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Who’s hot, who’s not at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia

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By Tim Hartin

GolfWRX Contributor

The CIMB Classic field of 48 need one thing on their minds when teeing it up Thursday at The MINES Resort and Golf Club: birdies. In its first two years, the 6,917 yard, par-71 course in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia has seen its competitors go low. Ben Crane claimed the inaugural event in 2010 with an 18-under, 266 tournament total, while Bo Van Pelt cashed in the top prize by firing a 23-under, 261 total, last year. Van Pelt’s week featured an eagle along with 25 birdies and only four bogeys.

The CIMB Classic has boasted big-named fields in its first two years and the 2012 version is no different. PGA Tour players naturally headline the event, with members of the Asian Tour and the Professional Golf Association of Malaysia looking to stare down the world’s best and make a world name for themselves.

So, who will lead the birdie fest this week,who will fall short and what unfamiliar names may we see on the leader board?

Who’s Hot — Contenders

Van Pelt would love to end the week being a back-to-back winner in two senses of the phrase: a successful defending champion and a winner in consecutive weeks. The 37-year-old closed out last week with a 4-under 68 at the ISPS Handa Perth International in Australia, holding off Jason Dufner for the victory. Van Pelt also performed well at the close of the FedEx Cup, scoring T-10 finishes at both the BWM Championship and The Tour Championship.

Meanwhile, Dufner also makes the transition to Malaysia sporting a solid game. His second-place finish last week featured 21 birdies and an eagle (the same as Van Pelt), but too many bogeys. If he limits the lost shots this week, Dufner has proven he can go low and contend. Last year, Dufner finished with a T-10 in his first appearance at the CIMB.

Brendon de Jonge is one of several players making the quick turnaround from the McGladrey Classic to the CIMB this week. The Fall Series was a success for de Jonge, as he posted a solo 2nd at the JT Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and a T-4 at the McGladrey Classic following a final-round 65. He currently leads the PGA Tour in total birdies this season with 410.

Tiger Woods continues his whirlwind of a fall schedule in Malaysia after hosting an amateur event at Pebble Beach last weekend. Woods may not be “hot” in his former sense of the word, but a trio of top-10s in the FedEx Cup Playoffs prove he’s a threat in any stroke play event. A winless 2012 Ryder Cup record and a 1-2 record in the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final aren’t exactly stellar, but Woods can still make the birdies which are needed this week. On Tour this season, Woods ranks No. 2 in scoring average (69.78), No. 4 in birdie average (3.97) and No. 5 in par-5 scoring average (4.56).

Who’s Not

Carl Pettersson rode a hot streak into the FedEx Cup Playoffs, but played to a cumulative score of 12-over during the four events. A T-20 finish at The Tour Championship was his best of the series. In his 16 playoff rounds, he posted six rounds of 73 or higher.

Johnson Wagner, like Pettersson, is a PGA Tour winner this season, but doesn’t seem to have his “A” game at the moment. After cashing checks in his first six events of 2012, Wagner has made just one more cut (11) than he’s missed (10). His early season play helped him advance in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, but a missed cut at the Barclays and T-51 and T-45 finishes didn’t get him to The Tour Championship. When returning to play in Vegas during the Fall Series, Wagner missed the cut.

Trevor Immelman battled a wrist injury early in 2012 and has struggled to find his rhythm. The South African owns just three top-20 finishes this season and has missed 10 cuts. His entries in both the JT Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and the Frys.com Open finished before the weekend.

Names to Learn

Thaworn Wiratchant isn’t exactly household name, but his 15 Asian Tour wins — three in 2012 – -have given him some notability. The 45-year-old has a good opportunity to become the oldest Order of Merit winner in the history of the Asian Tour, after his win at the Hero Indian Open moved him to the No. 1 position. In addition to his three victories, Wiratchant has two more T-2 finishes and a solo 2nd finish on the Asian Tour. The 25-year professional ranks No. 1 on the Asian Tour in his total score to par and total birdies this season. Wiratchant earned a T-33 finish at the inaugural CIMB.

Siddikur Rahman will be making his third appearance in the CIMB. Last year, Rahman finished T-11, improving upon his T-37 finish in 2010. Rahman may not have any victories on the Asian Tour this season, but he owns five top-five finishes.

Anirban Lahiri owns an early season win on the Asian Tour and is coming off a T-5 finish at the Hero Indian Open. Lahiri made his British Open debut this season, providing the first hole-in-one for this year’s tournament, helping him make the cut and finish T-31. This is his first time playing in the CIMB, but fellow countryman Jeev Milkha Sing posted a T-10 finish in last year’s event.

Americans have walked away with the title in the CIMB’s first two years, a fact that may turn into a quick trend in Malaysia. Combine the aforementioned Van Pelt, Dufner and Woods with fellow countrymen Nick Watney, Bill Haas and 2010 champ Crane — not to mention a host of additional talented Americans — and you have a slew of proven champions taking on a small field.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum.

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GolfWRX fan turned GolfWRX contributor. Sports fan, golf enthusiast. Looking to provide a variety of content to GolfWRX.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: GolfWRX.com – Who's hot, who's not at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia | Golf Products Reviews

  2. j_eezy

    Oct 26, 2012 at 11:06 am

    that doesnt look like a vr le to me

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Gear Dive: Legendary club builder Larry Bobka speaks on Tiger’s old Titleist irons

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Legendary club builder Larry Bobka joins us in the first episode of our new podcast called “Gear Dive,” hosted by Johnny Wunder, GolfWRX’s Director of Original Content. Gear Dive is a deep look into the world of golf equipment, and Wunder will be interviewing the craftsman, the reps and the players behind the tools that make up the bags of the best golfers in the world.

Bobka, our first guest, is a former Tour rep and club builder involved in some of the most important clubs of the past 25 years. From his days at Wilson Golf working with legends such as Payne Stewart, Hale Irwin and Bernhard Langer, he transitioned into the Golden Age of Titleist/Acushnet building clubs for Tiger Woods, Davis Love, David Duval and Brad Faxon. He currently runs Argolf where he builds and fits handmade putters for Tour players and amateurs alike. He’s one of the Godfather’s of modern golf equipment.

Skip to 45:30 for the discussion about Tiger’s Titleist irons.

Check out our podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

What do you think of the new podcast? Leave your feedback in the comments below!

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Gary Player joins our 19th Hole podcast, talks past and future of golf

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Hall-of-Famer and career Grand Slam winner Gary Player joins host Michael Williams for an exclusive one-on-one interview at the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf tournament and Big Cedar Lodge in Branson, Missouri. Player talks about the past and future of the game, including his take on everything from reigning in the golf ball and golf courses, to advocating for more testing for performance enhancing drugs on the Tour. Steve Friedlander of Big Cedar Lodge also appears.

Listen to the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Opinion & Analysis

Let’s Retire Old Man Par: A Modest Proposal

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In 1729, Jonathan Swift wrote a satirical essay entitled “A modest proposal,” in which he suggested that the Irish eat their own children. As might be expected, the piece drew a great deal of discussion and controversy. He was of course not serious, but simply attempting to make a point. As you will read this piece contains “A Modest Proposal” as well, but it is not intended to be satirical. I am for the record dead serious.

The golf industry is wringing its hands, trying to find a way to bring new players into the game, while at the same time keeping those that are in the game from leaving. They have initiated any number of programs designed for this purpose. How successful have they been? I would venture that they have barely moved the needle.

Barriers to the game

What we do know is that today there are three major barriers that confront the industry. They are first, the time required to play the game; second the costs associated with playing the game; and third the difficulty of the game.

There are among those adults that start the game, three distinct different groups:

  1. Those who would like to start playing golf but for any number of reasons decided not to take up the game.
  2. Those who once played more frequently but have reduced the number of rounds that they play.
  3. Those who started to play the game but then after a short period decided to leave it.

Those who leave the game

Those in the golf industry, the hand-wringers, have developed any number of programs to bring new players to the game. I would ask the question, “What is the point, when almost an equal number of players that start playing the game each year, decide to give it up within a span of a few months.

Does it make any sense to continue to put water into a bucket when there is a hole in the bottom? Of course not, but that is effectively what is being done. The first question to be ask, why do these new players quit the playing after a short time? In my opinion, the number No. 1 reason is the method of scoring being used.

Were an exit poll to be conducted asking these people why they quit playing, I seriously doubt they would answer truthfully. Who would want to admit that they were discouraged by their inability to succeed at any endeavor? The two answers that would be given the most often would be 1) that golf is too expensive to play; or 2) that they simply didn’t have time.  In this case both answers serve to preserve the individual’s dignity. And who could blame them?

The concept of par

Why did these individuals find the game difficult? The short answer is that while golf is a hard game to learn, there  is a more compelling reason.  I would venture, that the underlying reason they quit the game is that it ceased to be fun because of how they viewed their performance. And for one central reason… the concept of par. The idea that an amateur golfer, especially a beginner, should measure their level of success against an imaginary set of numbers that represents what an expert player would score on each hole is on the surface ridiculous.

You might imagine a beginning player scoring an eight on a par-four hole after hitting six good shots and then two putting for an eight. In the context of their ability, they should be ecstatic — but of course they are not (because as their playing partner reminds them) they were four-over par on that hole. The time has come for Old Man Par to retire. And retire permanently. He is killing the game.

Perceived failure

In another scenario, the beginning player scores sixty for nine holes, which is an excellent score given the short amount of time they might have spent playing the game. And yet their nine-hole score was 24-over par. How would that make you feel? Would you be encouraged or discouraged? You might imagine yourself back in school and regardless of the amount of work that you put into a given class you always receive an “F.” At some point, would you give up?

Why should every golfer be judged by the same standard when there is such inequality in their ability? The equivalent would be placing a high school freshman in a graduate-level college course, expecting that they could perform at the same level as the other graduate students. The disparity in knowledge, based on age and experience, is precisely the reason why there are different grades in school. The same disparity exists among golfers. In this case, the difference being the ability to perform on the golf course as opposed to the classroom.

What about the second group of players that now plays less than they did in the past? Could it be that they are no longer having fun playing the game?And then there is the third group, those that consider playing the game but abandon it for another sport. Could it be that they are intimidated by the scoring system, knowing that as a beginner par is an absolute impossibility?

Old man par 

The legendary Bobby Jones was the first to coin, perhaps with the help of his friend O.B. Keillor, the phrase “Old Man Par.” Jones was, of course, the greatest amateur to have ever played the game. He won the Grand Slam in 1930, retiring then at the age of 28.

The time has come to retire “Old Man Par” and devise a new system for measuring a golfer’s progress in the game. I know that those in the USGA. would reject the concept immediately for fear of, and here is a $10 word used primarily by attorneys, “bifurcate” the game. What that word essentially means in this context in having more than one standard. The USGA is responsible for preserving the nature of the game, but at the same time it should be equally concerned with preserving the future of the game.

Personal par

What I would suggest is a system based on the principle of what might be termed “personal par.” This was essentially the system that was used to groom a young Tiger Woods. As a young child, he was not capable of reaching the longer holes in regulation, making par a virtual impossibility. Consequently, his coach wisely devised a system in which par was adjusted upward based on his ability at a given point in time. This served to keep the young child feeling good about his performance and subsequent progress.

This is the type of system that needs to be devised for the health of the game. The system would begin at a nine-hole level using a par of thirty-six as a basis. The actual numbers are not as important as the basic concept. There would be within the nine-hole and the eighteen-hole groups five different levels as follows with assigned par for each hole and eighteen holes roughly equal with the player’s ability.

As players improved, they would graduate from one level to another based on their total score. The handicap system would work in similar fashion as it does now with a single modification. The strokes give from one player to another would depend on the level in which they fall and the par assigned to that level.

The personal par handicap system would not be as exacting as it is presently used, but it would be sufficient to allow players to be reasonable competitive without any significant sacrifice. There would then be two scoring systems then, allowing players to choose which one they wanted to use. Or a recommendation might be given that until they reach a given scoring threshold that they use the personal par scoring system.

There would, of course, be the usual concern with something new being injected into the system, but the proposed change would be no greater than when the system of equitable scoring was introduced or when courses were first assigned a course rating number.

A few years ago, when life-long teacher and educator Dr. Gary Wiren was inducted into the Golf Teacher’s Hall of Fame, he wanted to pass along a single piece of advice to those teachers in the room. “Gentleman,” he started and then paused for emphasis. “We must find a way to make the game more fun for our students.”

I’m in full agreement with Dr. Wiren. The question is, “What is the best way to accomplish that goal?” I believe that that the first step in that direction is to change the scoring system so that golfers experience more satisfaction and accomplishment. That is what makes learning fun.

And so, I would have you consider “The Modest Proposal” that I have put forward. And rather than attempting to find reasons why a revised scoring system couldn’t never work, for the benefit of the game, look for the same number of reason why it could work. The time has come for Old Man Par, as we know him, to retire. He has served us well, but he has become an anarchism. He is as obsolete as the horse and buggy. Let’s hand him his gold watch and let him enjoy his golden years in peace.

And at the same time, let’s welcome the “new kid on the block” who will pave the way for the next generation of golfers pioneering a scoring system that promises to make the game more “fun.”

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