Frazzled looks at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia and with live coverage and a strong field it should be an excellent event. Danny Lee is his main advised bet.
For the third year in succession, the CIMB is an official PGA Tour event and contributes to the Fedex Cup standings. It is also the second year in a row that the event will be held at the West Course, Kuala Lumpar Golf and Country Club, which is located 5 miles from the heart of Kuala Lumpar. The course was designed by Nelson and Haworth who also designed the current home of the WGC HSBC Champions event, Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai, but was completely remodelled and re-opened in 2008.
This venue has also been the host of the Malaysian Open for the past 7 years but while that can act as a guide, there are few in this field that play that event, so it has limited form value, other than looking at the stats for the event and seeing what type of player is required. Anibarn Lahiri who won this year's event, does tee up this week and the field does include other Top 10 finishers, Richard Lee and Paul Peterson. Lahiri and Peterson used accurate tee to green play, while Lee had a brilliant week with the putter.
The West Course is 6,985 yards for the event this year and plays to a Par 72. As with many courses in this part of the world, the fairways and rough consist of Seashore Paspalum grass with the greens consisting of Sea Isle Supreme grass.
The course consists of undulating fairways, is relatively exposed with minimal trees, but water is on play on 13 holes. This is a relatively short course and distance from the tee is not a huge advantage, while it is not a fearsome test of driving accuracy either. The real test comes with the approach shots and this is very much a second shot golf course.
Accurate iron play with an ability to hit a high percentage of Greens in Regulation (“GIR”) is very important, although putting proved to be equally as important last year, with Ryan Moore successfully defending his title by ranking 4th in Putting Average. Moore also ranked 1st in Par 4 Scoring along with runner up Sergio Garcia, so performance on these 40 holes will be very important. Many of the greens complexes now have run-offs, which provides a further test of a golfer’s approach play and will also test his scrambling skills, while the greens themselves are a stern test of the putting stroke and we have placed more emphasis on this than we have in the past.
A key point about this event is that it is important to get off to a fast start. Leaving aside the fact that it is a tough course to make ground up on (especially through the difficult 11th to 15th hole stretch), the weather is always likely to be a factor and the chances of a reduced 54 hole event are usually quite high. There has been a long dry period here, but this week is set to be hot and humid and thunderstorms are almost inevitable. Getting off to a fast start on Thursday morning and carding a score in what we can hope in an uninterrupted round, before afternoon rain arrives, could prove to be a significant advantage. There is a 2 tee start however and only 2 hours between the first and last starter, so the weather advantage might not quite play out like it might have done in the past.
With the paspalum grass being an unusual experience for many of these golfers, it is worth looking at some of the venues where this grass is prevalent and those who have excelled there. There are two events on the PGA Tour with paspalum greens, which are the Mayakoba Classic at El Camaleon Golf Club and the Puerto Rico Open played at Trump International. In addition paspalum grass is used at the Johar Open, won by Sergio Garcia in 2012. Form at Sheshan International, which is the current home of the HSBC Champions is also worth heeding as it is another Nelson & Haworth design and can provide a guide to this week, even if there are few players that contest both each year.
Danny Lee made huge strides last year, finally delivering on the promise he had shown early in his career, by winning the Johnnie Walker Classic in 2009. The link up with Butch Harmon has paid huge dividends and after posting some solid finishes at Quail Hollow and Colonial, he won his first PGA title in the Greenbrier Classic. Since then he has finished 3rd in the John Deere, 4th in the Quicken Loans, 6th in the WGC Bridgestone Invitational and a very recent runner up in the Tour Championship to Jordan Spieth, where a 72 in the second round proved costly, despite closing with a brilliant 65.
When he was not in anything like the same form in 2014, Lee finished runner up in the Puerto Rico Open and he was 3rd in the OHL Classic at Mayakoba, so he brings current form and form at venues which act as a guide to this event to the table. He should have few problems with the humidity and he is a player that ranked 63rd in Driving Accuracy last year, 23rd in Strokes Gained Putting, 52nd in Scrambling and 9th in Putting Average, so his game looks very well suited to the demands of this short venue. He looks a solid each way bet in this 78 runner field.
1.5 points each way Danny Lee at 28/1 with Betfred and Stan James
Harris English is our second pick this week. He was 7th here on his only appearance in 2013 and he has form at some of the venues mentioned above. He won the Mayakoba in 2013 and he is a player that has repeatedly shown his best form on tougher venues that demand accurate iron play and a solid around the green game.
He has won two PGA Tour titles, but those wins in the Fedex St Jude and Mayakoba, were in 2013 and he has been outshone by some of the other younger players on the Tour over the past 12 months. However despite the fact that he has not posted a recent Top 10, he has produced some very solid displays, such as 12th in the Deutsche Bank and 19th in the BMW Championship.
English ranks highly in GIR stats and is also 36th in Scrambling last season. He was also 10th in Strokes Gained Putting, 22nd in Scoring Average and 3rd in Total Putting. He also excelled on the Par 5s and was 4th in Round 1 Scoring Average last season. All of this points to a player that should contend this week and with the Round 1 Scoring Average in mind, we will back him for first round leader and the outright win.
1.25 points each way Harris English at 35/1 with William Hill
1 point each way Harris English - First Round Leader at 40/1 with Betfred and Coral