This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
Winner's Share: $1.26M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Course: TPC Kuala Lumpur (West course)
2017 champion: Pat Perez
If you like to watch your golf at night, you're in for a treat this week – the next three weeks, actually, as the PGA Tour begins what now has to be considered its annual Asian Swing. The Golf Channel will begin coverage of the CIMB Classic on Wednesday night at 10:30 ET, and the tournament should be over by the time many people across North America usually wake up on Sunday morning. After that comes the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in South Korea and the WGC-HSBC Champions in China.
TPC Kuala Lumpur is the shortest course the golfers will see all year, and it ranked among the top-10 easiest the past three years. But there have been some changes that should affect your lineup process – and speaking of lineups, remember the much earlier lock this week. Some holes have been modified, but notably there is a new type of grass in the fairways and on the greens. On the putting surface, paspalum has been replaced by TifEagle Bermuda, much more popular in the States and the very grass used at TPC Sawgrass for The Players Championship. It will play faster, putting more of a premium on good…putting.
This is a 78-man, no-cut event. The top 60 available – key word, "available" – from last season's top 125 make up the bulk of the field, along with the top 10 on the Asian Tour's Order of Merit and eight sponsor exemptions, at least two of whom are Malaysian golfers. This event is tri-sanctioned by the PGA Tour, the Asian Tour and the PGA of Malaysia.
Last year, Pat Perez won the eighth edition of the tournament (and fifth at TPC Kuala Lumpur) by four strokes over Keegan Bradley, amassing a whopping 27 birdies opposite only three bogies. It's easy to see why birdie or better percentage will be in our key stats below. Justin Thomas actually did Perez two better when he struck for 29 birdies in winning the first of two straight CIMB titles in 2015, his first career PGA tour title. Perez will be back to defend this year, along with Thomas, who heads a group of 10 who took part in the TOUR Championship three weeks ago. The biggest draw may be Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who received a sponsor's exemption and will be playing for the first time as an official PGA Tour member. The Thai star won the Malaysian Open at this track in 2013. Of course, that was an easy field, but he was also third at the CIMB Clasic later that year. We'll also see Bradley, Paul Casey, Xander Schauffele, Thomas Pieters, Branden Grace, Louis Oosthuizen, Billy Horschel and two-time champion Ryan Moore this week.
There are seven par-4s under 425 yards, and four of the par-5s are under 540. Most of the time, golfers will keep their driver in the bag. Water is one of the big defenses on the course, coming into play on more than half the holes. Another big obstacle to the golfers is the searing heat.
Weather-wise, temperatures will be in the upper 80s all four days with high humidity. And this time of year, thunderstorms are pretty much a daily occurrence in Southeast Asia. The wind is forecast to be light throughout the week.
Key Stats to Winning at TPC Kuala Lumpur
Note - The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Greens in regulation/strokes gained: approach
• Putting average/strokes gained putting
• Birdie of better percentage
2017 - Pat Perez (TPC Kuala Lumpur)
2016 - Justin Thomas (TPC Kuala Lumpur)
2015 - Justin Thomas (TPC Kuala Lumpur)
2014 - Ryan Moore (TPC Kuala Lumpur)
2013 - Ryan Moore (TPC Kuala Lumpur)
2012 - Nick Watney
2011 - Bo Van Pelt
2010 - Ben Crane
With four guaranteed rounds, the best players have tended to gravitate to the top of the leaderboard by Sunday. Moore won in 2013-14 by hitting lots of fairways and greens. Thomas won in 2015-16 by just hitting it as far as he could. Thomas was only 53rd in the 78-man field in driving accuracy in 2016, but it doesn't matter so much when the second shot is a wedge, and a short one at that. Still, Thomas improved to 13th in finding fairways last year, and combining his distance with that accuracy is borderline unfair. Perez also was 13th in driving accuracy, but his key to victory was ranking first in greens in regulation. Both Moore and Thomas were top-5 in putting average in each of their victories, and Perez tied for ninth. There really is no one to consider from the Asian and Malaysian Tours. Last year, only one golfer who finished in the top 38 – pretty much half the field – wasn't someone we see regularly. That was David Lipsky, an American who plays in Europe and who tied for 21st.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
DraftKings Tier 1 Values
Justin Thomas - $11,700 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 5-1)
Thomas is the overwhelming betting choice and the top guy on the DK board, $800 ahead of Ryan Moore. But he's $600 cheaper than he was a year ago, when he was coming off back-to-back CIMB wins. It's interesting that a big bomber such as Thomas can throttle it down to succeed on such a short track. He really is a complete golfer. He was ranked third on Tour last season in birdie or better percentage.
Xander Schauffele - $10,400 (16-1)
Schauffele was probably 13th on the list for the 12-player American Ryder Cup team, and therefore this begins his quest for the next team two years from now. He closed last season with a pair of top-10s in the final two playoff events and he tied for third at the CIMB a year ago, a strong blend of recent form and course history. He was also runner-up to Webb Simpson at THE PLAYERS back in May.
Paul Casey - $10,200 (16-1)
Casey has improved his standing at this tournament three years running, going from T37 in 2014 to T24, to T21, to T7 last year. He's coming off a good finish to last season, with T21 at the Dell Technologies Championship and T11 at the TOUR Championship, and of course he was a part of the winning Ryder Cup team.
DraftKings Tier 2 Values
Keegan Bradley - $9,900 (20-1)
There are a number of guys who have done well here year after year. It's more than just golf. It's a significantly smaller and weaker field than usual, so the chance at success increases. And halfway around the world, not everyone adjusts – to the time change, food, culture, etc. Bradley adjusts just fine apparently, as he was runner-up last year – his third top-10 in five years here. He was ranked second on Tour in strokes gained: approach last season. And even though the greens will speed up with the new grass, Bradley showed signs of improved putting during the playoffs
Rafa Cabrera Bello - $9,300 (25-1)
The Spaniard made a spirited Ryder Cup run in August and September. While he wasn't selected, he kept playing well afterward. Cabrera Bello was top-11 in three of his past five starts, including the PGA Championship. He tied for 10th the past two years at this event, and he was top-5 on this track in a European Tour event in 2011 and '12. He was T4 and T17 in the past two Players Championships. Cabrera Bello ranked ninth on Tour last season in greens in regulation.
Cameron Smith - $8,400 (30-1)
Smith turned a terrible season into a good one with a fantastic playoff run. The Aussie was third in each of the first two FedExCup events, enough to send him to the TOUR Championship. Smith has tied for fifth twice in three visits since TPC Kuala Lumpur became the host course. Last year, he fashioned a pair of 8-under 64s in the first and fourth rounds.
DraftKings Tier 3 Values
C.T. Pan - $8,000 (40-1)
Pan finished last season on a high with a pair of top-5s at the Wyndham and the Dell event, coming pretty close qualifying for the TOUR Championship (35th place). He ended the season ranked sixth on Tour in greens in regulation. Pan has played TPC Kuala Lumpur once before, tying for 17th last year.
Beau Hossler - $7,800 (50-1)
Hossler's terrific rookie season stalled in July, though not before five top-10s, two of them runners-up. His specialty is putting – he ranked 17th in strokes gained: putting – but he was also 36th in greens in regulation. And he was top-50 in birdie or better. This will be his CIMB debut.
Thomas Pieters - $7,500 (60-1)
You could get really lucky if Pieters is at his best ... or your lineup could be dead as early as Thursday. You could get the Pieters who tied for eighth here in 2014 and for 16th in 2015 ... or who tied for 44th last year. You could get the Pieters who opened 2018 as the 36th-ranked golfer in the world ... or the one who has tumbled to 69th, where he stands currently. The big Belgian did tie for sixth at the PGA Championship not that long ago.
DraftKings Long-Shot Values
Keith Mitchell - $6,900 (100-1)
Mitchell is coming off a successful rookie season. He made it through three playoff events and even tied for 20th at the Dell tournament. By no means was Mitchell a good putter, but he still was able to rank 12th in birdie or better. That's because he ranked eighth in strokes gained: off the tee and 35th in greens in regulation.
Anirban Lahiri - $6,900 (60-1)
Lahiri has played TPC Kuala Lumpur eight times over the past five years. He won the Euro event in 2015, then finished T21, T3 and T10 the past three years in the PGA event. The Indian has had largely a down year in 2018, but he did have a great week somewhat recently, tying for sixth at the WGC-Bridgestone.
Satoshi Kodaira - $6,300 (200-1)
Kodaira fell hard and fast after winning the RBC Heritage at 7,099-yard Harbour Town. Clearly, he needs a short course to succeed. So, we think $6,300 is a small price to pay – actually, it's the smallest price to pay on the DK board – to take a shot. Is there any good news about Kodaira? Well, yes. Kodaira did in fact turn in his best showing since his April win when he tied for 17th two weeks ago at the Top Cup Tokai Classic in his native Japan.