Stars set to shine in Maybank Malaysian Open

Kuala Lumpur, April 11: The stage is set for an exciting 51st edition of the Maybank Malaysian Open as the tournament’s marquee players look to be in top form for the US$2.5 million tournament at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club (KLGCC).

2011 Maybank Malaysian Open champion Matteo Manassero

2010 British Open winner Louis Oosthuizen, fresh from his dramatic playoff loss to Bubba Watson in the Masters, will certainly start as one of the hot favourites at KLGCC’s West Course, which is hosting the tournament for the third consecutive year. The 29-year-old South African created history when he became the first golfer to score an albatross at Augusta National’s par five second hole, using a slashing four-iron from 253 yards that found the green and rolled into the cup. Oosthuizen finished tied on 10-under-par with Watson and lost out on the second extra hole when he failed to save par after missing the green.
This will be Oosthuizen’s third Malaysian Open with his best finish coming in 2010 when he tied for seventh.
Joining Oosthuizen in the world-class field is his fellow Springbok 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, who finished a disappointing 50th in his failed title defence at Augusta National. Schwartzel will be keen to improve on his joint 11th finish in last year’s Maybank Malaysian Open and will also be one of the players to watch.
2011 champion Matteo Manassero of Italy is back to defend his title, while the man he beat by one shot last year, Frenchman Grégory Bourdy, is also in the field. Manassero’s pinpoint iron play served him well at the West Course last year, when he fought off late charges by Bourdy and Rory McIlroy to become the youngest ever winner of the tournament at 17 years and 363 days.

Former World No. 1 and 2010 US PGA Championship winner Martin Kaymer of Germany and the exciting Spaniard Alvaro Quiros will be among the gallery favourites, especially Quiros who is making his debut in the tournament. One of the longest hitters in the world, the 29-year-old missed the halfway cut at Augusta National and will be hoping for a strong showing at KLGCC to make amends.

Among the other European Tour players to watch are Brendan Grace, who claimed back-to-back victories in his native South Africa earlier in the year, Spaniard Rafael Cabrera-Bello who was fourth last year, six-time European Tour winner Simon Dyson of England, in-form Dane Soren Kjeldsen, 2011 Iskandar Johor Open champion Joost Luiten of The Netherlands and exciting young Englishman Tom Lewis who won the 2011 Portugal Masters in only his third professional start.

But let’s not forget the Asian Tour players who have in fact won the tournament nine times since it became a co-sanctioned event in 1999. Headlining the Asian charge will be Thai icon Thongchai Jaidee, India’s Jeev Milkha Singh and China’s Liang Wen-chong – all former Asian Tour number ones.

Three-time Asian Tour No. 1 Thongchai, who won consecutive Malaysian Open titles in 2004 and 2005, has always played well here and will be gunning to add to his record haul of 13 Asian Tour titles. Singh, who topped the Order of Merit in 2006 and 2008, has won six Asian Tour titles and has also claimed victories in Europe and Japan.

The other Asian Tour players to watch include current Order of Merit leader Jbe Kruger of South Africa, Siddikur of Bangladesh, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Prayad Marksaeng of Thailand, Tetsuji Hiratsuka of Japan, Mardan Mamat of Singapore and Lu Wei-chih of Chinese Taipei. This season’s winners, David Lipsky of the United States, Indian duo Anirban Lahiri and Digvijay Singh and Australia’s Kieran Pratt are also in the field and will be fired up to do well.

Certainly, whoever hoists the Seagram Trophy come Sunday and pockets the US$416,660 winner’s cheque will have earned the spoils of war.

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