Golf

Published: Wednesday April 16, 2014 MYT 6:03:00 PM
Updated: Wednesday April 16, 2014 MYT 6:05:12 PM

Former winners vie for Malaysian Open trophy

PETALING JAYA: Rain delays should be expected but it is anybody’s guess who will bag the Maybank Malaysian Open, which gets under way at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club on Thursday.

Ten former champions have returned for another shot at the glittering trophy, a testament to the popularity of the national Open since it became a joint-sanctioned Asian Tour and European Tour event.

The former winners playing in Kuala Lumpur this week are Englishman Lee Westwood (1997), Taiwanese Yeh Wei-tze (2000), Alastair Forsyth of Scotland (2002), Arjun Atwal of India (2003 and 2008), Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand (2004 and 2005), Peter Hedblom of Sweden (2006), American Anthony Kang (2009), Matteo Manassero of Italy (2011), Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa (2012) and Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat (2013).

A number of players who competed at the US Masters in Augusta last week have made the long journey to play in Malaysia, including Westwood and Oosthuizen.

Westwood finished an impressive seventh in Augusta while Oosthuizen was placed 25th.

Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion, is looking forward to returning to the venue where he won by three shots in 2012 with a 17-under total, which still stands as the lowest score.

“It is always an advantage when you play on a course you have won on before.

“Not much has changed, so you have to play well and put the ball in the hole. You just feel more comfortable playing on a course you’ve won on,” he said.

The players had a chance to practise for the last two days and Oosthuizen came away impressed with what he saw. In fact, he believes this year’s winner will do even better than his 2012 score.

“I played nicely this morning (in the pro-am). I think it will all come down to making putts – the greens are unbelievable this year.

“I think we’ll see a lot of guys making a lot of putts and I believe the winning score will be close to 20-under.

“You have to shoot at least a four-under on average every day,’ said Oosthuizen.

The Europeans will not have it so easy as the Asian Tour golfers will be a force to be reckoned with.

In the last 10 years, six Asian Tour members – Thongchai, Kiradech, Anthony, Arjun and South Koreans Charlie Wi and Noh Seung-yul – have won the Malaysian Open.

India’s top golfer Anirban Lahiri said most of them have played in the Majors before and are not intimidated by the Europeans.

“It’s a good opportunity for us to beat some of these guys and make our mark.

“Personally, I’ve played in some really strong fields, I’ve played in a Major and I know what is the level of golf I have to play to beat these guys.

“I know that I can beat them. If I can focus on what I can do, it doesn’t matter what the field is. Coming into this week, I feel really good. I feel my game is in a good place. Mentally, I’m in a much more positive frame of mind than the last few times I’ve come to this golf course,” he said.

Thai ace Thongchai said his game has really improved after back-to-back wins in the Malaysian Open.

“I think everybody can win here. The course is long and open,” said Thongchai, who made the cut at the US Masters for the first time last week.

As for the 22-strong Malaysian cast, one can only hope someone will rise to the occasion this week.

But history is not on their side - no local has been able to win the tournament since its inception in 1962 and making the weekend play is probably the best they can hope for.

Tags / Keywords: golf, Malaysian Open, Louis Oosthuizen, Anirban Lahiri, Lee Westwood, Thongchai Jaidee

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