Justin Thomas (Photo by Stanley Chou/Getty Images)

An enlightening chat with Effendy Shahul Hamid, CEO of Group Commercial Banking and Group Asset Management & Investments, CIMB Group

From CIMB’s perspective, how successful was the 2018 CIMB Classic?

In our view, it was the best one yet. We were operationally succinct and the event was well-attended. The official numbers aren’t in yet, but crowds were at their highest I feel.

In addition, we also had an extremely strong field, which golfers and non-golfers avidly followed.

It was a close competition but Marc Leishman pulled away and won by five shots with a closing 65. Were you rooting for anyone in particular?

I was rooting for Shubhankar Sharma of India. An interesting young prospect, doing great on the European Tour … what a story it would have been!

I was also keeping a keen eye out for Nick Watney who was gunning for his second CIMB Classic title.

Two-time winner Justin Thomas fell a little short this time but was probably the most popular player in the field. He also made a junior’s day by playing a hole with him during the practice round. Do you think golf needs more players like JT and why?

I think players like JT are part of a new breed of professional golfers. They are global in outlook, always thinking about growing the game. They are also personable and, being young themselves, strive to be an example to the even younger ones.

So, yes, the game is in a better place with them around!

The CIMB Classic has been won by PGA Tour players since its inception. What do you think sets them apart from the rest and what do you think the Asian Tour and Malaysian players need to do to catch up?

In my humble opinion, it’s about standards, ambition and playing opportunities. I have watched this set of players over the years and they are disciplined, hard-working and focused.

This is not to say Asian Tour players and Malaysians are not – but I do think that overall standards on the PGA Tour are that much higher. I hope the tournament has been able to inspire those on the Asian Tour or Malaysians to get to those standards.

Players had high praise for TPCKL’s revamped West Course. Have you managed to play it since the renovation and what is your opinion of the changes?

Unfortunately, I haven’t. But I’ve heard that whilst the roll on the fairways has ‘shortened’ some holes, the slicker greens now put a premium on more accurate approaches. The pros certainly enjoyed the risk-return paradigm that came with that kind of set-up.

The modifications have also seen amateurs enjoying the course more … for example, the par-four 12th and the par-four 14th now encourage amateurs to go for greens in regulation with a bail-out on the front right. So, I think it’s been good.

What can fans expect from next year’s 10th anniversary edition of the CIMB Classic?

As with all editions of the CIMB Classic, we strive to make it an experience for all who attend. We always plan our tournaments in that vein.

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