The CIMB Classic in Malaysia is the second tournament on the 2017-18 US PGA Tour schedule and usually attracts an average field due to the timing and location. This year’s renewal features the player currently third in the world rankings and the winner of the FedEx Cup. Hideki Matsuyama and Justin Thomas are playing this week and the latter is the player to beat. On the European Tour Francesco Molinari is playing in the Italian Open, a tournament he won in 2006 and 2016.
Thomas has had five victories in 2017 including his major at the PGA Championship. He broke 70 in the final round each time he won which is the mark of a potentially great player. His winning margin was at least two shots on all five occasions. Thomas also recorded a career best of 59 in the Sony Open, a tournament he won. He was the Player of the Year in the States and looks a worthy favourite this week. Thomas is above average in length off the tee and scores well in the accuracy disciplines. That means he has an excellent all-round game with hardly a weakness.
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The CIMB Classic is being played at TPC Kuala Lumpur so heat and humidity will be a factor. At less than 7,000 yards the course is short by modern standards and has a par of 72. The 18 holes put a premium on accuracy over distance and the key skills for good scoring are driving accuracy, finding greens in regulation and putting average. Thomas clearly has a game suited to conditions because he has won the tournament in the last two years. His second place finish at the Tour Championship clinched the FedEx Cup on his latest start. The three-peat is on the cards this week.
Ian Poulter has been through a dip in form and injury. The petrol tank of confidence is slowly filling up and he can have another good week on a course suited to his game. He played in the event for the first time last year and posted a top 20 finish. Poulter was tied 11th in the British Masters two weeks ago and that was one of his six top 25s in his last eight starts. Winning this week may be beyond Poulter but he can make the payout places and should be backed with bookies who settle bets down to 7th place.
The Italian Open on the European Tour has also attracted some big names. Jon Rahm is at number five in the world rankings, Sergio Garcia Masters is the current Masters champion and Tyrrell Hatton defended in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last week. The Italian Open is part of the Rolex Series which is the premium tournament category and features eight events each carrying a generous prize fund hence the quality of the field. Francesco Molinari is the defending champion and also plays.
Molinari is of 10 multiple winners of the Italian Open and has a great chance to become the first 3 time winner since 1955. He is a fairways and greens machine who is ideally suited to this week’s host course in Milan. That means both events in the States and Europe can be won by the current champions and that is a rare occurrence. Thomas and Molinari can go back to back this week in Malaysia and Italy.