Mardan & Prayad lead Asian Tour stars at Handa Faldo Cambodian Classic

Siem Reap: British Open-bound Mardan Mamat of Singapore and Thai veteran Prayad Marksaeng will headline an all-star Asian Tour line-up at the inaugural Handa Faldo Cambodian Classic next week.

The US$300,000 tournament, the fifth leg of the 2012 Asian Tour season, will be played at the Nick Faldo-designed Angkor Golf Resort in the historical city of Siem Reap from March 14, Wednesday to March 17, Saturday.

Six players from the current top-10 of the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit will converge in Cambodia including the sixth-ranked Mardan, who won the ICTSI Philippine Open last month and earned a third appearance to the British Open with a successful qualifying campaign in Bangkok last week.

Thailand’s Prom Meesawat will be the highest ranked Asian Tour player in the field at third place, followed by countryman Kiradech Aphibarnrat who is fifth on the Merit list, Bangladeshi Siddikur, currently eighth, big-hitting Thai star Chapchai Nirat, who is ranked ninth, and fellow Thai Chawalit Plaphol who is ranked 10th.

No fewer than 26 other Asian Tour champions will compete in the HANDA FALDO CAMBODIAN CLASSIC which will see international players from 29 different nationalities competing at the Angkor Golf Resort, which is hosting its first ever Asian Tour event.

Amongst the leading names who are expected to shine include India’s Himmat Rai, winner of the ISPS Handa Singapore Classic last year, American Berry Henson, former Asian Tour number one Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand, Japanese star Daisuke Maruyama, India’s Shiv Kapur, Australia’s Darren Beck and Rick Kulacz, Malaysia’s Danny Chia and South African Peter Karmis, winner of the ISPS Handa Singapore Classic in 2010.

The 44-year-old Mardan, Singapore’s most successful golfer on the Asian Tour, has certainly enjoyed a month to remember. He ended a six-year winless run with a convincing victory at the ICTSI Philippine Open in February and then celebrated a return to the world’s oldest Major by securing the fourth and final ticket to the British Open by winning a play-off against countryman Lam Chih Bing and American Jonathan Moore in Thailand.

“It has been a sensational few weeks for me. I can’t believe I made it to The Open,” said Mardan.

Mardan expressed his relief at ending his title drought, saying it was getting harder to win on the Asian Tour. But with his game in good form, he will be aiming to contend again in Cambodia. “I think the standard of playing on the Asian Tour is getting higher and higher every year. If you’re not at your peak, it’s hard to win a tournament. It may be tough to even maintain your position in the top-60,” said the veteran Singaporean.

“The Asian Tour has given me the experience to play on a Tour where all the best golfers compete. The Asian Tour is the right platform for Asian players to improve their game. This is what the Asian players need.”

Prayad will be tipped to challenge for his seventh career victory on the Asian Tour, if his final round 64 at the British Open qualifying is any yard stick. A new driver in his bag saw him soar to his fifth Open appearance.

Countryman Prom will also be eager to return to winning ways soon after his lone victory in the 2006 SK Telecom Open in Korea. He was in the top-10 at the co-sanctioned Avantha Masters in India before losing in a play-off to Anirban Lahiri of India at the SAIL-SBI Open, also held in India.

Faldo, a six-time Major champion and former world number one, will grace the event and play in the Pro-am in Phnom Penh on March 18, Sunday.