The CIMB, which is co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour, might kickoff the Asian swing on the PGA Tour schedule, but in eight editions, the event has yet to see an Asian winner.
All eight, four which have been taken by either Justin Thomas or Ryan Moore, have been American natives. The 78-man field this year is lacking the best of the best in Asia, especially since 2016 runner-up Hideki Matsuyama withdrew, but there is still some potential at TPC Kuala Lumpur for the champion to not come from TOO far away.
Here are five of the best:
Like defending champion Pat Perez, Aphibarnrat is a highly affable man who looks nothing like a professional athlete and proudly embraces his vices, so perhaps Thailand’s best golfer has a shot this week. The 29-year-old who sits at No. 37 in the world rankings flashed early last year, posting T5s in both March WGC events, and he won two early-season events in Asia. However, he has been ice cold since a 15th place finish at the U.S. Open, failing to place inside the top 30 anywhere.
India’s highest-ranked golfer, Sharma is another player who has not shown exceptional form as of late, with four missed cuts and a T42 in his last five starts worldwide, but he is just 22 years old and has undeniable talent. His best outing on the PGA Tour last year was a T9 at the WGC-Mexico Championship, where he finished T9 and held the 36-hole lead. The two-time winner in Europe is likely to break out soon; could it be this week?
It is kind of surprising that India’s Lahiri got into this year’s field as an alternate, given his success at TPC Kuala Lumpur, finishing T10 last year and T3 the year prior. One of his career victories, the European Tour’s 2015 Maybank Malaysian Open, also occurred on this course, showing a considerable level of comfort. Like Aphibarnrat, however, Lahiri is missing his best form as of late; in his last four starts worldwide, he has three missed cuts and a T71.
Si Woo Kim
Just 23 years of age, former PLAYERS Champion Kim from South Korea failed to notch a victory for the third consecutive season, but he was much more consistent in 2018, making 23 cuts in 31 events and posting five top 10s. His putting was abysmal again this past season, but he did improve tremendously around the greens, which at least gave him shorter putts to miss. He was 77th out of 78 players at last year’s CIMB, but finished T10 the year prior.
A native of Chinese Taipei, the 26-year-old flashed late in the PGA Tour season, finishing T2 at the Wyndham Championship and T4 at the Dell Technologies Championship, the second leg of the FedExCup playoffs. Pan is exceptionally accurate, finishing 6th for the year in driving accuracy, and 13th in greens in regulation, a good recipe for success on this course.