He may be a golfing superstar, known around the world for his Ryder Cup exploits and explosive talent, but even Anthony Kim was taken aback when he stepped onto the first tee to meet his Maybank Malaysian Open Pro-Am partners for the day and was introduced to the King of Malaysia!
The 23 year old American was humbled by his audience with His Royal Highness Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin, but the pair were soon cracking jokes and exchanging stories as Kim plotted his way around the Saujana Golf and Country Club for the first time as he began his bid to make a successful beginning to his Race to Dubai campaign on The 2009 European Tour International Schedule.
“I really didn’t know I was going to be playing with the King and it was quite an honour,” said Kim after his Pro-Am.
“He was a really funny guy and it was a blast to go out there and play a round of golf with him. There is a good chance that he could have beat me today so he obviously has a good golf game.”
Kim is hoping to bring his own ‘A-game’ to the Maybank Malaysian Open in order to make significant strides in The Race to Dubai. The American played in the season-opening HSBC Champions back in November but was forced to withdraw halfway through the tournament due to injury, which meant he could not pick up any points in The European Tour’s exciting new competition.
The World Number 11 is hopeful that come Sunday evening, he will have collected the bulk of the US$2 million prize fund, but is aware of the depth of talent in a field that contains two-time Maybank Malaysian Open champion Thongchai Jaidee, the 2007 winner, Peter Hedblom, and former Asian Tour Order of Merit winner, Simon Dyson, who had finished third in the last two Maybank Malaysian Opens.
“The Race to Dubai is a big motivation for me and is one of the reasons that I am here – I want to be a global player and it is important for me to go to different countries and experience new venues and the way that tournaments are set up so that I can go to a lot of different places and play well wherever I am in the world.
“But I don’t know if I am the man to beat here – I just heard that Thongchai has won this event a few times and there are definitely a lot of guys on The European Tour who have a lot of game and I have to set my game up to play at the that level and hopefully I can bring my game too.”
Dyson and Hedblom both have high hopes for the week, and are both delighted to see a player of Kim’s calibre and reputation in the field.
Dyson said: “Obviously Anthony Kim will be the hot favourite. But the other one I’ll be looking out for is Thongchai Jaidee. He likes it around here and I think he’s won two of the last three played at Saujana. Personally I think he’s the man to beat but I’m sure Anthony will have something to say about that. He’s a fantastic player and it’s good to have him over.”
Hedblom, who won at Saujana in 2007 and lost in a play-off at Kota Permai Golf and Country Club last year, said: “It feels great to be back, especially at the venue that I won the tournament. All the good feelings are coming back to me and hopefully that will give me the extra push to get me into contention again.
“It’s a good sponsor and good field this week: it’s great to see Anthony Kim here this week – it is always good to have the top players in the world here as it lifts the tournament and gives us all more World Ranking points to play for.”