KUALA LUMPUR: Scotland's Alastair Forsyth has confirmed his participation to defend the US$1.1 million (RM$4.18 million) Carlsberg Malaysian Open golf title at the Mines Resort and Golf Club from Feb 20-23.
The 26-year-old Forsyth will bid to become the third player to win back-to-back titles at the Malaysian Open, which is jointly sanctioned by the Asian PGA and European Tours for the fifth year.
The others who have successfully defended their titles were Japan's Tomoo Ishii (1964-65) and Graham Marsh of Australia (1974-75).
Australian Stephen Leaney, who was beaten by Forsyth in the second hole of a sudden-death playoff for the title at Royal Selangor Golf Club last year, will also feature again in Asia's richest national open.
Also in the fray are the European Tour's top two players last year – South African Retief Goosen and Irishman Padraig Harrington. Former US Open winner Goosen is ranked fourth in the world and Harrington is at number eight.
The executive chairman of the title sponsors, Carlsberg Brewery (M) Bhd, Datuk Jorgen Bornhoft, said: “A tournament is never complete without the defending champion and we are delighted that Forsyth has confirmed his participation.
“Last year, he showed tremendous courage and determination to win the title in a playoff under tough conditions and I am sure he will be among the title contenders again.
“With Goosen and Harrington also in the field, the tournament promises to be another cracker.”
The 33-year-old Leaney is aiming to complete a rare double of victories in Malaysia.
He was the champion in the Malaysian Amateur Open tournament in 1992.
In last year's Malaysian Open, he led by two shots with three holes to play in the final round but Forsyth caught up with birdies on the 16th and 17th to force a playoff.
Leaney made up for the disappointment with a victory later in the German Masters, which earned him his biggest career cheque of US$500,000.
The Malaysian Golf Association's (MGA) president, Thomas Lee, welcomed Leaney's return to play in the Malaysian Open.
“It will be fabulous if Leaney can reproduced the form of last year to challenge for the crown. I am sure he will go all out to win the title and complete his Malaysian collection of winning both amateur and professional titles.”
A total of 150 players will compete for the winner's purse of US$183,300 (RM696,540).
Danny Chia, who won the Taiwan Open last September, will led Malaysia's challenge.
The MGA's vice-president, Datuk Mohamed Zin Yusuf, said besides Danny they would name another five Malaysian to play in the tournament.