CIMB Classic: The Race Track

They had heavy rains overnight at the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. So much so, that when the officials got a look at the Mines Resort and Golf Club Friday morning, it was a no-brainer to invoke “lift, clean and place,” “ball in hand,” or more properly, “Preferred Lies.”

Mark your ball, clean the mud off your ball and then place it within one club length, no closer to the hole.

The net effect of all of this is some of the best players in the world having a turkey shoot. With perfect lies they could risk going at most every pin and they pretty much did.

At the beginning of the tournament, Tiger estimated that it would take 20-under to win; that would mean averaging 5-under each day. With leader Robert Garrigus already at 14-under after two rounds, throw that out the window (although leaders have a way of coming back to the consensus). And Tiger felt they might play lift, clean and place on Saturday too.

Speaking of Tiger, he shot an up and down 4-under with 6 birdies. His 66, 67 took him from 5-under to 9-under, 5 shots back of Garrigus.

But the other big variable in all of this is that the tropical heat and humidity are extremely taxing on the players. They have to stay hydrated, they have to keep toweling the sweat off and they have to play like none of that is happening.

South African, Jbe’ Kruger pretty much managed to do that, shooting a nifty 7-under, 64…while playing with Tiger Woods for the first time. Kruger is a European Tour player who won the Avantha Masters in New Dehli, India in February of this year to earn a two-year exemption.

Watching him play with Tiger was captivating because you kept waiting for the train wreck, but it never came. How could No. 182 in the world hold up against No. 2 in the world? The fact that he did was the essence of mastery: be in your game in a way that nothing else matters, be it the heavy weather or the best player to ever play the game.

First round leader Troy Matteson came back to the consensus shooting just 2-under on Friday to back up his first-round 63. That put him at 10-under and T3 and in very good position for the weekend. But he didn’t look as good Friday and it makes you wonder if that was just getting his mediocre round out of the way or the harbinger of a slide back down the leaderboard.

It’s nice to see Kevin Na and Brendon de Jonge playing well; they’re both tied with Tiger at 9-under. Na has been going the process of transforming himself from a mind numbingly slow player to one who is way less deliberate. He deserves a pat on the back for making the effort which seems to be paying dividends. de Jonge is still patiently waiting for his first victory with increasing evidence that it will happen. His name has come up a lot this year.

There are a number of other very good players a shot or two back, but it’s too soon in the proceedings to know if they’re going to be a factor.

Let the scene play itself out…and be happy for the show we get in the meantime.

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