CIMB Classic betting preview and tips from golf expert Ben Coley

Justin Thomas is favourite to win the CIMB Classic - but will he feature in Ben Coley's staking plan?
Justin Thomas is favourite to win the CIMB Classic - but will he feature in Ben Coley's staking plan?

Ben Coley isn't keen to get too heavily involved in the CIMB Classic, with three selections all at big prices.

Recommended bets

1pt e.w. Si Woo Kim at 100/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

1pt e.w. Keith Mitchell at 150/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)

1pt e.w. Brendan Steele at 110/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

Low scoring should once again be the order of the day as a top-heavy PGA Tour field heads to Malaysia for the CIMB Classic, played at the familiar TC Kuala Lumpur.

This short par 72 was a feature on the European Tour at the start of the decade and more recently has hosted five editions of this event, which between them have produced only three champions. Ryan Moore and Justin Thomas both went back-to-back before Pat Perez's success 12 months ago, so it's clear that certain players are able to establish a level of comfort despite decidedly uncomfortable conditions in the stifling humidity of Malaysia.

One of Moore's successes came on a Monday after severe weather delays throughout the week and that's part of the deal here. Five years ago, Kiradech Aphibarnrat secured his European Tour breakthrough in an event reduced to 54 holes and there's always a chance something similar will happen, which immediately tempers enthusiasm when it comes to getting seriously stuck in.

Thomas will do for many whatever the weather, and the class act of the field is very fairly priced at 5/1. He has played in 76 events since securing his first PGA Tour win here and now boasts nine titles, three coming in Asia, and when last in action was the best American player in their Ryder Cup defeat. His prospects are extremely strong and he's not one to lack for focus.

Still, with winning scores from 23- to 26-under over the last three years, one sloppy round does leave a player vulnerable and that applies even to the most prolific birdie-maker in this field. Thomas overcame one poor three-hole run when defending this title but the spread of scoring here is so pronounced that if he is sloppy for even nine holes, the game may be up. With the weather also a factor he's left alone for that reason.

Paul Casey, Xander Schauffele, Cameron Smith and Gary Woodland all make some appeal from the front of the betting but I'm taking this event fairly easy, with three selections all at three-figure prices.

First up is Si Woo Kim, whose potential and ability to close the door when a chance arises put him on the shortlist most weeks.

The Korean was 10th here on his debut, two rounds of 66 demonstrating a level of comfort at the course, and the 21 birdies he made isn't too far short of the requirement if he can limit the mistakes.

It must be said that his return to the course last year was disastrous, but Kim's in-and-out profile means that's an accepted risk and the hope is he can build on some encouraging form towards the end of the 2018 season.

What I particularly like, though, is that his form correlates nicely with past champions. Moore's first PGA Tour win came at Sedgefield Country Club, as did Kim's, and that low-scoring, tree-lined test makes sense as a decent enough pointer towards success here.

An even better guide could be the CareerBuilder Challenge, largely because of the point-and-shoot nature of that resort-style event. It's one Thomas looked like winning before late mistakes as a PGA Tour rookie, and Perez's first PGA Tour success came there.

Look further, and you'll see that Moore also has a couple of top-10s and the man he beat on Monday here, Gary Woodland, lost a play-off for what was the Bob Hope Classic at the start of his career. Keegan Bradley, Kevin Na and Scott Piercy are others who strengthen the link.

Kim has been ninth in the CareerBuilder and he's also got a strong record in the OHL Classic, finishing third and 17th there. Perez won the OHL Classic a year prior to his success in Malaysia and linked the two because of the similar grass types, but there could be a more fundamental correlation with tree-lined, soft fairways presenting straightforward scoring conditions.

I say that because the one significant change at Kuala Lumpur ahead of this year's renewal is in the turf, which is now Bermuda - the sort commonly found in Florida. In fact, the grass here is now identical to that used at Sawgrass, so there's another positive for the runaway 2017 PLAYERS champion, Kim.

All of those small hints help make a speculative case and while it wouldn't always be enough, the fact that Kim has shown that he knows how to win means I'm prepared to take a chance on this enormous but frustrating talent.

Given the aforementioned winning totals, it shouldn't surprise anyone to learn that birdie average has been a key pointer in the past. Thomas is one of the most aggressive players in the world, while Perez's other wins have been in 33-under (90 holes) and 21-under and Moore is typically high in the birdie average charts, too.

With that in mind, Keith Mitchell could be worth chancing having finished his rookie season at 13th in the standings, second only to Thomas in this field.

This big-hitter proved a threat whenever his iron play clicked, with four top-seven finishes for the year, and there was plenty of encouragement towards the end of the campaign with a solid 20th in the Dell Technologies Championship TPC Boston.

He's been off since finishing mid-division in the BMW Championship but returns having cheered friend Sepp Straka to a PGA Tour card and can also take encouragement from Kevin Tway's breakthrough at last week's Safeway Open.

Mitchell, who hails from Tennessee and therefore has some experience playing in humid conditions, looks like one who could follow in Tway's footsteps and win this season with low-scoring tests like this one likely to provide his best opportunities.

Fellow smasher Nicolas Colsaerts was runner-up here on the European Tour, Woodland likewise in this event, and Mitchell's all-out attack could make him a factor if he likes the look of the place. That he blasted out of the blocks at Sawgrass earlier this year offers a little extra encouragement, too.

Others to mention include Danny Lee, who has more experience than most of these in Asia, likes the course, finished seventh in the PLAYERS last season and appears to be close to his best once more. Still, 45/1 doesn't look like a good price to my eye and he's left alone as a result.

Jason Kokrak brings a similar profile to Mitchell but has had many more chances, while Louis Oosthuizen and Rafa Cabrera Bello both have excellent records in Malaysia but continue to frustrate. Paul Casey played incredible golf to finish seventh after an opening 77 last year and is also entitled to go well but can be left alone for similar reasons despite an excellent Ryder Cup.

All those names came under consideration but the last off my shortlist was Whee Kim, who hit the frame in the CJ Cup on home soil last year and could feature a week early this time. His best performances have come under low-scoring conditions and this dynamite putter has low numbers in him.

The much more decorated Brendan Steele isn't a great deal shorter in the market, though, and looks the better bet at around 100/1.

Steele was, of course, going for his third Safeway Open title in succession last week and went there as a 40/1 shot having struggled throughout the summer. However, while down the field he did drive the ball really well again (sixth) and having ranked 10th for greens hit, there's some evidence that his long-game is returning.

Steele's chief weapon is the driver and it's carried him to a string of good performances in this event, including third place in 2015 when he entered the final round alongside Thomas in a share of first.

If it's on-song again, he should have plenty of chances and we know he can take them here, having averaged 68.88 across his 16 rounds, sitting inside the top 15 after 11 of them and never finishing worse than 26th.

Quite simply, he's got nothing to prove at the golf course and he also boasts those correlating formlines courtesy of sixth at both the PLAYERS and the CareerBuilder Challenge last year.

There is a worry that a shootout wouldn't necessarily play to his strengths, but if the switch in grass does have an effect it should be to make conditions more penal and, hopefully, place a greater emphasis on keeping the ball in play from the tee.

There aren't many better drivers of the ball in the field than Steele and he's worth chancing at the price.

Posted at 1140 BST on 09/10/18.

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