Malaysian Open 2011 winner Matteo Manassero, who turns 21 during the tournament, will be hoping for another win this year. – AFP Photo
KUALA LUMPUR: Italian Matteo Manassero and Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee will join Lee Westwood and Louis Oosthuizen when the Maybank Malaysian Open tees off at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club (KLGCC) from April 17-20.
All four former champions are title sponsor Maybank’s confirmed star players for this year’s Malaysian Open, which offers a prize money of US$2.75mil (RM9mil).
Young gun Manassero, who won the 2011 title two days before his 18th birthday and turns 21 on April 19, is hoping for another special celebration in Malaysia.
The Italian is the youngest golfer to win a European Tour event, having won the Castello Masters Costa Azahar in Valencia on May 3, 2010.
Since winning in Malaysia three years ago, Manassero has steadily moved up the world rankings and is now in the top 50 with four tournament victories to his name.
Thongchai, meanwhile, is a three-time Asian Tour Order of Merit (OOM) winner and a two-time winner of the Malaysian Open, having triumphed in 2004 and 2005.
A former paratrooper with the Royal Thai Army, Thongchai has 16 career wins to his name, including five on the European Tour.
Former world number one Westwood of England, who won the Malaysian Open in 1997, was announced as the bank’s first star player early last month while Major winner Oosthuizen confirmed his participation at the end of February.
Having these four world class stars, who have a huge following in Malaysia, will certainly give the 2014 event a big boost.
Maybank chairman Tan Sri Datuk Megat Zaharuddin Megat Mohd Nor said: “We now have four former champions who have confirmed their participation for the Malaysian Open 2014.
“Manassero and Thongchai represent everything that’s good about golf. One is a youngster who knows no fear and goes out and attacks the course. The other knows patience is the key to winning and that has been one reason why Thongchai has lasted so long at the very top echelon of the sport.
“I expect a tough battle as not only all four have tasted glory in the Malaysian Open and will surely want to hold the prestigious trophy aloft once again, but other rising talents are steadily making their mark worldwide,” he said.