With most of the players in the top 20 of the Official World Golf Rankings taking time off to have so semblance of an offseason, this week’s CIMB Classic in Malaysia is hardly a star-studded stop on the PGA Tour.
Justin Thomas (No. 4) is the only Top 10 golfer to enter the event, which begins on Thursday at the TPC Kuala Lumpur. Two other golfers, Xander Schauffele (No. 18), and Paul Casey (No. 20), are in the only ones in the top 20 that will be there. Seventeen of the Top 50 have entered.
Part of the reason is its date. The second event of the 2018-2019 season comes just a little more than two weeks after the conclusion of the 2017-2018 season. Many players are looking for more than 18 days of vacation before they begin a new schedule.
The second reason for the lack of top players is location — not many players are eager to fly halfway across the world.
The CIMB Classic is the first of three stops for the PGA Tour in Asia. Next week, they go to Nine Bridges in South Korea for the CJ Cup, and that’s followed by the HSBC Champions, a World Golf Championship event in Shanghai, China.
Kuala Lumpur Is JT’s House
With a relatively unranked field, it’s little surprise to see Thomas as the betting favorite at 5/1 to win the CIMB Classic. Ryan Moore and Billy Horschel trail in the distance at 14/1, with Schauffele and Casey the third choices at 16/1.
In addition to being the highest ranked golfer in the field, Thomas has won this event twice. The first time was 2015. He defended his title the following year, and it kick started a season where the 25-year-old won four other events, including the PGA Championship.
“I’m really excited to be heading back for the CIMB Classic,” Thomas said. “I have very fond memories of Kuala Lumpur, as it was where I had my first PGA Tour victory in 2015, and then to successfully defend the title in 2016 was truly special. I look forward to the opportunity to become the first player to win the CIMB Classic three times.”
Thomas is coming after a Ryder Cup where he was one of the few bright spots. He earned 4.5 points, either in team events or singles, of the 10.5 points the US team accumulated in the 17.5 to 10.5 drubbing by the European team.
Snedeker Seeking Redemption
One player that could take the tournament is Brandt Snedeker. The 37-year-old was part of a three-golfer playoff in last week’s Safeway Open, but came up short, losing to Kevin Tway.
It looked like he was going to win his 10th PGA Tour event. He had a five-shot lead with 11 holes to play, but blew up on the back nine. It was a performance that will gnaw at him for a while.
“I know I’ll look back on this one in a few years and know I gave it away,” Snedeker said. “I didn’t overcome a little bit of adversity. I didn’t make some pars when I need to. I expected better of myself. You can say I choked, you can say whatever. It was not good golf the last nine holes and that’s on me.”
He is an attractive pick this week at 25/1, despite his play on the final nine holes on Sunday at the Safeway Open. He won the Wyndham Championship in August, that included an opening round 59. Scoring low will benefit him at a tournament that has averaged a winning score of 24 under par the last three years.