CIMB Classic – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
TPC Kuala Lumpur – West Course (7,005 yards, par 72)
$1,260,000 and 500 FedEx Cup points to the winner
The PGA Tour’s second event of the new wraparound season will head internationally to Malaysia for the CIMB Classic. The event itself was birthed in 2010, moving to Kuala Lumpur’s par-72 west course in 2013, where it became an official PGA Tour event. Kuala Lumpur is home to many professional events as it has hosted PGA Tour, European Tour, and LPGA Tour events in recent years. The layout is quite short measuring around 7,000 yards and is vulnerable to birdies as we’ve seen Justin Thomas post 26- and 23-under the past two years respectively in his back-to-back victories. The field consists of 78 entrants: 60 from the PGA Tour FedEx Cup standings, 10 from the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit, and eight sponsor’s exemptions. Look for the no-cut event to yield low scores and perhaps a Justin Thomas three-peat, which would be the first on the PGA Tour since Steve Stricker three-peated the John Deere Classic from 2009-2011.
Prior Decade Champions
2016 – Justin Thomas (Kuala Lumpur)
2015 – Justin Thomas (Kuala Lumpur)
2014 – Ryan Moore (Kuala Lumpur)
2013 – Ryan Moore (Kuala Lumpur)
2012 – Nick Watney
2011 – Bo Van Pelt
2010 – Ben Crane
Key Stats to Winning at TPC Kuala Lumpur
· Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green
· Driving Accuracy
· Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green
Four years of Kuala Lumpur stats prove that precision ballstrikers dominate here. Anytime a shorter course like this is played on the PGA Tour, finding fairways and hitting short-iron approaches close (50-125 yards) are essentials to scoring. It’s no surprise two-time champs Justin Thomas (2015 & 2016) and Ryan Moore (2013 & 2014) were dominant in these categories when they won here. As a starting point, Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green is an excellent broad-scope ballstriking stat this week, followed by more specific indicators of driving accuracy and Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green. With a guaranteed four rounds for each player this week, the best in the field will likely rise to the top of the leaderboard by week’s end, while lower-tier players won’t get stymied by a 36-hole cut.
FanDuel Value Picks
Justin Thomas, $10500 – There’s no reason Thomas can’t three-peat this week, given his Player of the Year & FedEx Cup champion honors earned last season and his role as back-to-back defending champion at Kuala Lumpur. Despite his $600 pricing above the second-highest salary, he’s more than worth it.
Hideki Matsuyama, $9900 – Matsuyama finished runner-up to Thomas last season as part of an incredible kickstart to the season that included four top-2 finishes before February ended. Matsuyama is an elite ballstriker who will look to capitalize on a course fit for his game and collect an early win.
Paul Casey, $9500 – It’s been nine months since Casey missed a cut on the PGA Tour, posting five top-5 finishes since June. Though Casey has fared alright at Kuala Lumpur, he hasn’t finished inside the top-20 in three tries. However, his recent form trumps his history at this venue, making Casey a solid option to post a good finish, though probably not a victory.
Longer Shots Worth a Risk
Ian Poulter, $7100 – Poulter was T17 in his first appearance last year at Kuala Lumpur, and returns as a strong candidate to improve on that finish. On the hot seat for his PGA Tour playing status, Poulter became fully-exempt for this season with a strong push during the summer that included a runner-up at THE PLAYERS Championship. If Poulter can drive it accurately this week, his excellent approach game and putting can give him a solid chance to post a top-10.
Kevin Na, $7100 – Na has posted top-3s in two of the last three years at Kuala Lumpur, mostly due to his great driving accuracy and stellar wedge game. He’s a good profile fit for this course and good value, making him a solid pick in the middle salary tiers.
Scott Piercy, $5800 – Piercy is an absolute steal this week at $5800 given his two top-10s in as many tries at Kuala Lumpur. Piercy’s solid tee-to-green game highlighted by good iron play make him an incredible value.
Anirban Lahiri, $5600 – Lahiri was in prime position to win last season’s CIMB Classic but was stifled by an early quadruple bogey Sunday as the 54-hole leader. This season he’ll hopefully learn from his struggles last year and give himself upside for victory at the stunningly low price of $5600.
Strategy Tips for this week (based on 60k standard salary cap)
It’s almost impossible to ignore the fields top-3 in Justin Thomas, Hideki Matsuyama, and Paul Casey in your lineups this week given the smaller, diluted field. In fact, it’s possible to put all three in a lineup if you’re willing to take a few lower-tier options. Under any strategy, at least one of these top three should be in your lineup with flexibility to fill in from there.