This week’s Maybank Championship Malaysia at Royal Selangor is the newest addition to the European Tour.
There is some familiarity for players, punters and gamers though as host city Kuala Lumpur has staged many events at this level.
The course will be new to plenty although the more senior Asian contingent know it well.
This historic venue was last used on the Asian Tour in 2002 and a quick scan of those results shows that there were plenty of straight and steady hitters at the top of the leaderboard.
Whether that still counts 14 years on remains to be seen but it’s a clue nonetheless.
The Course – Royal Selangor
Royal Selangor is a 7,079-yard par 71 and is described as being in a “tropical parkland setting”. It features a single par 5 (536-yard 3rd) on its outward nine and two more (569-yard 13th and 553-yard 15th) on the back. The modest yardages suggest there’s plenty of scope for going for the green in two. The layout ends with a testing 484-yard par 4.
Recent Top 5s in Malaysian Open held at Kuala Lumpur G&CC
It’s going to be hot folks. Temperatures are set for the low to mid 90s throughout tournament week. There may be an odd welcome shower over the first two days but there is little wind about except for perhaps Sunday’s final round when it could gust (15mph).
The Leading Contenders
The Englishman moved up to World No. 13 with his superb victory in the Dubai Desert Classic and that makes him the highest ranked player in the field this week. Third in the Race to Dubai, Willett also has a liking for Malaysia. In last year’s Malaysian Open he cracked the top five while in his previous start in the event in 2012 he placed third. If he putts as well as he did in Dubai (1st PA), Willett may be hard to stop.
It didn’t quite work out for Kaymer in the desert as he could only post T16 in Abu Dhabi (his favorite event) before suffering a surprised missed cut in the Dubai Desert Classic after some loose stuff from tee to green. Better news is to be found in his form in the Malaysian Open. He’s played it twice (2011 and 2012) and cracked the top 10 on both occasions although, like Willett and most of the field, this will be his first look at Royal Selangor.
As with Kaymer, Oosthuizen is a major winner who hasn’t found his best stuff so far. A T7 in Qatar looks okay but he’d led the way with an opening 65 and three rounds of 71 or more after that represents a disappointment. He then missed the cut in Dubai after carding 73-74. Malaysia has been an extremely happy hunting ground for him however. The South African won the 2012 Malaysian Open the week after losing his Masters playoff to Bubba Watson, was runner-up in the same tournament two years later and also made the top 10 in the 2011 Johor Open in Malaysia.
Here is a guy who did have a big ‘Desert Swing’. Luiten kicked it off with a T5 in Abu Dhabi, posted T13 in Qatar and then challenged seriously in the Dubai Desert Classic before settling for T8. Luiten had good driving accuracy in all three events which should bode well for this week’s venue too. Adding to his appeal is that his first European Tour win came in Malaysia when he captured the 2011 Johor Open. He’s also had three top 25s out of three in the Malaysian Open.
The veteran Thai played Royal Selangor when it staged the 2002 Malaysian Open, recovering from an opening 73 to shoot 68-69-67 and post T27. Surprisingly, a third place in the 2012 Johor Open is his only top 10 in eight starts in Malaysia and most would have expected better on his home Asian soil. Jaidee had a mixed ‘Desert Swing’ with T46-T20-MC in his three starts.
Wood had some excellent results in the second half of 2015 but took a while to shake off the rust after the winter break when missing the cut in both Abu Dhabi and Qatar. He got back on track with a T8 in Dubai and will expect to kick on here. He’s only ever teed it up once in Malaysia and withdrew after a 71 in round one of the 2013 Malaysian Open. But he can play well in this part of the world and, indeed, owns top 10s in three of his last four starts in Asian Tour events.
He couldn’t quite get it done in either tourament but back-to-back second places in Qatar and Dubai made RCB one of the standout performers on the ‘Desert Swing’. He’s missed the cut on his last two starts in the Malaysian Open but rewind a little further and you’ll find a third place in 2012 and a fourth in 2011 so he deserves to be thought of as one of the main title contenders this week.
After ending 2015 with seven top 20s in his final eight starts, Fitzpatrick has set the bar high so his combined efforts in the desert – T26 Abu Dhabi, MC Qatar, T45 Dubai – have to be viewed as a disappointment. However, he did hit more fairways than anyone in Dubai and that ability may be better rewarded at Royal Selangor. He missed the cut in last year’s Malaysian Open but we shouldn’t read too much into that given the giant strides he’s made in recent times.
After his second place to Rickie Fowler in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, Pieters rather tailed off in the desert by finishing T52 in Qatar and missing the cut in Dubai. A cold putter was a big reason, a surprise given how well we’ve seen him perform on the greens. If it heats up again, look out for the Belgian because in two starts at the Malaysian Open he’s finished T16 and T8.
A win at the prestigious Alfred Dunhill Links Championship was a big moment for the Dane after some poor form following a comeback from injury and he’s reaffirmed his former status as a potential and likely Ryder Cup star with two strong performances in the desert – second place in Qatar and T8 at the Dubai Desert Classic. His form in Asian Tour events is a concern though and contains lots of missed cuts and just a single top 10 (in India).
The other big Asian hope this week along with Jaidee. Aphibarnrat cashed in all three ‘Desert Swing’ events although it can hardly be considered much of a success given that all three finishes were outside the top 50. Expect him to be more dangerous on home Asian soil though as he won the 2013 Malaysian Open and was third in the PGA Tour’s CIMB Classic later that season. This is his first start at Royal Selangor.
The Next Rung
The Dane’s tidy game could be an ideal fit for this course and we have a little bit of evidence that it is given that he posted T38 (71-69-69-70) in the 2002 Malaysian Open at Royal Selangor. Kjeldsen has also had three top 20s in Malaysia while he comes in with some progressive form figures after posting T54 in Abu Dhabi, T20 in Qatar and T8 in Dubai.
Canizares should certainly be in the crosshairs this week. He was third in last year’s Malaysian Open (also T9 in 2011) so should enjoy his return to Kuala Lumpur while he was prominent in all three ‘Desert Swing’ events. The Spaniard made the top five in Abu Dhabi, placed T26 in Qatar and closed with a 66 to crack the top 10 in Dubai.
The Frenchman has a bunch of good form in Malaysia with five top 20s in six starts. Three of those are top sixes and include a second place in the 2011 Malaysian Open. The course should suit which means he can build on his recent finishes on the ‘Desert Swing’ (54-13-36). Bourdy was also runner-up in the season-opening Alfred Dunhill Championship back in November.
If you’re looking for an in-form Asian Tour player, start the search with Wang. The Korean has reeled off seven straight top 15s and they include a fourth (Myanmar Open) and a sixth (Singapore Open) on his last two starts. A strong short game serves him well and he produced 88.9% scrambling (1st) at the Myanmar Open.
Having won the BMW Masters in China in November (his first European Tour success), Broberg carries greater expectations these days so he probably came up short in the desert after following a T35 in Abu Dhabi and T20 in Qatar with a missed cut in Dubai. His Asian Tour form is of a similar nature with just one top 20 in seven starts so he doesn’t leap off the page as a likely winner this week.
The first of the Finn’s five European Tour wins came in Asia when he landed the 2007 Indonesian Open. He was also T17 in the 2013 Malaysian Open. What really thrusts him into the picture here is three finishes between T13 and T22 on the ‘Desert Swing’. He could possibly hit a few more greens but he looks strong in all areas at the moment.
A strong performer in the Malaysian Open with top 25s in the last four editions which includes top 10s in both 2013 and 2014. As well as enjoying this corner of the globe, he was also 3-for-3 in the desert, the highlight a T13 in Qatar where he made the top 10 in Putting Average for the third start running.
Rock is 4-for-4 on the European Tour this season, kicking off his campaign with a T12 in the South African Open and going 26-20-33 in the desert. That represents some of his most consistent form in a while and this could be a good place to keep the run going given that he’s finished in the top 20 in two of his last three starts in the Malaysian Open.
The young Englishman has a T11 in the 2013 Malaysian Open to his name and also three top 10s from his last eight starts in Asian Tour events so he enjoys the region. He’s still hard to call on a weekly basis as shown by his form on the recent ‘Desert Swing’ when sandwiching a T7 in Qatar between a missed cut in Abu Dhabi and a T50 in Dubai.
Hatton has missed the cut on his only two starts in Asian Tour events but that will change soon as he learns the different grasses and finds a comfort level. He’s certainly showing more signs of maturity these days and has cashed in his last eight European Tour starts. That run peaked with a T8 in the Dubai Desert Classic on his last two startswhere he was fourth in Putting Average.
Who’s On The Team
At bigger prices (50/1), bettors might want to check out Tommy Fleetwood, who has put up some big performances when the European Tour has headed out to Asia.
Keep Alejandro Canizares in mind too at 35/1 while fellow Spaniard Rafa Cabrera-Bello could again get in the mix.
One To Swerve
Thongchai Jaidee seems an obvious choice to do well on his home Asian turf but his record in Malaysia is surprisingly modest.