The Maybank Malaysian Open will mark its half century in sensational style this week when it welcomes the man of the moment in world golf – Masters Tournament Champion Charl Schwartzel – to headline the strongest field in the 50 year history of the tournament.
Schwartzel will join fellow Major Champions Martin Kaymer and Louis Oosthuizen in a galaxy of golfing stars at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club in the nation’s capital, as The European Tour celebrates truly being on top of the world.
For not only do European Tour Members now, for the first time, hold all the Major Championships at the same time – following the thrilling Sunday denouement at Augusta National, they also still occupy the top three positions in the Official World Golf Ranking with Kaymer Number One, and Englishmen Lee Westwood and Luke Donald in positions two and three.
But all eyes will be on Schwartzel, and if the 26 year old South African can reproduce the form he showed at Augusta National, particularly in an astonishing final stretch where he birdied the final four holes, he will be a hard man to stop.
Fellow Major Champions Kaymer and Oosthuizen both missed the cut in Georgia, and will therefore be doubly determined to get back on the winning trail to maintain their respective challenges at the top of The 2011 Race to Dubai.
Oosthuizen went close recently in the tournament, finishing tied for seventh at Saujana Golf and Country Club in 2009, and will be a man to watch as will be Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, who will try to put the disappointment of his own Masters Sunday behind him with a winning performance in Kuala Lumpur.
The Maybank Malaysian Open will always hold a special place in the history of The European Tour for, in 1999, it was the first tournament to be co-sanctioned with the Asian Tour – and the 2011 Maybank Malaysian Open will represent the 67th tournament jointly held between the two Tours.
Illustrating perfectly the link between the two Tours is the man who will be the defending champion in Kuala Lumpur, Noh Seung-yul. A member of both Tours, the victory 12 months ago helped the Korean teenager top the Asian Tour Order of Merit for the first time, as well as finish 34th in The 2010 Race to Dubai.
“The first time you play in Malaysia it does take a while to adjust to the scorching weather, so this time around I have prepared myself mentally and physically to withstand the heat and I hope to win the title for the second time,” said Noh.
“Last year’s triumph was meaningful for me because not only did I have the opportunity win on Malaysian soil, I was also lucky enough to defeat an idol of mine, K J Choi, coming down the stretch on the Sunday. That was a big thrill.”
When he triumphed 12 months ago, Noh became the third youngest winner in European Tour history and, showing the strength of the younger players now in the game, all three of the youngest winners, Matteo Manassero, Danny Lee and Noh, will tee up.