Asian champions line-up for Malaysian Open

Thongchai Jaidee © Khalid Redza/Asian Tour
Thongchai Jaidee © Khalid Redza/Asian Tour

Kuala Lumpur: Six Asian Tour Order of Merit champions, led by history-maker Thongchai Jaidee and reigning number one Thaworn Wiratchant, will carry the Asian charge at the prestigious Maybank Malaysian Open next week.

Along with former Merit champions Jeev Milkha Singh and Jyoti Randhawa of India, Juvic Pagunsan of the Philippines and China’s Liang Wen-chong, they will seek to regain the Seagram Trophy after wins by Matteo Manessero and Louis Oosthuizen in the past two years.

The six Asian Tour stars, who have won a combined 10 Order of Merit crowns and 45 victories, will spearhead an impressive Asian Tour line-up at the US$2.75 million event which is sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour.

Up-coming stars Gaganjeet Bhullar of India, Arnond Vongvanij of Thailand and Mithun Perera of Sri Lanka are also in the elite field alongside Major winners Padraig Harrington, Charl Schwartzel and former world number one Luke Donald at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club from March 21 to 24.

India’s Anirban Lahiri and Chawalit Plaphol of Thailand, who won the first two events on the Asian Tour in 2013, will also feature in the Maybank Malaysian Open.

Thongchai will have much to play for at the Maybank Malaysian Open as he is hoping to break into the top-50 of the Official World Golf Rankings by early April to qualify for the Masters Tournament.

The decorated Thai star is currently ranked 59th in the world courtesy of one top-10 and two other top-25s during the European Tour’s Middle East swing at the start of the year. He is eager to rediscover his winning touch at what is his happy hunting ground where he won back-to-back Malaysian Open titles in 2004 and 2005. He finished runner-up in 2006 at the Kuala Lumpur GCC.

“I’ve played here many times and won twice. Malaysia feels like my second home and everybody in Malaysia always welcome me. There’s a strong field of players this week and it is good because it promotes the game,” said the 43-year-old.

“You never know what will happen in golf. There are strong players on the Asian Tour. The weather and course conditions also suit us better. I’m going to try my best to win,” said Thongchai, who won his first title on European soil in Wales last season.

India’s Singh, a six-time Asian Tour winner, has competed in Malaysia since his early days as a professional golfer and is delighted to return to the Maybank Malaysian Open where he finished tied 11th last season.

Currently ranked 99th in the world, Singh has a fighting chance to qualify for the year’s first Major in April as a victory next week will boost his position on the Official World Golf Rankings.

“It feels good coming back to Malaysia because I started my career here. Whenever I come back, I get all the positive vibes and a great welcome,” said Singh.