Five To Watch At The 2013 CIMB Classic

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Power Rankings: 2013 CIMB Classic

power rankings
Image Courtesy of Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club Official Facebook Page

For those of you who enjoy staying up late to watch your golf, this week should be right up your alley.

This week’s event is the CIMB Classic, coming to you from the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club in Malaysia. Television coverage begins on the Golf Channel at 10:30 PM Eastern time on Wednesday night, or 11:30 AM Thursday, if you stuck around after Lexi Thompson won at this very course two weeks ago on the LPGA Tour.

Many fans of the PGA Tour may not be familiar with the CIMB Classic, a tournament which is in only its fourth year of play. It has actually been an official tournament on the Asian Tour every year, and it started as a 40-man invitational, with 25 slots going to the top available PGA Tour players, ten to the top players in the Asian Tour Order of Merit, and five sponsor’s exemptions.

Now that the field has grown to 78 players and become an official PGA Tour event, there are 60 slots open to the PGA Tour, which is bringing out some players who might otherwise be taking time off. Of course, the marquee name this week is Phil Mickelson, playing his first tournament since the President’s Cup. Still, other players like Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Bill Haas, and Graham DeLaet are making the trek with the hopes of garnering valuable early-season points.

The host course is new to the tournament this season, and while it isn’t a monster in distance, it will present its own challenge, especially for the group of players who just teed it up in Las Vegas last week. The yardage comes in just under 7,000, but playing to a par-72, it will require players to make some value judgments, especially as it relates to their accuracy with a driver. Players do not want to find themselves in trouble in the rough this week.

As play is set to begin, here are five players you could see make some big moves this week.

Brandon Raper is a golf writer for “Like” him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @Brandon__Raper, and add him to your Google+ network.

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5) Kiradech Aphibarnrat

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Not a household name by any means, but he did win at this course earlier this year. That victory at the Malaysian Open was part of the European Tour and shortened to 54 holes due to weather, but you don’t get a chance to win at one course twice in a year often. He may not do it again, but it will be interesting to watch.

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4) Sergio Garcia

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Back in action for the first time since the Tour Championship, Garcia has all the tools to contend this week. He finished eighth on Tour in strokes gained – putting in the 2013 season, and even though he didn’t win, he looks like he’s got his game in shape for the start of the new year.

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3) Keegan Bradley

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Bradley was just average on the Tour in his accuracy from the tee in 2013, but still found his way to tenth place in adjusted scoring average. He’s got great touch around the greens, and if his putter gets hot he can do some serious damage.

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2) Phil Mickelson

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Not always known for deadly accuracy from the tees, Mickelson won’t have to play many drivers this week. That same tactic worked out decently at Muirfield when Lefty brought home his first Claret Jug. The only thing keeping Mickelson from being No. 1 on this list is the fact that it’s his first action since the President’s Cup, but I could easily be eating those words by the end of the week.
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1) Nick Watney

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Watney opened his season in Las Vegas last week, where he shot two 66’s and two 73’s in the birdie-fest known as the Shriners Open. Still, he’s played some inspired golf lately, including two top-ten finishes in the FedEx Cup playoffs, and even though it’s a new course, he did fend off Tiger Woods to win last year’s event, and that’s no small feat.