This is where it all began last season for two-time defending CIMB Classic champion Justin Thomas.
The FedExCup victory after five wins in 25 starts, including the PGA Championship. The 3-1-1 record at the Presidents Cup at Liberty National. The Player of the Year honors.
It all began at TPC Kuala Lumpur, a 7,005-yard, par-72 track five miles from the city that hosts Southeast Asia’s only PGA TOUR event with full FedExCup points. The 72-hole stroke-play tournament features a 78-player field, with no cut, made up of players from three sanctioning bodies: the PGA TOUR, the Asian Tour and the Professional Golf Association of Malaysia.
Five of the top 15 in last season’s FedExCup standings will make their first start of the new season: Thomas, Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele, Hideki Matsuyama, Paul Casey and Pat Perez. Six other players also finished in the top 30 of the FedExCup.
Others in the field include Presidents Cup International Team members Branden Grace, Charl Schwartzel, Jhonattan Vegas and Anirban Lahiri.
Here are the featured groups. Kuala Lumpur is 12 hours ahead. All tee times are Eastern Time.
Hideki Matsuyama, Pat Perez, Branden Grace: Matsuyama, a three-time TOUR winner last season who beat Thomas in a well-played singles match at the Presidents Cup at Liberty National, is the headliner of this group. Perez also won last season, parlaying his victory at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba into the best campaign of his career, a season in which he finally played his way into the TOUR Championship and finished a career-high 15th in the FedExCup. Grace went 1-2-2 for the Internationals at the recent Presidents Cup.
Tee times: Wednesday 9:50 p.m. (ET) off first tee; Thursday 8:40 p.m. off 10th tee
Si Woo Kim, Davis Love III, Paul Casey: This threesome features the very young (Kim, 22), the relatively old (Love, 53), and a player who improbably seems to be hitting his stride at age 40 (Casey). Kim is the most recent winner of THE PLAYERS Championship and showed admirable spunk during his recent Presidents Cup singles loss to Daniel Berger. Two-time PLAYERS champ Love is still trying to break Sam Snead’s record for oldest TOUR winner. And the ever-steady Casey had a chance to win the FedExCup before fading at the end to finish 11th.
Tee times: Wednesday 9:40 p.m. off first tee; Thursday 8:30 p.m. off 10th tee
Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, Gavin Green: Glamour group features reigning FedExCup champion and Player of the Year Thomas, who also happens to have won this tournament two years running, along with newly minted PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year and surprise TOUR Championship winner Schauffele, plus Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Green. After racking up five victories and 14 top-25 finishes in 25 starts last season, what will Thomas do for an encore?
Tee times: Wednesday 8:40 p.m. off 10th tee; Thursday 9:40 p.m. off first tee
Brendan Steele, Jhonattan Vegas, Charl Schwartzel: Steele won the PGA TOUR’s season-opener, successfully defending his Safeway Open title just hours before a massive wildfire swept through the area and forced an evacuation of the tournament host, Silverado Resort and Spa. Venezuela’s Vegas is coming off an impressive singles victory over Jordan Spieth at the Presidents Cup at Liberty National, where South Africa’s Schwartzel notched his own singles victory over Matt Kuchar to salvage some respect for the beaten International Team.
Tee times: Wednesday 8:50 p.m. off 10th tee; Thursday 9:50 p.m. off first tee