KUALA LUMPUR — Rickie Fowler announced Thursday that he has withdrawn from the CIMB Classic, citing back issues. Charlie Wi, a two-time winner in Malaysia, will replace Fowler in the lucrative U.S. $6.1 million showpiece to be played at the Mines Resort and Golf Club from Oct. 25-28.
“I am sorry to confirm, but I will not be competing in the KOLON Korea Open next week, nor the CIMB Classic the following week in Malaysia as planned,” Fowler said in a statement. “Unfortunately, while not serious, I have battled a back issue for the past few months, and my doctors have instructed me that international travel and any tournament play is not in my best interest at this time.
"They have instructed me rather to focus on a therapy regimen in order to find relief as well as prevent potential issues in the future.”
Wi was eager to get the opportunity to play in the CIMB Classic. Born in Seoul, Korea, the California resident has two victories in Malaysia (1997 Kuala Lumpur Open and the 2006 Maybank Malaysian Open). In an up-and-down 2012 season, Wi finished 60th in the FedExCup standings. His year included a runner-up finish at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am as well as a tie for fourth at the Valero Texas Open and a share of third at The Greenbrier Classic.
Fowler said he had been "very much looking forward" to defending his first professional victory at the KOLON Korean Open. "My friends and fans there made me feel very welcome and Korea will always have special meaning for me as the place I won my first pro trophy," he said.
Fowler did not play in Malaysia last year but he tied for fifth in 2010 so he has history there, as well. "(I) was hoping to enjoy Malaysian kindness and hospitality once again," Fowler said, adding he looked forward to competing in both events in the future.
The CIMB Classic will feature 30 players from the PGA TOUR and the top 10 available players from the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit. Eight sponsor exemptions will make up the rest of the field, with two places reserved for Malaysian professionals – Danny Chia and Shaaban Hussin.
There will be no halfway cut for the event and as such all players will play all four days of golf, with the winner earning $1.3 million. The CIMB Classic is sanctioned by the PGA TOUR, Asian Tour and Professional Golf Association of Malaysia.
- Rickie Fowler