Defending champion Anthony Kang of the United States is ready to face the challenges of a strong international field at the 49th edition of the Maybank Malaysian Open, with K.J. Choi, Daniel Chopra, Darren Clarke, Thongchai Jaidee and Shingo Katayama among the headline names in Kuala Lumpur.
Kang’s win last season earned him full playing rights on The European Tour and he believes his experiences of The Race to Dubai have made him a better player ahead of his title defence at the refurbished Kula Lumpur Golf and Country Club (KLGCC).
“I’ve learnt a lot from playing in Europe and I’m beginning to see the positive signs,” said Kang. “My game is better than last year so I’m really excited.
“It's always exciting going back to Malaysia but this time we are going to a different course so it will be a slightly different feeling to the defence of my title in that aspect. The positive aspect to that is that I don't really feel much pressure going back as the defending champion. Hopefully I can win and open more doors again.”
Of the headline names, Jaidee will be among the favourites to win given his recent form and history at the event.
Jaidee, Asia’s Number One, has won the Maybank Malaysian Open twice and has been in great early season form on The European Tour, finishing third at the Dubai Desert Classic and then making the quarter finals of the WGC – Accenture Match Play where he lost to eventual winner Ian Poulter.
Jaidee is currently ninth in The Race to Dubai and will be expecting to put in a strong performance on familiar territory.
“I have won this tournament twice and it would be great if I could come back and win the title again,” said Jaidee. “We always have a good time here and it will be even better if I can put in a good showing.”
Like Jaidee, Clarke is also close to winning form having begun his season brightly. The Northern Irishman has registered two top ten finishes already this year, and if he can eliminate a couple of loose shots he will be a force to be reckoned with.
India’s Arjun Atwal, another double Maybank Malaysian Open champion having won the event in 2003 and 2008, will be another possible contender as he looks to complete a hat-trick of victories on Malaysian soil.
The US-based Indian has won three times on The European Tour and was also Asia’s Number One in 2003. Memories of his victories in Malaysia are still fresh and Atwal is looking forward to another memorable week in the capital.
“I obviously like the event as I’ve always done well in Malaysia. I’ve won twice and it’s a good tournament for me,” said Atwal.
And what of the home challenge at the KLGCC? Not once in the 49-year history of the Maybank Malaysian Open has there been a home winner but the likes of Danny Chia, Iain Steel, Ben Leong, Shaaban Hussin and Airil Rizman all have the ability to compete at this level and perhaps 2010 could be the year when a Malaysian player finally keeps the title on home soil.
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