Golf Preview: CIMB Classic & Italian Open

The European Tour stops off in Italy this week whilst the PGA heads to Malaysia for the CIMB Classic.

The CIMB boasts an impressive field limited to just under 80 golfers, and is headed by new FedEx champion Justin Thomas.

The world number four is the two-time defending champion at the Kuala Lumpar Golf and Country Club, indeed in its seven years – an American has won every staging.

And Thomas arrives in confident mood, and said: “It was obviously special being able to defend last year.

“Having won my first PGA title in Malaysia (in 2015), it’s got a special place in my heart. To go back-to- back last year was awesome. It definitely got my 2016-17 season off to a good start. I somehow have a comforting feeling there and I seem to do all right.

“It just seems to be a place where I play well.”

Thomas is not the only big name on show, with Asia’s own Hideki Matsuyama – world number 3, Paul Casey and rookie of the year Xander Schauffele also teeing it up.

European tour stars Thomas Pieters and Rafa Cabrera Bello also make the trip along with legendary major champions Ernie Els and Davis Love III.

Then from the new in Malaysia, it is the old in Italy, with the near 100-year-old Italian Open. One of the most respected tournament on the European Tour it is also one of the eights tournaments that make up the Rolex Series.

Home favourite Francesco Molinari is the defending champion at the Golf Club Milan, but despite going for his third title – he is not the big fancy of the week, with Spanish starlet Jon Rahm at the top of the betting market and he is really up for the challenge.

“The Italian Open is one of the great events on the European Tour and one that you want to get your hands on,” said Rahm.

“The national Opens of continental Europe are steeped in history and tradition, so to win those events is really special. Winning the Irish Open a couple of months back was an amazing feeling, so hopefully I can play well in Milan and try to win another one.”

Rahm is just one of a number of big names who have turned up in Italy to try and get their hands on the big prize, as they also have their eyes on the Race to Dubai – with five tournaments left until the end of season finale.

Current Race to Dubai leader is Tommy Fleetwood, and he is also in Milan, along with the likes of Masters champion Sergio Garcia, Matt Fitzpatrick, Alex Noren, Martin Kaymer and last week’s Dunhill Links winner Ty Hatton.

The pro’s point of view…

Our resident golf expert is Cliff Jackson. Cliff is a leading youth coach and PGA professional at the famed Seaton Carew Links – one of the oldest courses in the world.

Must admit we have two very interesting contests this week.

And it sounds boring but we have two returning champions looking for their third successes and I think both will go close.

I think Justin Thomas clearly knows what he is doing, and if not him then I think Paul Casey could be one to watch.

And in Italy, whilst Molinari will surely compete – it really is a stellar field on show with some great names. And if favourites like Jon Rahm and Sergio don’t perform then I believe Matteo Manassero could be an interesting option.

The Bookie says…

We caught up with Betfair’s Katie Baylis to get their views on this week’s action

There are single figure odds favourites on both tours this week with Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm well-fancied to win in Malaysia and Italy respectively.

Five-time PGA Tour winner in the 2017 calendar (for some reason we are now on the second tournament of the 2018 season), Thomas is just 4-1 to win the CIMB Classic.

The PGA Tour rarely leaves American shores so Anirban Lahiri may just have an advantage over the field. The Indian has plenty of experience of Asian golf and won the Maybank Malaysian Open on this course in 2015. He’s 25-1 to win this week.

The cream of European golf is lining up at the Italian Open for what is now a very valuable Rolex Series event.

World no.5 Jon Rahm is the 13-2 favourite which is understandable given the phenomenal year he’s had with wins on both tours.  In a strong field it’s hard to look beyond those at the top of the betting and 15-1 Francesco Molinari looks an attractive each-way proposition with Betfair punters getting one fifth of those odds should he finish in the first seven.


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