Josh Culp

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Roundup: Birdies for Breakfast

Friday, October 12, 2018

Recap of the day


The course received four inches of rain overnight but TPC Kuala Lumpur remained firm, thanks to the new drainage and bermudagrass put in place this year. That didn't stop the birdies from flowing at TPC KL. The field averaged 69.82 in Round 1 but took it even lower on day two (69.44).

There were eight rounds of 65 or better including a pair of golfers that reached at least 10-under on the day and a whopping 11 bogey-free rounds. The first ultra-low round was Marc Leishman who racked up 10 birdies and Gary Woodland did him one better with a career-low, 11-under 61. His morning meal consisted of 11 birdies and 7 pars on the side.

For a second straight day, there was a large score differential between the front nine and back nine, with the outward nine playing much easier on both days. 


Leaderboard: -14 Gary Woodland, Marc Leishman; -13 Shubhankar Sharma, Paul Casey; -12 Austin Cook, Bronson Burgoon, Scott Piercy


Notables: -9 Justin Thomas, -6 Kiradech Aphibarnrat, -5 defending champ Pat Perez


Revised outright betting: 5/1 Gary Woodland, 5.5/1 Marc Leishman, 6/1 Paul Casey 11/1 Justin Thomas



Saturday weather forecast


Similar to the first few days, we can't rule out the arrival of rain or even thunderstorms (15-to-30% chance). Temps remain in the mid-80s with humidity that makes it feel closer to 100 degrees.  



Leaders after 36 holes


Gary Woodland (61, 130) – A two-time runner-up finisher at TPC KL, Woodland loves that you can be aggressive here, and likes to have a four-pack of par 5s to lean on. Today's 11-under 61 matches the course record fired by Justin Thomas in the 2016 edition. More impressively, Woodland's was accomplished without preferred lies being utilized. It also goes in the books as his new career low on the PGA TOUR (previously a 63, 4 times). 


Marc Leishman (62, 130) – His record at TPC KL was poor with finishes of T44, T39, and T29. That changed last year with rounds of 69-65-71-66 to finish solo fifth on the week. He's figured his way around this short layout and showed that in a big way today. This 10-under 62 was easily his lowest lap recorded here, previously a 7-under 65 (x2). 


Shubhankar Sharma  (64, 131) – The young Indian arrived without much form but he's in the zone now (13-under over his last 27 holes played). We saw a similar display at the WGC-Mexico Championship were he looked unbeatable at times. Has spent most of his year on the European Tour but he currently leads the Asian Tour order of merit. This week's event is co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour so a big finish would go a long way toward padding his lead in the Habitat for Humanity Standings. 


Paul Casey (65, 131) – The Englishman had a slow summer but the Ryder Cup appears to have kicked him back into top gear. The Englishman talked about the easy decision to play in these limited field, no-cut events during this Asian Swing. He's looking to pick up a lot of FedExCup Points over the next three weeks.  




Fate of the favorites


Justin Thomas (69, 135) – He was slow to get the week going but he ended with a fury on day one. You thought that might carry over into a low round on Friday but he just couldn't get things started. He hit just 11 greens in regulation. He birdied just two of the four par 5s. On the bright side, he scrambled well to avoid any dropped shots, posting a bogey-free 69. Sitting five off the pace at the midpoint, he will need one of his patented ultra-low rounds to get back into the mix. 


Paul Casey (65, 131) – He's been an eagle machine, picking up two in his first five holes of the week and adding another on the par-5 third today. For the week, he's traded nine birdies and three eagles with just a pair of bogeys. The Englishman is well positioned in a share of third place. 





Gary Woodland (61): “It just sets up well for me. Obviously four par 5s is nice. I can be aggressive out here, I can hit a lot of drivers, which is a huge advantage. And the other holes, you know, irons into some of the tougher holes, I'm laying back. Where other guys got to play a little more aggressive, I can lay back and be a little more conservative. The golf course just sets up good to my eye.”


Austin Cook (68): “Yeah, first time even in this part of the world and I think it's a good golf course. They've done well setting it up for us. It helps me out I think as a shorter hitter because there's a stretch of about five or six holes on the back side where you don't even hit driver, you can't, there's nowhere to hit it. So I think that helps me out with some of these long hitters kind of playing from the same spot.”


Marc Leishman (62): “There's no wind, the fairways are still quite firm so you're hitting some really long drives out there and having some short irons into holes. But again, if you're in the rough it's tough to hit it close.”


Joel Dahmen (68): “I didn't realize we actually got that much rain, you couldn't really tell. I was really impressed, it drained really well. The greens were still pretty firm, they still had some bounce to them and I didn't have one single mud ball out there. For that much rain, to be playing almost similar is absolutely awesome."



Road to victory at TPC Kuala Lumpur


2017 Pat Perez R1: 5th, R2: 1st, R3: 1st

2016 Justin Thomas – R1: 1st, R2: 1st, R3: 2nd

2015 Justin Thomas – R1: 16th, R2: 1st, R3: 1st

2014 Ryan Moore – R1: 5th, R2: 3rd, R3: 1st

2013 Ryan Moore – R1: 1st, R2: 2nd, R3: 1st



Notes: Since the move to TPC KL in 2013, all five winners have been inside the top 3 after 36 holes. It's tough to come from too far off the pace on an easy layout like this since the leaders at the top will also be having the birdies flowing like tap water. 



Fate of the 36-hole leaders at the CIMB Classic – where did they finish?


2017 Pat Perez – WIN

2016 Justin Thomas – WIN

2015 Justin Thomas – WIN

2014 Billy Hurley III - T8

2013 Keegan Bradley – 10th


Notes: Each of the last three 36-hole leaders at TPC KL have gone on to win the event. Good news for Woodland and Leishman, but just looking at Hurley and Bradley, it's also easy to drop out of the top 5 if you don't keep your foot on the gas here. 



Focus on – TPC Kuala Lumpur


The talk of the town was the switch from paspalum to bermudagrass surfaces after last year's CIMB Classic. The switch has been on full display this week. The new drainage combined with bermudagrass turf has allowed the fairways to stay firm, despite all the rain the course has received. It has also allowed the tournament officials to play the ball down. Previously, it was more unusual if they didn't play preferred lies here for a round, just because the course was like a dartboard that digested drives without allowing any rollout. So far I would say the course changes have been a great success. 

Focus on – Front Nine, Back Nine


This week's course opens with a very long handshake before the only true test comes in a three-hole stretch right after the turn. Looking at the easy holes to kick off the round, seven of the eight easiest holes in R1 came on holes 1 thru 10. Part of that was due to pin placements but it got even easier on Friday. All 10 of the opening holes played under-par in Round 2 while four of the closing eight holes played over-par. 

For live betting purposes, there aren't many landmines or checkpoints to avoid throughout the round. That might make it tough for someone to truly come from off the pace because even if you pull a Gary Woodland (61) then you have other leaders at the top firing rounds of 64 and 65. It seems like a tough place to make up ground. Perhaps that is why the 36-hole leaders have gone on to win each of the last three years and all five winners have been T3 or better at the midpoint.

The toughest stretch to watch out for is 11 thru 13. All three of these holes have played over-par on both days. There is some water in play here and some long approaches to tricky greens. 

Josh Culp joined Rotoworld in 2014. The DFS enthusiast from Iowa State can be found on Twitter @futureoffantasy.
Email :Josh Culp

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