As vampires, werewolves, mummies, and other ghastly ghouls are closing in on neighborhoods across the country in hopes of sugary treats, some big name professional golfers are closing in on the MINES Resort and Golf Club in Malaysia for some rewards of their own.
After all, this is the time of year that Ernie Els dubbed “wheelbarrow time.” Players travel the globe to chase the warm weather, beautiful venues and the wheelbarrows full of cash offered by tournament organizers. While appearance fees arguably compromise the competitive nature of some players and tournaments, there is no debating that when the best golfers in the world are playing, they’re playing to win. This week’s CIMB Classic in Malaysia will prove just that.
Although the CIMB Classic doesn’t offer a long and storied tradition, the third edition of this event will continue to play an important role in the ever-evolving golf landscape. Asian-born players are making a larger impact on the major golf tours every year. Their presence is being felt on the leader boards and in the press room. Although he’s not in this week’s field, Ryo Ishikawa’s media following is unrivaled. His fan base is immense. He carries an entire country on his shoulders every time he tees it up. A quick look at the names on any PGA Tour or LPGA Tour leader board will reveal the Asian impact on the game. With golf coming back to the Olympics in four years, the popularity of the game will only increase in this golf-starved part of the world.
The CIMB Classic will consist of 48 players from the PGA Tour, Asia Tour and PGA of Malaysia. This no-cut event will feature some of the bigger names in the game along with the biggest — Tiger Woods. The presence of the household name in the golfing world brings immediate cache to any event. The fact that Tiger has three wins in 2012 and seems to be on the cusp of regaining some semblance of his old form only adds to his impact on this tournament.
His hefty appearance fee will no doubt pay off for tournament organizers, as fans will turn out in great numbers to get a glimpse of golf royalty. Although Tiger’s participation would suffice for most fans, some other recognizable names from the PGA Tour should make this event that much more interesting. The unflappable Jason Dufner will be making an appearance after recently making a successful Ryder Cup debut. Nick Watney will attempt to regain the form that proved victorious for him in the FedEx Cup playoffs opener The Barclays. 2011 FedEx champion Bill Haas will tee it up in Malaysia along with Kyle Stanley. Both players will look to capture the magic they both displayed early in the 2012 season. Also, both champions of this young event will be in the field this week. 2010 champ Ben Crane and 2011 champ Bo Van Pelt will try and stir the echoes of victorious past trips to the MINES Resort. Van Pelt, it should be noted, is fresh off a victory last week in Australia.
If the players themselves aren’t the source of the entertainment this week in Malaysia, the course itself will be. Opened in 1994, this Robert Trent Jones, Jr. design will play to a par of 71 at 6,966 yards. To best highlight the excitement of the scoring of this layout, 10-under-par has only been good enough for 18th and 20th in 2010 and 2011, respectively. Birdies and eagles will be plentiful at the MINES Resort.
In 2010, last week’s ISPS Handa Perth International winner Bo Van Pelt won the CIMB Classic with a score of 23-under. And he wasn’t the only player that went really low: three of the four par 5s had a scoring average less than 4, meaning the holes averaged better than birdie. While faring marginally tougher in 2011, the holes still provided ample scoring opportunities. All three par 5s this week will be easily reachable by the entire field with a well-placed tee shot. While some traditionalists will lament the opportunities to attack old-man par, the excitement provided by these scores is just what the tournament organizers, sponsors, players, and, most importantly the fans yearn to see.
While most people are filling up their wheelbarrows with fall leaves in preparation for the coming winter, those lucky few individuals who golf for a living will be filling theirs up with cash. Obviously, some players will need larger vessels to haul their take than others. But with so much golfing potential the Southeast Asia region has to offer, golf fans worldwide can look forward to their golf wheelbarrows being filled with not tricks, only treats for many years to come.