The Asia swing is underway as the PGA Tour travels to Malaysia, Korea and China over the next three weeks, and last season’s PGA Tour Player of the Year Justin Thomas is looking for his third consecutive CIMB Classic win this week in a surprisingly good field.
Let’s take a look at this week’s contest.
What: CIMB Classic | Where: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | When: Oct. 11-15
Participants and odds
- Justin Thomas: 4-1
- Hideki Matsuyama: 8-1
- Paul Casey: 10-1
- Xander Schauffele: 25-1
- Anirban Lahiri: 25-1
- Ian Poulter: 25-1
- Brendan Steele: 28-1
- Charl Schwartzel: 28-1
- Gary Woodland: 28-1
Field strength: C+
Fine, maybe it’s not a surprisingly good field, but it’s at least decent. You have two of the top five players in the world currently and a host of other big names like Poulter, Pieters and Casey. Adam Scott is noticeably absent this time around after he narrowly lost out to Thomas back in 2015 in a thriller.
Three stories to watch
1. Justin Thomas goes for three: A PGA Tour player has not won an event three straight times since Steve Stricker did it at the John Deere Classic from 2009-11. Thomas is the hottest, best talent in the field this week, but he’s coming off a long, slogging season and emptied the tank at the Presidents Cup. I’m not saying he can’t or won’t make it happen, but this one will likely be tougher than the other two.
2. Xander is back: The Tour Championship winner makes his 2017-18 PGA Tour season debut, and he’s one of the handful of biggest favorites this week. I’m fascinated to see how the next phase of his career plays out. Will he really take that path that Thomas and Spieth are on, or will he struggle at times after winning a lot early on like Keegan Bradley?
3. A 59 watch: After Chesson Hadley got put on 59 watch last week at the Safeway Open, it’s fair to ask the question again this week. TPC Kuala Lumpur is a short course (just over 7,000 yards), and Thomas shot a 61 here in 2015 en route to his win. With some of the scorers in this field (Matsuyama and Thomas included), we could get an early magic number this season after waiting all the way until the Sony Open last season.
- 2016: Justin Thomas
- 2015: Justin Thomas
- 2014: Ryan Moore
- 2013: Ryan Moore
- 2012: Nick Watney
For those wondering, no, Moore did not also win it in 2011. But it would appear that if you win it in 2017, you should definitely return for 2018.
Let’s look at the picks this week.
Winner: Rafa Cabrera Bello is somebody I’m in on. He needs to win more, yes, but he finished T10 here last season and four top 10s last season including top fives at both The Players Championship and Open Championship. Odds: 40-1
Top 10: Justin Thomas is too easy of a pick for my winner this week given his status as best player in the field and two-time defending champion, so I’ll slid him into this spot and hope it doesn’t come back to bite me. Odds: 4-1
Sleeper: James Hahn has finished in the top 10 in each of the last two years here. He had four top 10s last season overall and played quite well coming down the stretch of last season, only missing two cuts in his last 10 events. Odds: 40-1