Kuala Lumpur - World No. 4 and two-time CIMB Classic champion Justin Thomas will return for another title run at Malaysia’s sporting showpiece from October 11 to 14 alongside this week’s winner Keegan Bradley, Ryder Cup star Paul Casey, Japanese ace Hideki Matsuyama, Xander Schauffele and World Golf Hall of Fame members, Ernie Els and Davis Love III.
Thomas has a close affinity with the US$7 million CIMB Classic as it was at the prestigious event here that he claimed his maiden PGA TOUR victory in 2015. The long-hitting American successfully defended his title in 2016 and has since won nine PGA TOUR tournaments, including the 2017 FedExCup title, a major victory and Player of the Year honours in 2017.
In the current 2017-18 PGA TOUR season, the talented 25-year-old has won three times and also became World No. 1 for four weeks in May. When Thomas returns to the TPC Kuala Lumpur’s newly upgraded West course, he will be amongst the favourites as he is 60-under-par in 12 rounds at the venue.
In-form Bradley, who finished runner-up at the CIMB Classic last year, will return to Malaysia in winning mood after claiming the BMW Championship in a playoff on Monday for his fourth PGA TOUR title. It snapped a six-year title drought and saw him qualify for next week’s FedExCup finale, the TOUR Championship, in sixth place on the points standing.
Rising star and world No. 18 Xander Schauffele has also committed to take another crack at the CIMB Classic after his impressive equal third finish in his debut last year. The 2017-18 Rookie of the Year has five top-10s on the PGA TOUR this season, including a tied third on Monday which helped him qualify for the TOUR Championship which he won in style last year.
Thomas is looking forward to his return to Malaysia. He said: “I’m really excited to be heading back for the CIMB Classic. I have very fond memories of Kuala Lumpur, as it was where I had my first PGA TOUR victory in 2015, and then to successfully defend the title in 2016 was truly special. I look forward to the opportunity to become the first player to win the CIMB Classic three times! It will be fun to play on the newly renovated West course at TPC Kuala Lumpur. The golf course suits my game as I can take advantage of my length from off the tees, attack the pins and hopefully make a bunch of birdies. I can’t wait to get back to Malaysia and see all the fans who have supported me so well over the years.”
Other big names tipped to contend for the CIMB Classic title include world No. 19 Casey, who is enjoying another stellar season on the PGA TOUR where he won the Valspar Championship in May. The Englishman, holder of 19 international titles, was also picked recently to represent Europe in the Ryder Cup later this month. He will be making his fifth successive appearance at the CIMB Classic, with a T7 last year being his best result at TPC Kuala Lumpur.
Matsuyama, 26, is a five-time PGA TOUR winner and currently ranked 20th in the world. Since making his debut at the CIMB Classic in 2013, the Japanese No. 1 has thrilled local fans with top-five finishes over the past three editions including being runner-up to Thomas in 2016.
Veteran stars Els and Love III need little introduction as they hold a combined 119 international victories, including 19 and 21 PGA TOUR wins respectively. Els was appointed captain of the International Team for the 2019 Presidents Cup earlier this year, an event he has played on eight previous occasions.
The seven headliners will be joined by defending champion Pat Perez, who had earlier announced his intention to defend his CIMB Classic title where he won by four strokes over Bradley last year.
Todd Rhinehart, Vice President and Executive Director, PGA TOUR, said: “We are delighted to announce the first wave of star players for the 2018 CIMB Classic which comprises established stars on the PGA TOUR as well as World Golf Hall of Fame members. The CIMB Classic continues to drive the growth of the game in Malaysia and Southeast Asia and will also kick off an exciting three-tournament stretch in Asia for the PGA TOUR.”
The CIMB Classic will celebrate its ninth edition this year, with the sole PGA TOUR-sanctioned tournament in Southeast Asia being the second tournament of the new 2018-19 PGA TOUR Season.
Two Malaysian golfers will once again compete against the global stars from the PGA TOUR. One slot has been allocated to the winner of the CIMB National Championship which is scheduled for September 25 to 28 at TPC Kuala Lumpur’s East course. Subsequently, the highest ranked Malaysian on the Official World Golf Ranking as of October 1 will also earn the right to play in the CIMB Classic.
The PGA TOUR-sanctioned CIMB Classic features a limited field of 78 players comprising of the top 60 available players from the 2017-18 FedExCup points list, eight sponsor exemptions and the top-10 available players from the Asian Tour.