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DraftKings PGA: CIMB Classic

Len Hochberg

Hochberg covers golf for RotoWire. A veteran sports journalist, he contributes to Sports on Earth and was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for many years.

Purse: $7M
Winner's Share: $1.26M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Course: TPC Kuala Lumpur
Yardage: 7,005
Par: 72
2015 champion: Justin Thomas

Tournament Preview

Golf diehards and night owls, get ready. Just one week into the new season, the PGA Tour begins a three-week trek in Asia. First it's Malaysia, followed by a new event in South Korea and then the annual WGC stopover in China. In any culture, the CIMB Classic is the biggest birdie-fest on the calendar, where Justin Thomas won two years ago with a whopping 29 birdies en route to a 26-under winning score. He successfully defended his title last year with a mere 23-under total. The tournament hasn't been around all that long, and this is only the fifth edition staged at tiny TPC Kuala Lumpur. Thomas has won the past two and Ryan Moore the first two (are there two professional golfers on the planet more different than those two?). The track tops out at about 7,000 yards, a traditional par-72 with five of the 10 par-4s under 400 yards. The course also hosted the European Tour's Maybank Malaysian Open from 2010-15. While that in theory could give us more data, as some golfers played the track twice in a year, none of those who did were the bigger names.

The only thing smaller than the course is the field: It's a cozy 78, including the top 60 available golfers from last season's top-125, 10 Asian Tour players and eight sponsor invites. And they'll all get to spend some quality time together, because there is no cut. The field was super strong last year. This year, the headliners are limited to Thomas, Hideki Matsuyama, Paul Casey, Branden Grace, Thomas Pieters and Ian Poulter. Also on hand are Xander Schauffele, the newly named Rookie of the Year, and Brendan Steele, the only man who can say he's won a tournament so far this season.

Moore and Thomas chose to play TPC Kuala Lumpur two very different ways, and we'll get into that more in the Champion's Profile below. For now, though, we'll say that the course sets up its defense with plenty of undulations, uneven fairways and water trouble. It was the seventh-easiest track on Tour last season, when 12 of the holes played under par. And speaking of defense, there's the weather. It tends to be so hot and humid that four days walking the course can go a long way toward separating the fit from the, um, not so fit. Rain is forecast through Thursday, with more on the way on Sunday. In the past four CIMBs, preferred lies were in play more times than not.

Lastly, and just because we like to tie up all loose ends here in the DraftKings Value Picks, we'll tell you that Thomas' 29 birdies were not a record, and really not all that close. The record for a 72-hole PGA Tour event is 32, by Mark Calcavecchia in the 2001 Phoenix Open and Paul Gow in the 2001 at the old B.C. Open. (Juiced-ball theorists like to point out that 2001 was also the year that Barry Bonds hit his record 73 home runs. Hmmmm.)

Key Stats to Winning at TPC Kuala Lumpur (in order of importance)

Strokes gained off the tee
Birdie of better percentage
Bogey avoidance
Putting average/strokes gained putting

Past Champions

2016 - Justin Thomas
2015 - Justin Thomas
2014 - Ryan Moore
2013 - Ryan Moore
2012 - Nick Watney
2011 - Bo Van Pelt
2010 - Ben Crane

Champion's Profile:

With four rounds guaranteed, the best players have tended to gravitate to the top of the leaderboard by Sunday. Moore won in 2013-14 by hitting lots of fairways and greens. Thomas won the past two years by just hitting it as far as he could. Thomas was only 53rd in the 78-man field in driving accuracy two years ago, but it doesn't matter so much when the second shot is a wedge, and a short one at that. Still, Thomas improved to 13th in finding fairways last year, and combining his distance with that accuracy is borderline unfair. Interestingly, this will be one of the few weeks that scrambling isn't accentuated. Golfers should be finding greens more easily with all those wedge approaches. Both Thomas and Moore were top-5 in putting average in both of their victory years. That stands to reason in a birdie-fest.

DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)

Tier 1 Values

Justin Thomas - $12,300 (Winning odds at 9-2)

We can't envision a scenario of not picking Thomas. He won last year after playing the season-opening Safeway, but he skipped the tournament last week. We'll be watching how often Thomas plays during the fall and winter; he needs to give himself an offseason. Which brings us to Hideki Matsuyama. He's the big draw in Malaysia, and was runner-up last year to Thomas and T5 the year before. But he was also gassed at the end of this past season in the playoffs and Presidents Cup. He's another star who has to cut down on his offseason commitments. Matsuyama said he hadn't touched a club since Liberty National, but we'll sit this one out just the same.

Paul Casey - $10,500 (10-1)

Casey is the No. 3 choice on the DraftKings board -- a huge gap of almost $2,000 behind Thomas. He hasn't had so much as a top-20 here the past three years, which is surprising. Casey was 43rd on Tour in SG off the tee (SGOTT) last season, and is longer than people think at 58th in driving distance. Plus, Casey was T18 in birdie or better (BOB) on Tour last season and third in bogey avoidance.

Tier 2 Values

Thomas Pieters - $8,600 (30-1)

Pieters is another guy who should succeed here by forsaking accuracy for distance -- in fact, he has a couple of decent Malaysian Open finishes: He was 16th two years ago and eighth in 2014.

Scott Piercy - $8,500 (40-1)

This is a steep price to pay for a guy who just returned last week after an extended absence. But Piercy tied for 17th at the Safeway, and he has thrived at TPC Kuala Lumpur, with top-10s the past two years. Not so coincidentally, Piercy was 11th on Tour last season in BOB.

Anirban Lahiri - $8,200 (25-1)

The Indian is another golfer fond of grip-it-and-rip-it. It paid off with a tie for third last year, four strokes behind Thomas. He also won the Euro Tour event in 2015 and was 10th in 2014. Lahiri was 14th on the PGA Tour in BOB last season. Outside of the Asian Tour golfers, he has probably played this track more than anyone else -- seven tournaments over the four previous years.

Grayson Murray - $8,100 (50-1)

After a successful rookie season, Murray opened with a T9 last week at Silverado. He's another big hitter off the tee, ranking 12th in driving distance last season and 40th in SGOTT. Murray definitely likes to "go for it" -- he was T18 in BOB.

Tier 3 Values

Emiliano Grillo - $7,800 (50-1)

Grillo was 17th in the CIMB last year, but also played the course the three previous years in the Euro event. He got off to a decent start to 2017-18 last week with a T28 at Silverado, where he was ninth in SGOTT. Last season, he was 38th on Tour in SGOTT. Grillo had a terrible season putting, but he should be helped by the slower greens of TPC Kuala Lumpur.

Rafa Cabrera Bello - $7,400 (40-1)

The Spaniard's odds definitely do not jibe with his low DK price, and that's always an eye-opener. Cabrera Bello has been playing this course since 2011, twice with top-5 cashes in the Euro event and a tie for 10th in the CIMB last year. He was 14th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained putting last season.

James Hahn - $7,400 (40-1)

Hahn and Cabrera Bello have matching DK prices and odds. The native of South Korea is among the fittest guys on Tour, and he has top-10s here the past two years. Hahn is a sneaky-good No. 65 in the world rankings.

Long-Shot Values

Scott Hend - $7,100 (80-1)

Hend is perhaps the Asian Tour staple most familiar to American golf fans. The 44-year-old Australian has played the course nine times since 2011, and his best showing was last year, when he tied for seventh at the CIMB. He shot a 9-under 63 on Saturday. Hend was also 14th in the 2015 Euro event here.

Gavin Green - $7,100 (80-1)

The 24-year-old Malaysian leads the Asian Order of Merit this season. He's coming off a win earlier this month at the Taiwan Masters and also has three runners-up this season, most notably in the Indian Open in March. In that tournament, he finished ahead of Lahiri, Cabrera Bello and other world-class golfers. Green was T69 last year at the CIMB, but he also impressively notched top-25s as an amateur in the Malaysian Open in 2013 and '15.

Keegan Bradley - $7,000 (60-1)

Bradley has played the CIMB three of the past four years, with two top-10s, including last year's T10. He was 12th on Tour last season in SGOTT, plus a surprising 37th in BOB and T48 in bogey avoidance. Bradley's putting troubles should be minimized on the slower greens of TPC Kuala Lumpur.
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