCup. They were listed out in his Notes app on his iPhone. Xander Schauffele – after a rookie season that exceeded even his wildest expectations – was asked if he had created a similar list for the upcoming season.
“I still have to come up with a sheet of goals. I was supposed to do it before I left to come here but I didn't get that paper turned in to my team, so I'm slacking on that part,” said Schauffele, who finished third in the FedExCup after winning The Greenbrier Classic and TOUR Championship. He was the first rookie since the inception of the FedExCup to win the TOUR Championship, and was an easy pick for Rookie of the Year.
“I think I’m going to try and do something kind of like what JT did, more of a stats approach to goals,” Schauffele said. “Obviously winning big tournaments and stuff like that is what we all want to do, but I think if I can kind of focus on small, nitty gritty things in my game, it will pay off.”
2. The top 10 players on the Asian Tour Order of Merit are exempt into this week’s field. Players from all around the globe qualified for the CIMB off of the Asian Tour. Here’s a look at the players who qualified behind Green, the local favorite: Scott Hend (Australia), David Lipsky (USA), SSP Chawrasia (India), Poom Saksansin (Thailand), Phachara Khongwatmai (Thailand), Jazz Janewattananond (Thailand), Prayad Marksaeng (Thailand), Juvic Pagunsan (Philippines), Richard T. Lee (Canada).
3. The International Team has SHOWN up for the first international event of the PGA TOUR season. Seven of the 10 members of the International Team from the recent Presidents Cup are in the field this week: Branden Grace, Charl Schwartzel, Emiliano Grillo, Adam Hadwin, Si Woo Kim, Anirban Lahiri and Jhonattan Vegas. Thomas is the lone player from the U.S. squad at TPC Kuala Lumpur.