GFC Search

 

Power Rankings: CIMB Classic

RSS

This week marks the third week of the PGA Tour's new 2013-14 wraparound season, as the Tour heads to Asia for the first time this season with the CIMB Classic. After three years at The Mines Resort, the event will be played this year at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club for the first time.

Be sure to join the Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge to test yourself against our panel of experts, including defending champion Charlie Rymer.

Nick Watney returns to defend the title he won last year by one shot over Robert Garrigus and Bo Van Pelt. Here are 10 players to watch this week in Malaysia:

1. Phil Mickelson: The highest-ranked player in this week's field, Mickelson is making his season debut in Malaysia, his first action since the Presidents Cup. Having led the PGA Tour in birdie average during the 2013 season, Mickelson should have plenty of success on a course that will yield low scores all week long.

2. Sergio Garcia: The Spaniard played well across the world in the early part of 2013, then after a summer swoon experienced a resurgence during the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Though he's making his first start since East Lake, expect Garcia to contend this week in Asia.

3. Keegan Bradley: After a successful Presidents Cup paired with Mickelson, Bradley makes his 2013-14 season debut in Malaysia this week. Bradley was 10th on Tour in scoring average last season and recorded top-20 finishes in six of his last seven stroke-play starts to end the season.

4. Nick Watney: A winner at The Mines a year ago, Watney now defends his title in Kuala Lumpur. A pair of 66s in Vegas were bookended by two 73s, but Watney also notched three top-15 finishes during the FedEx Cup Playoffs and last year showed that he can thrive in the heat of Malaysia.

5. Hideki Matsuyama: The Japanese sensation notched a career-high finish at the Frys.com Open but was then forced to withdraw in Las Vegas due to illness. Now back in Asia, will look to continue the torrid stretch that has seen him crack the top 30 in the world ranking after turning pro in April.

6. Bill Haas: A win at the AT&T National in June highlighted another solid season for Haas, who once again made the Tour Championship field while ranking in the top 25 on Tour in scoring average (18th) and GIR percentage (21st). He's also had a moderate amount of success and experience in Malaysia, having tied for 16th in this event a year ago.

7. Kiradech Aphibarnrat: The Thai acquitted himself well in a series of starts in the U.S. in 2013 and now returns to a venue where he won the rain-shortened Maybank Malaysian Open last year. More recently, the 24-year-old tied for fourth two weeks ago at an Asian Tour event in South Korea.

8. Brendon de Jonge: The Zimbabwean missed the cut in Las Vegas after topping last week's rankings, but there's still reason to believe he'll succeed in Malaysia where the emphasis will be on creating birdie opportunities early and often. De Jonge was 10th on Tour last season in GIR percentage and 15th in the all-around ranking.

9. Bo Van Pelt: A winner of this event at The Mines in 2011, Van Pelt was also runner-up in this event a year ago. Though the venue has shifted, Van Pelt may get a boost from the friendly confines of Malaysia as he looks to rebound from a disappointing 2013 campaign.

10. Nicholas Thompson: If any player should have a good game plan for success at Kuala Lumpur GC this week, it's Thompson. Just two weeks ago, the course hosted the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, where Thompson's younger sister, Lexi, cruised to victory. Hopefully she's offered a tip or two to her brother, who missed the cut at the Frys.com Open earlier this month.