This week TPC Kuala Lumpur plays host to the CIMB Classic, as the PGA Tour travels to Malaysia for the ninth consecutive year. Co-sanctioned along with the Asian Tour, this tournament features an elite 78-player field drawn from the top 60 spots on last season’s FedEx Cup points list, the top 10 players on the Asian Tour, and eight sponsor exemptions. The 7,005, par-72 TPC Kuala Lumpur (West) course has hosted numerous high-level events since opening 28 years ago and was revamped after last year’s tournament to rejuvenate the course and improve the playing surfaces.

TPC Kuala Lumpur West Hole 17
TPC Kuala Lumpur West Hole 17

Inside the Field

Justin Thomas makes his season debut this week in the place where he picked up the first two victories of his career in 2015 and 2016. Along with Thomas, seven major champions are in the field, including last year’s runner-up Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, and Jimmy Walker. Each of the players in last week’s three-man playoff at the Safeway Open arrive in Asia in great form, including newly minted champion Kevin Tway, two-time CIMB champion Ryan Moore, and FedEx Cup champion Brandt Snedeker. While defending champion Pat Perez looks to join Thomas and Moore as the only multiple CIMB winners with a win this week.

Who You Calling Old?

The PGA Tour has undergone a youth transformation over the last two seasons with a new breed of young guns winning early and often, but that hasn’t been the case here at the CIMB. Six of the last eight champions here have been in their 30s or older, with the exception of two-time winner Justin Thomas. Winning in the fall can set up the rest of your season and earn valuable FedEx Cup points, and two-time runner-up here Gary Woodland (34 years-old), and past FedEx Cup champion Billy Horschel (31 years-old) could be two players to watch closely this week.

No Home Cooking

TPC Kuala Lumpur West Hole 16
TPC Kuala Lumpur West Hole 16

The CIMB is still seeking its first Asian champion and the region’s best hope for a homegrown winner might be Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat. Aphibarnrat makes his debut as a full PGA Tour member this week and gained his card largely on the strength of two top-5 performances in World Golf Championships last season. Kiradech has plenty of game to win. A bomb-and-gouge style of play, paired with his colorful personality has made him one of the more lovable characters in the sport (he once shaved his hair and eyebrows just to attend a Buddhist camp, and has a self-proclaimed Yeezy obsession). A win this week in the “Wild East” would put Aphibarnrat on the fast track to becoming the next big thing in golf.

Wild Wild West

After last year’s CIMB, TPC Kuala Lumpur West underwent an intensive 10-month renovation to resurface turf and modify hole designs. The new grasses are identical to those at TPC Sawgrass, home to THE PLAYERS Championship. Fairways have more run and the green surroundings are mown short to provide run-off areas and options for a greater variety of recovery shots. And don’t be surprised if a new course record is set this week. West will play shorter because of the faster fairways, and the rough will not be very penal because it hasn’t matured enough since the renovations. Combined with a new Bermuda grass that’s consistently fast and true, and we might have a legitimate 57 Watch on our hands.

Key Holes

TPC Kuala Lumpur West Hole 7
TPC Kuala Lumpur West Hole 7

The short 140-yard, par-3, 4th hole removed a front bunker and extended the green forward to create more hole options above the steep runoff. The 386-yard, par-4, 7th hole reduced the left fairway bunker to effectively widen the right fairway, and now rewards short hitters as well as longer ones for accurate drives. A section of the stream was filled in on the 497-yard, par-4, 12th hole to allow for a greater variety of approach shots. A closely mown swale named “Valley of Sin” rests where the right greenside bunker used to reside to allow for a greater variety of recovery shots. Finally, the 336-yard, par-4, 17th hole features a new hollow and steep rise up the front of the green, and a closely mown slope down the right side of the green putting an increased premium on distance control.

Winner Prediction

TPC Kuala Lumpur West is always one of the easiest courses on Tour, and this week it will play as a downright birdie-fest. You’ll want to fill your rosters with players who frequently have wedge in their hands, putt well, and rank high in Birdie Average. A handful of players in the field meet these standards and should be locks for top-10 finishes (Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, and Gary Woodland). I see Keegan Bradley outlasting all of them however, as he continues his great play from the FedEx Cup playoffs and grabs his second victory in just four weeks.