Seri Kembangan: In-form Bo Van Pelt is fired up for a successful title defence at the US$6.1 million CIMB Classic starting on Thursday.
The likeable American, who won the European Tour’s ISPS HANDA Perth International on Sunday for his first victory of the year, did not enjoy the opportunity to defend two previous victories in the United States.
But with the privilege and fanfare of arriving in Malaysia as the defending champion, Van Pelt is hoping to savour the week and repeat his CIMB triumph after running away with a six-shot win last year.
“This is my first chance I’ve ever had to defend. I’ve only won a few tournaments. When I won on Nationwide (the secondary circuit in the US), the year after I was on the (PGA) Tour, and when I won in Milwaukee (2009), that tournament went away. This is a first for me, so I’m excited,” said Van Pelt, who is ranked 23rd in the world.
The 37-year-old, who posted 10 top-10s on the PGA Tour this year, will be amongst a strong 48-man field at the CIMB Classic, which is sanctioned by the Asian Tour and PGA Tour.
World number two Tiger Woods, a 14-time Major winner, headlines the field which includes ninth-ranked Jason Dufner, who finished second behind Van Pelt last week while Thai star Thaworn Wiratchant, who secured his third win of the season in India on Sunday, will spearhead the Asian Tour’s challenge at The MINES Resort.
Van Pelt is confident of extending his winning form. “Last year it was good for me. I think I had to go in on Sunday to have the lead and then to play well. There were a couple of times in my career where I’ve had leads and not played as well on Sunday. So to play the way I did last year I think gave me some confidence going into this year,” he said.
“2012 was probably one of my most consistent years. So from that standpoint I was pleased with how I played. The down side is I did not win a tournament on the PGA Tour, so that was a negative. You want to try to get a victory when you’re that close.”
The American shot a 23-under-par 261 winning total at the Mines Resort last year but admits it will be a level playing field when he begins his defence alongside 15-time Asian Tour winner Thaworn in the opening round on Thursday.
“I think there are so many great players in every tournament we get to play, to have a chance to win, you know you’re going to have to play great. Last year doesn’t count for anything this year. We all start even par on Thursday morning. The golf course isn’t going to remember how I played last year. I’ve got to produce this year.
“I like the golf course. It’s really straightforward, and obviously I feel like I still have a pretty good game plan. Hopefully, I’ll just get used to the speed of the greens. That was kind of key for me last year here. I putted the ball well, and hopefully I can do it again this year,” he added.