An elite field arrives in Kuala Lumpur this week for the Maybank Championship. Here are five things to know before the fourth edition of the tournament gets under way,
Last year, at just 21 years old, Shubhankar Sharma won the Maybank Championship to collect a second European Tour win in only his 13th career appearance. The victory, which came just three starts after his maiden triumph at the Joburg Open, was highlighted by a course record-setting final round of ten under par 62, which erased a four shot deficit and moved him 18 places up the leaderboard. The 13 starts Sharma needed to earn multiple wins stood as the European Tour record for the fastest player to collect two wins until earlier this month when Kurt Kitayama earned his second victory in only his 11th career appearance at the Oman Open. Sharma’s two-win, four-tournament stretch moved him from 462nd to 72nd on the Official World Golf Ranking, and earned him a spot in the 2018 WGC Mexico Championship, where he finished tied ninth after famously being mistaken for a fan by final round playing partner Phil Mickelson. Now, the Indian will look to become the first player to successfully defend the Maybank Championship when he tees it up this week at Saujana Golf and Country Club.
Continuing the transformation of global golf, the European Tour and the Asian Tour will once again co-sanction the Maybank Championship. Malaysia holds special significance for the two global tours, as it was the place where the first event to have been co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour took place in 1999. That year Gerry Norquist won the Malaysian Open, as the foundation for a strong relationship was formed. Two decades later, the Maybank Championship is flourishing as the partnership has become more successful than ever.
While this is only the fourth playing of the Maybank Championship, the European Tour has a long history in the south-Asian country, with the Maybank Championship, which began in 2016, becoming the third different official European Tour event to be staged in Malaysia. The other two were the Malaysian Open, which ran from 1999-2015 and the Iskandar Johor Open, played in 2011. In fact, the European Tour visited Malaysia twice in 2018. Prior to the Maybank Championship in February, Team Europe sealed a 14-10 victory over Team Asia at the EURASIA CUP presented by DRB-HICOM, which was contested at Glenmarie Golf & Country Club in Kuala Lumpur. The European team was captained by Thomas Bjørn, and did more than serve as a dress-rehearsal for The Ryder Cup, as his side dramatically came from behind on the final day to win the team competition.
Oh Captain, my Captain
Joining the elite field this week are the two captains who have been charged with the task of taking on Team USA in each of the next two editions of 12-man team competition: Ernie Els, who will lead the International side at this year’s President’s Cup, and Padraig Harrington, who is the man in charge of Team Europe for The 2020 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straights. The two golfing legends combine for an astounding 102 worldwide professional victories and seven Major Championship titles, but both will be eager to add the Maybank Championship to their sterling CV’s.
Top-ranked Malaysian golfer Gavin Green will give the home fans plenty to cheer about this year when he tees it up at the Maybank Championship. Green is considered a rising star in the global game, and he will look to improve on a strong rookie campaign on the European Tour last year. The 25-year-old Kuala Lumpur native already has four professional victories to his name, including one win on the Asian Tour at the 2017 Mercuries Taiwan Masters. He has yet to claim a European Tour victory but should be considered in with a chance to win with the home fans ready to back him.