The duo will be flying their country’s flag with the goal of guiding Malaysia to their first Omega Mission Hills World Cup appearance in 10 years.
A total of 20 teams have signed up for the showpiece at the challenging Seri Selangor Golf Club from August 3 to 6 (Wednesday to Saturday) with three elusive tickets up for grabs to the US$7.5 million Omega Mission Hills World Cup in China in November.
Golfing minnows Vietnam led by talented Michael Tran, a regular on the Asian Development Tour (ADT), and Nguyen Thai Duong will make their debuts in the qualifier and take aim at making history by qualifying for the Omega Mission Hills World Cup for the first time.
Muhammad Munir and Muhammad Shabir of Pakistan will renew their successful partnership where the duo qualified for the Omega Mission Hills World Cup at the Seri Selangor Golf Club in 2009. It was the country’s only second appearance in the two-man team event.
Among other teams who will feature in the Asian Qualifying include Ghana (Stephen Kwame Klah and Godwin Sai), Indonesia (Rory Hie and Andik Mauluddin), Sri Lanka (Anura Rohana and Mithun Perera) and Nepal (Shiva Ram Shrestha and Rupak Acharya).
This will be Steel’s fifth attempt at qualifying for the Omega Mission Hills World Cup. He previously paired with Danny Chia on four occasions but is relishing the new pairing with Shaaban, who earned his place by virtue of a higher placing on the Official World Golf Ranking courtesy of solid performances on the Asian Tour this season.
“I’ll be looking for a fresh start with Shaaban. Maybe I’ll have a different perspective with a new partner. It’s his home track, but we’ve played there so often that everyone knows the course. Him being the local boy, maybe that will help him to relax more on his home course,” said the Sabahan, who grew up aboard.
“He’s been playing well this year on the local tour. Hopefully I can ride a good horse,” Steel added.
Steel is determined to play his way into a first World Cup appearance and admits the decision to make the tournament a biennial event might just work in his favour.
“Previously, the anxiety would build up by now but because we didn’t have a qualifier last year, it’s somehow felt different. Maybe we should just take a lackadaisical approach for a change!” said Steel.
Malaysia last qualified for the World Cup in 2000 and 2001 where Chia teamed up with Rashid Ismail and P. Gunasegaran respectively.
Meanwhile, Vietnamese Tran, 21, is excited to represent his country and hopes to spring a surprise as he aims to upstage the other stellar teams.
“It is an honour to represent Vietnam in the World Cup Qualifying. We are excited about the experience we will gain but I have to admit that it will be an uphill task for us. Nevertheless, we are still looking forward to the challenge,” said Tran.
The format of competition at the Omega Mission Hills World Cup Asian Qualifying will be the same as the Omega Mission Hills World Cup, with four-ball (better ball) being played in the first and third rounds and foursomes (alternate shot) used in the second and final rounds.
The Omega Mission Hills World Cup is a biennial event which attracts a stellar line-up of teams from around the world.
About the Asian Tour
As the official sanctioning body for professional golf in Asia, the Asian Tour leads the development of golf across the region, enhancing the careers of its members while maintaining a commitment to the integrity of the game. The Asian Tour, through its membership of the International Federation of PGA Tours, is the only recognised pan-Asian professional golf tour in Asia. This unique feature positions the Asian Tour at the pinnacle of professional golf in Asia; providing its events with Official World Ranking status. Tour Partners include Rolex (Official Timekeeper), J.Lindeberg (Official Apparel Partner), Ricoh (Official Office Solutions Provider), Inetol Headwear (Official Headwear Supplier), Royal Selangor (Official Trophy Supplier), Singha Beer (Official Beer), BlackBerry (Official Mobile) and Srixon (Official Ball). The Asian Tour has offices in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.