Trick or treat? It was Justin Thomas who provided gamers a bag full of goodies this week as he scorched Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club's West Course to the tune of 26-under 262 on the way to his maiden victory.
There was ice running through Thomas’ veins during the final round as he collected a set of birdies after giving away two strokes at the par-4 14th hole. This allowed him some wiggle room as he stepped on the final tee box with a one-stroke cushion. Having played the par 5s at 11-under-par up to this point in the tournament, it was smooth sailing on the 72nd hole as he swung out of his shoes, per usual, reached the green in regulation, and knocked in a tricky par-saver for victory.
Thomas has been hawking the winner’s circle for some time now as he collected seven top 10s during his 2014-15 rookie campaign. He will take no time to rest as he readies for his WGC debut this week. The first win is often the hardest for talented PGA TOUR pros, so the sky is really the limit now, as Thomas has superstar written all over him.
Adam Scott: He was written off by many after his abysmal 2014-15 season and the anchored-putting ban on the horizon. The Aussie proved the haters wrong this week as he carded three of four rounds at 6-under 66 or better.
Kevin Na: Another week, another close call. The UNLV product had course history and recent form on his side entering the week, and did not disappoint at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club. He didn’t card anything worse than a bogey on the week, and had just two of those. It’s rare that a tally of 25 par breakers isn't good enough for victory.
Brendan Steele: His name appears often when birdies are on the ballot and this week was no different. It was his consistency that paid dividends this week as he ended the tournament with 60 straight bogey-free holes.
Hideki Matsuyama: The robot continues to rattle off top finishes at a startling rate. This is now his 39th finish inside the top 25 after playing in just 62 events. Finishing the 2014-15 campaign ranked sixth in holes per eagle, the only surprising fact about this fifth-place finish was his lack of any eagles on the week. It’s hard to complain though when your golfer racks up 25 birdies, including a pair of bogey-free rounds.
James Hahn: After breaking through in 2014-15 with his first career victory and first FedExCup finish inside the top 100, he’s starting off the new season on the right foot. He led the field in greens in regulation, landing 64-of-72 on the week. It’s really hard to finish outside the top 10 when you’re standing over par-breaker opportunities 89 percent of the time.
Scott Piercy: Jetlag, schmetlag, as this bomber sat on a plane for 20 hours after his T25 at last week’s Shriners. That didn’t stop the Las Vegas resident from carding a pair of eagles and 24 total birdies this week. He couldn’t avoid the boxes though as he gave back strokes with five bogeys and a couple doubles. He looks healthy and ready to rock in 2016 as long as it stays that way.
Brian Harman: The lefty took the fairways-and-greens approach this week, ranking T10 in driving accuracy and T9 in greens hit. Gamers should take note of the course yardage this week as he will always been in play on short courses like this.
Tony Finau: Taking the opposite approach as Harman above, Finau ranked T59 in the field in regards to driving accuracy. His length allowed him to hit 59 greens in regulation, but the putter just didn’t catch fire, but he finished the week with 22 straight holes of bogey-free golf.
Charles Howell III: Converted on 19 birdies, but it was the lack of mistakes that secured this T10 in that he squared just two bogeys. That is the type of golf we’ve come to expect from him, as he’s finished inside the top 100 of the FedExCup race in every season since its existence.
Jim Herman: There was nothing fancy in the approach this week as he finished outside the top 10 in driving accuracy as well as greens hit. He still landed a T10 thanks to the flat stick, circling 22 birdies and giving back just five strokes on the week. This T10 could go a long way in his attempt to back up his career season where he cracked the FedExCup Playoffs for the first time.
Patrick Reed: The 2014-15 campaign was the season of newfound consistency for Mr. Top Five. It was more of the same to kick off the new season, circling 19 birdies on the week and coasting to 52 straight holes of bogey-free golf to finish the week.
Ryan Moore: We didn’t learn much this week from the UNLV product as we already knew he loved KL G&CC. We also already knew that pulling off a three-peat at the same event is nearly impossible. Gamers should still walk away happy as he adds another top 10 to his CIMB Classic résumé.
The DFS Hero
A weekly spot to point out one golfer that paid off his salary (and then some) across the daily fantasy sports landscape.
Brendan Steele: He rewarded DFS owners handsomely this week after giving them a teaser two weeks ago at the Frys.com Open. Finishing third at an event will always yield top results, but it was how he did it this week that really makes him the hero. Signing for a quartet of sub-70 scorecards provides the initial bonus. He did so by squaring just two bogeys, circling 24 birdies and throwing in an eagle for good measure. The final bonus for three bogey-free rounds really puts the icing on the cake. A round of applause goes out to small segment of DFSers that rostered the Cal-Riverside product.
I'm Not Mad, Just Disappointed
It's not all peaches and cream when it comes to fantasy golf. These golfers ruined a lot of good lineups across all formats this week.
Gary Woodland: Entering the week with back-to-back runner-up finishes on his CIMB slate, course history was expected to trump his lack of current form. Ending with a T56, the Kansas alum has finished outside the top 50 in six of his last seven starts.
Danny Lee: Entering with some solid course history at the Malaysian Open and a runner-up at the TOUR Championship, his arrow was pointing up. Unfortunately, a case of the blisters bit him hard, forcing him to pull out early.
Keegan Bradley: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. After appearing in this section last week, I wiped the slate clean and gave him another chance. It’s time to put him, and his non-anchored putter, on the bench until further notice.
Playing the Odds
If oddsmakers set the price of a golfer to win at five percent (20-to-1) or better, we have to take notice. This section will recap just how well these favorites perform.
Henrik Stenson (7-1): Gave owners a pre-tournament scare with the news of knee surgery on the very short horizon. Finishing the week at T47, it’s probably wise to back off the Swede until he returns with a clean bill of health.
Kevin Na (14-1): Like clockwork, he posts his third straight podium finish. Ride the wave until it crashes.
Sergio Garcia (16-1): Finished the week at T24. Not a bad week by most standards, but nothing about which to write home when you consider the condensed field and the CIMB runner-up finish from a year ago. He finished the 2014-15 season with just one top 10 in his last six starts so his stock is certainly pointing down.
Hideki Matsuyama (16-1): Did not disappoint. His fifth-place finish was his 16th career inside the top 10. He remains one of the safest options on a week-to-week basis.
Branden Grace (16-1): The South African was very steady on his way to a T17. He was playing his first tournament as a PGA TOUR member.
Ryan Moore (20-1): His bid for a three-peat was held in check, but a T10 is still very good. Expectations of gamers are out of whack if this result comes as a surprise.
Patrick Reed (20-1): Was highly regarded pre-tournament as the American was already in Asia and adjusted to the time-zone change with which most had to deal. His finish of T10 should be considered a success this week and a sign that he remains a top-tier option on a weekly basis.
Next week we stay in Asia as these professionals make the skip over to Shanghai, China, for the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions. In the states, the Sanderson Farms Championship will have its second look at the Country Club of Jackson in Mississippi.