The First Tee – CIMB Classic

Adam Daly
By Adam Daly October 8, 2018 17:03

The First Tee – CIMB Classic

As a reminder, this week the PGA is in Malaysia, so lock is Wednesday. Don’t miss out or forget to set your lineups!

This Week

THE COURSE

Fall swing-season heads to TPC Kuala Lumpur for the first of three events in Asia, for a 78-man no-cut event. With this being a no-cut and also some typically low scores – from -14 (Moore) in 2014 to mid-20s (Thomas x2, Perez) after that – scoring will be very high on DraftKings, and scoring birdies is much more important than finishing position, and eagle-makers (Thomas) are even more important; the course played 1.337 below par last year with only eight holes playing above par.

TPC K.L. is a short course at only 7,005 yards as a par-72, which helps explain the great scoring. The par-5s are eminently scoreable, at 503, 518, and 539 yards – the fourth par-5 (18th) saw only one eagle and 102 birdies and sits at 634 yards – and last year gave up 33 eagles (plus one on the 18th), and 512 birdies combined. The par-3s at this course will offer a tough test as three of the four play above 200 yards, and five par-4s play below 401 yards.

Accuracy off the tee here matters a touch more than distance, as the rough tends to be thick, and there are trees and fairway bunkers that can come into play. There will be a lot of roll in the fairways given the heat and humidity – although make sure to check the weather for rain as it could soften the course quite a bit – so rather than focusing on just “driving accuracy,” look instead of Distance from the Center of the Fairway to see who is better at keeping it very safe.

Approaching the greens on a short course where hitting the fairways is important means a lot of laying up (like last week), which means the most common approach distances will be 125-175. On approach, golfers may have to avoid water hazards if they cut weird angles for better positioning on the green.

The greens here used to be extremely slow paspalum greens, but they’ve since been re-surfaced with Bermuda grass. Typically, putting here was very simple for most golfers given the slow surface and very straight reads – I wouldn’t expect this to change much even with the new overseeding, so you can still roster golfers that don’t excel with the flatstick. Missing the greens here is one of the few issues that can pop up, with tough greenside saves a must.

STATS

The Strokes Gained stats to focus on in order (not including Tee to Green):

  • Approach
  • Off-The-Tee
  • Putting
  • Around the Green

Counting stats to focus on in order:

  • Birdie or Better %
  • Par-5 Scoring
  • Distance from the Center of the Fairway
  • Approach Shots: 125-150 Yards
  • Greens in Regulation

Top-Tier Golfer

Justin Thomas ($11700)

Pros: Not only has he won twice here, but JT’s game fits perfectly for this course the way he hits it off the tee – he ranks first in Holes per Eagle and fourth in birdie average, which set up perfectly on a no-cut event. He’s 30th in SG: OTT and third in approach, which placed him second in SG:T2G last season and first in this week’s field, and is an above-average putter.

Cons: On a course where the rough is thick, JT’s lack of accuracy off the tee is the main concern; he hit only 57% of fairways and ranked 125th in Distance from Center of the Fairway. There’s not much else to worry about from JT beyond his prohibitive price point and expected high ownership.

Byeong Hun An ($8900)

Pros: The price point for the golfer that ranks T12 in SG: T2G that’s successful in every facet except putting is very inviting, and he should see lower ownership this week. He’s long off the tee and connects a birdie or better on 45.97% of par-5s (52nd), has great proximity rankings in both the 125-150 and 150-175 ranges (T28/T20), and finished T39 here in 2016.

Cons: His accuracy is a definite issue, hitting 59% of fairways and ranking 179th in Distance from Edge of the Fairway. His birdie average and overall BoB% don’t scream scoring, at 3.65 and 20.83%, which is suboptimal for a no-cut – those numbers are low mostly thanks to his putting. BHA lost 0.237 strokes per round putting last year, connecting on only 36.24% of one-putts and really struggling outside 10’.

OTHER: Gary Woodland ($9700)

 

Value Golfer (below $8000)

Sihwan Kim ($6500):

Pros: Great price for a golfer that has been blowing up on the other side of the world, to the tune of six finishes of 4th-or-better and only six MC in 20 events. While the Asian and Challenge Tours aren’t exactly the cream of the crop, Kim also found success on the Euro Tour – 3rd and T3 at the Hero Indian Open and D&D Czech Masters. He only has 16 measured rounds of *actual* statistics to look at, but on the Euro Tour he ranks: 20th in Stroke Avg, fourth in birdies (4.75), 38th in Driving Accuracy, and 32nd in GIR. If OWGR is your thing, Kim moved from #447 to #158 this year.

Cons: Unfortunately the sample size is incredibly small from Kim, so it’s tough to get a read on how good he actually is and how he’ll stand up in a no-cut event with good players. His par-5 scoring numbers are less-than-good – again, small sample – and he doesn’t even qualify to make the SG rankings. He’s a very high risk/reward play.

Thomas Pieters ($7500):

Pros: Pieters’ distance off the tee on a short course like this bodes very well for finding some birdies or eagles, with the Belgian hitting 4.23 birdies per round (E.T.) and averaging 4.57 on par-5s. He’s a decent putter from 10’ and in, but he does struggle outside that range at times; with the course switching to Bermuda, the change in speed should help him this week.

Cons: He finished T44 here last year and hasn’t performed well in fields with PGA studs (mostly.) He’s inaccurate off the tee to the tune of 50.4% of fairways hit – albeit on Euro Tour fairways – and struggles around the greens. He ranked 148th in GIR on the E.T. although he hit 67.9% of them, and ranked 119th in SG:Putting.

You can follow me on Twitter @adalyfrey and good luck this week!

 

Adam Daly
By Adam Daly October 8, 2018 17:03

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