Doubtless inspired by their European rival’s successful global expansion strategy, the PGA Tour takes a small step towards embracing the new order with this first co-sanctioned event alongside the Asian Tour. It doesn’t count towards the money list and is limited to 40 invites, but a substantial prize fund plus handy scheduling ahead of next week’s WGC event in China has managed to lure a top-class line-up to Malaysia.
Those 40 invites include ten from the Asian Tour, who might look out of their depth based on a strict reading of the world rankings, but can’t be wholly discounted given the completely different conditions from the PGA Tour norm. Americans have a reputation as poor travellers, and this rare overseas trip will be a novel experience for many of them. They will be greeted by extreme humidity and grainy greens, nothing like the fast surfaces they’re used to.
Indeed when this course, Mines Resort GC, hosted the 2003 Malaysian Open, Asian Tour players fared much better than usual for such co-sanctioned affairs, with only nine Europeans making the top 20. I expect those who played Summerlin last week will be at a significant disadvantage without any meaningful time to acclimatise, and am restricting calculations to those with proven form in the region.
As for the stats, this is a short layout where power is secondary to accuracy. Scoring is expected to be low, with scrambling and gir chosen as the stats to follow. I also have a theory that the tricky greens will act as a leveller, helping those weaker putters that often get left behind.
3pts ew KJ CHOI @ 14/1 (GENERAL)
Though odds of 14/1 are nothing to get excited about, KJ is a blindingly obvious pick. Not only are Asian players fancied to enjoy a significant advantage, but he is already acclimatised having finished eighth in the recent Johor Open. That confirmed his good form after top-sevens in the last two FedEx Cup events, and Choi’s precision iron play looks tailor-made for this layout.
2.5pts ew ADAM SCOTT @ 18/1 (GENERAL)
For the last three seasons, Scott has returned from a break following the end of his PGA Tour campaign with a strong showing in Asia. Indeed, his record in the region is excellent, which may owe something to my theory about grainy Asian greens acting as a leveller, as putting is easily the weakest area of his game. He wasn’t in bad form before the break either, registering four top 15s in six events, all amongst elite company.
2pts ew SEUNG-YUL NOH @ 25/1 (GENERAL)
Noh could quite realistically provide us with another teenage winner, following Matteo Manassero’s success. With the possible exception of Thongchai Jaidee, Noh is streets ahead of the other Asian Tour regulars and usually in contention whenever in this part of the world. He won the co-sanctioned Malaysian Open and was runner-up to Harrington in the Johor Open. He also was far from disgraced in Europe, finishing fourth at Crans last month, or even in the US Majors.
1.5pts ew HEATH SLOCUM @ 35/1 (GENERAL, 40/1 LADBROKES)
Slocum hasn’t been seen since winning the McGladrey Classic three weekends ago, so may be at less of a disadvantage than most of his compatriots. If he does acclimatise, this tight layout looks ideal, and he can boast some pedigree for golf in Asia after performing well when representing his country in the World Cup.