KUALA LUMPUR: P. Gunasegaran is aiming to lay the ghost of ’99 to rest when he tees off in the US$1.1 million Carlsberg Malaysian Open next Thursday.
Four years ago, the former Malaysian number one stumbled on the big stage at the Mines Resort and Golf Club when the country hosted the World Cup. With this year’s national Open being held for the first time at the course, Gunasegaran is determined to make amends.
“I remember the World Cup well as M. Ramayah and I were paired with Americans Tiger Woods and Mark O’Meara in the opening round. But I didn’t play well that day and throughout the week which was very disappointing.
“Hopefully, I can shoot some good numbers at the Malaysian Open and redeem myself. I’m looking forward to the week,” said the 39-year-old Gunasegaran.
In the dream first round pairing in the World Cup, Gunasegaran carded a poor five-over 76, which included a two-stroke penalty for a rule infringement. He did not recover from his sluggish start and finished the tournament on 14-over.
However, he still remains the best Malaysian finisher in the Open, thanks to a heroic runner-up outing in the 1994 edition at Royal Selangor Golf Club. He stretched eventual winner Joakim Haeggmann of Sweden to an eight-hole play-off, which included Kiwi Frank Nobilo.
“I can still remember the play-off well as I had some chances to win the Open. I had an eight-foot birdie attempt on the second extra hole but missed. I’ll never forget that experience,” he said.
Gunasegaran and the local contingent of 12 other players, including four national amateurs, will be up against world-class opposition at the Mines. World number five Retief Goosen and ninth-ranked Padraig Harrington head the elite field, which includes European Ryder Cup star Paul McGinley, former European number one Lee Westwood and reigning champion Alastair Forsyth.
Ramayah, at 46, will be one of the oldest players in the field next week and will be making his 27th appearance in Asia’s richest national Open. Since making his debut in 1976, the evergreen Ramayah has missed only one edition through injury.
However, a flu bug is threatening to spoil his week.
“I played tennis four days ago under a light drizzle and caught a cold. It knocked me out for a few days. Hopefully, I’ll get my energy levels up in time for the Open.
“It’s always great to keep returning for this tournament and I’m looking forward to playing at the Mines again. Obviously, the World Cup holds fond memories. I played solid rounds of 70 and 68 in the first and final rounds but sandwiched those with poor efforts of 74 and 77. Ramayah's whose best finish in the event was third place in 1980.