The worldwide appeal brought to The European Tour International Schedule by The Race to Dubai is perfectly illustrated this week when a truly international field gathers at the Saujana Golf and Country Club for the Maybank Malaysian Open.
After a week’s hiatus following the three week ‘Gulf Swing’, players from all five continents have travelled to Kuala Lumpur to battle not only for the lion’s share of the US$2 million prize fund, but also advancement in both The Race to Dubai standings and the Official World Golf Ranking.
Headlining the eclectic mix is the man currently at Number 11 in the world, American Anthony Kim, who announced his decision to take Affiliate Membership of The European Tour in the aftermath of his highly successful debut in The Ryder Cup at Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky last September.
The 23 year old, born in the USA of Korean parents, admitted he was excited about being in Asia to make his debut in the tournament. “I had a great season on Tour last year and it will be a great experience for me to play in the Maybank Malaysian Open for the first time,” he said.
“With the tournament being part of The Race to Dubai, I know I will be facing a tough field but I hope I can play well and continue where I left off last season.”
The Maybank Malaysian Open has a rich history and a special place in the annals of The European Tour for, in 1999, it marked the first co-sanctioned tournament with the Asian Tour, an arrangement which, a decade later, is still going strong.
Not surprisingly, a healthy representation of players from both Europe and Asia will line up, all hoping to follow in the footsteps of India’s Arjun Atwal, who held off the bold challenge of the 2007 champion, Sweden’s Peter Hedblom, in a play-off to triumph at Kota Permai Golf and Country Club across the Malaysian capital 12 months ago.
Atwal is not in the field this time but his talented compatriots Jyoti Randhawa and SSP Chowrasia are, to uphold the Asian standard alongside players of the calibre of Japanese Number One Shingo Katayama and Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee who, perhaps, knows the Saujana course better than anyone else in the field having triumphed in the tournament there in both 2004 and 2005.
“The Maybank Malaysian Open is one of my favourite events on Tour,” he said. “I feel I’m in good physical condition, and would love to claim the trophy for a third time. Obviously, with both victories in the event coming for me at Saujana, I’m familiar with the course and surroundings, which always helps me to focus on my game and relax.”
The European vanguard is led by a plethora of Tour winners including England’s Simon Dyson who narrowly missed out on joining Atwal and Hedblom in last year’s play-off and two men with Ryder Cup experience of their own, Dyson’s compatriot David Howell and Niclas Fasth of Sweden.
Also in the group of European Tour champions in the field, and helping complete the global gathering, are Australasian representatives Mark Brown of New Zealand and Australians Marcus Fraser, Stephen Leaney and Scott Strange; while the African flag is flown by South Africans David Frost and Anton Haig.