The CIMB Classic returns to TPC Kuala Lumpur for the fourth time, with Justin Thomas set to defend his lone PGA TOUR title. Brendan Steele, the winner of last week’s season opener, is also ready to take on a field of 78 players.
TPC Kuala Lumpur is an interesting course by PGA TOUR standards. It plays to a par of 72, but at 7,005 yards it looks more like a par 70 on paper. Perhaps that’s why it has identified two similar, but different, player types as having success over the first three editions hosting this tournament.
Ryan Moore was the winner in 2013 and 2014. He is a known commodity. Gamers recognize Moore as a great ball-striker with a strong tilt towards accuracy over power. When a par 72 sets up at 7,005 yards and offers four par 5s, strong ball-strikers who lack elite power can still thrive. Kevin Na has two top-three finishes at TPC Kuala Lumpur and follows closely in Moore’s footprint.
Knowing all of that, it will come as no surprise that ball-strikers of all lengths will populate this power ranking.
Here we go!
1. Ryan Moore – Much like Paul Casey, Moore ended the 2015-16 season in fine form and found his way onto the U.S. Ryder Cup squad. Throw in the aforementioned pair of wins in three tries, and all roads run through Moore. For OAD players, he is definitely on the short list.
2. Paul Casey – Picked up right where he left off with three consecutive top-four finishes in the FedExCup Playoffs with a T3 last week in Napa to kick off 2016-17. His record at TPC Kuala Lumpur is average at best, improving from a T37 in 2014 to a T24 last year. If your flavor is current form, he’s still your guy.
3. Kevin Na – Has it all in terms of current form and course history. Not only does he have back-to-back top-three finishes in this event, he also nabbed a top 10 last week. Lacks the sizzle of the two names above him on this list, but it’s impossible to place another name ahead of him.
4. Patrick Reed – Should be plenty of eyes on the U.S. Ryder Cup star in his 2016-17 debut. Has shown steady improvement on this layout, going T40-T26-T10 in his last three. He is among the class of the field, to boot.
5. Adam Scott – The Aussie’s runner-up finish here last year catapulted him to one of his best years on TOUR. While he faded a bit down the stretch, there’s no reason to think he can’t perform at a high level in the CIMB Classic again this week.
6. Gary Woodland – His T56 last year after back-to-back runner-up finishes the previous two trips will serve to throw some gamers off his scent. Not all that unlike last week’s winner, Brendan Steele, Woodland enters the week with great stats and a reliable career relative to his meager win total. Perhaps the 2016-17 trend will begin to establish some of these guys adding some trophies to the wall.
7. Justin Thomas – About the right spot for a youngster in his first title defense. Anything inside the top 10 would be a very respectable showing.
8. Brendan Steele – While it would be easy, and perhaps wise, to ignore him this week and write this off as a hangover week with a great deal of travel, one has to resolve that he tied for third here last year.
9. Hideki Matsuyama – All three of his starts at TPC Kuala Lumpur have resulted in top 25s, but last year’s fifth-place finish was easily the best. Throw in a win last week at the Japan Open Golf Championship, and we have the 13th-ranked player in the world entering hot.
10. Scott Piercy – Was in the hunt last week in California and enters with the confidence of a T7 in the CIMB Classic last year.
11. Tony Finau – Opened the season with a T26 in the Safeway Open last week. The bomber tied for seventh in the 2015 CIMB Classic.
12. Sergio Garcia – Perhaps a bit too low considering his T11-T2-T24 history on this layout, the Spaniard returns to the “office” for his first time since his epic Ryder Cup Singles match with Phil Mickelson.
13. Russell Knox – Tied for 21st in this event last year, but his style of play is very similar to a Moore or Na. Perhaps he could rub a little salt in the European Ryder Cup wound by winning this week and making Captain Clarke regret not putting him on the squad.
14. Brian Harman – Love his T7 last year to go with solid ball-striking but questionable length on a short course. It’s a bit of a flier, but not without precedent.
15. David Lingmerth – Very nice trend in this event (T64-T39-T14) to go with the type of game that should play well at TPC Kuala Lumpur.
Last week’s winner was featured in this ranking. Here’s hoping that’s the case for the CIMB Classic!
Best of luck to all!