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Els and Harrington headline early confirmations for Maybank Championship

Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Golfing legends Ernie Els and Padraig Harrington will be among the star attractions for the fourth edition of the Maybank Championship, to be held at Saujana Golf & Country Club on March 21-24. The two multiple Major winners are also the current captains for golf’s two biggest team events, with Els leading this year’s International Team for the Presidents Cup in Australia and Harrington recently announced as the 2020 European Ryder Cup captain.

Defending champion Shubhankar Sharma of India and Malaysian No 1 Gavin Green will also be part of a strong field, made up of a mix of players from around the world including a contingent from the ASEAN region.

The 156-player field embraces an all-new category for this year’s tournament, with 15 players from the top-150 of the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) qualifying solely on merit. They join the leading 60 available players from the Asian Tour and European Tour respectively.

By retaining the ASEAN category, the Maybank Championship will see strong representation from players from across the globe. A string of players from Australia, China, New Zealand and South Korea – some of them with an eye on making the President’s Cup International team later this year – will also add significantly to the international composition of the tournament.

Maybank Group president and CEO Datuk Abdul Farid Alias noted that they were delighted to host such pedigree at the event, taglined ‘Where the Best Meet’.

“The inclusion of the game’s most active global player Ernie ‘Big Easy’ Els, as well as three-time Major winner and recently appointed European Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington, underscores our objective to feature some of the best players in the world at this premier golf tournament.“

“Having our defending champion, Shubhankar Sharma, Maybank’s ASEAN ambassador Gavin Green, Japan’s prince of golf Ryo Ishikawa and ‘Babyface Assassin’ Poom Saksansin in the field, also reaffirms our objective of providing a platform for Asian stars to shine,” noted Datuk Farid.

“There is no doubt they will add tremendous character to the championship, even by just being here in Kuala Lumpur. But that is not all. The championship will showcase not only the best in golf, but also present a strong essence of our event DNA with delightful cuisine and lifestyle elements of the finest tastes at the week-long event.”

“Essentially, the Maybank Championship embraces these spheres of sport and life in a tournament that is family-orientated. The championship is a week where all get to enjoy, watch and experience a first-class event on and off the course,” he added.

The Big Easy, a household name in this region with signature golf courses at The Els Club locations in Langkawi and Johor, is a perennial favourite with fans with his easy0going, laid back demeanour on and off the course. With four Majors to his credit in two US Opens and two British Opens, along with 28 European Tour titles and 19 on the PGA Tour to his credit, the likeable is captain of the International Team in this year’s Presidents Cup.

Harrington, back-to-back winner of the 2007 and 2008 British Opens and with a PGA Championship trophy also in his cabinet, was announced last week as the captain of the European Ryder Cup team when they defend their title in the United States next year. The Irishman, who won four times in Asia including in Malaysia back in 2010 when he captured the Iskandar Johor Open title, is also hugely popular with the galleries.

India’s rising star Shubhankar was a worthy winner last year and used that success to forge his way to the top of the 2018 Asian Tour Habitat for Humanity (Order of Merit) standings. His victory at Saujana last February also helped catapult him up the world rankings to earn starts in the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club and four World Golf Championship (WGC) events.

Green, who preceded Sharma as Asian Tour No 1 in 2017, will be keen to do well on home soil.

“This is Maybank’s flagship golf tournament and for us who are playing on home soil, we all want to do our best and put that extra bit of effort into it.

“It is a European Tour co-sanctioned event and because of that it features some of the world’s leading players, making it even more difficult to win. But we will give it our shot and see what happens,” said Green.

Japanese star Ishikawa, nicknamed the ‘Bashful Prince’, is no stranger to Malaysia and will no doubt attract a great deal of support from his countrymen domiciled here. He will be joined by compatriot Shinichi Mizuno, who qualified by virtue of his victory in the PGM Maybank ADT Championship at Saujana in December.

Saksansin is definitely a megastar in the making. His victory in the Asian Tour’s season-ender in Indonesia last December, where he left the likes of Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson in his wake, clearly illustrates his potential. The talented Thai has won in each of the last three Asian Tour seasons and many predict much more to come from the 25-year-old.

For details and updates, log on to www.maybankchampionship.com.my.

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