Asian Tour number ones ready to shine at Maybank Malaysian Open

Kuala Lumpur: The kingpins of the Asian Tour, led by former Order of Merit champions Thongchai Jaidee, Jeev Milkha Singh and Liang Wen-chong, will lead a star-studded Asian line-up at the Maybank Malaysian Open next week.

Thai strongman Thongchai, who has won two Malaysian Open titles, Indian star Jeev and Liang of China have won a combined total of six Order of Merit crowns and will chase for more honours at the US$2.5 million event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour.

Along with current Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Jbe Kruger of South Africa, they will contend with more than 40 other Asian Tour champions who will assemble at the majestic Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club from April 12-15.

Five Major champions including South Africans Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen and Martin Kaymer of Germany will also feature in the prestigious event where Italian Matteo Manassero will defend his title.

The Maybank Malaysian Open has been a happy hunting ground for Asian Tour members over the past decade where they have won the tournament nine times since becoming a co-sanctioned event in 1999.

Among those who have lifted the Seagram Trophy, which is awarded to the champion of the Maybank Malaysian Open, include Chinese Taipei’s Yeh Wei-tze in 2000, Charlie Wi of Korea in 2006 and Noh Seung-yul of Korea, the 2010 champion.

Korean-American Anthony Kang, who has plied his trade with great success on the Asian Tour since 1998, was also victorious in the 2009 edition where he ended an eight-year title drought.

However it is Thongchai who has one of the best track records in the Maybank Malaysian Open where he won back-to-back titles in 2004 and 2005. He also finished second in the 2006 edition at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.

“I’ve always enjoyed playing in Malaysia. Malaysia feels like a second home to me and I always receive a warm welcome here. It is one of my favourite tournaments,” said Thongchai, a 13-time Asian Tour winner.

Singh, a two-time Asian number one in 2006 and 2008, will be determined to add the Maybank Malaysian Open title to his impressive resume where he has won six Asian Tour titles and has claimed victories in Europe and Japan.

“I do feel I have many more years left and I’m going to do much better (than 2006 and 2008 where he won four times each year). I have a lot of golf left in me. I’ve felt the best in the last four years. That’s why I’m making the statement that I’m looking forward to my years ahead. I feel I can play till the age of 50,” said Singh, who turns 40 in December.

Siddikur of Bangladesh, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Prayad Marksaeng of Thailand, Tetsuji Hiratsuka of Japan, Mardan Mamat of Singapore and Lu Wei-chih of Chinese Taipei, who have won a combined 18 Asian Tour titles, will also feature in the Maybank Malaysian Open.

This season’s winners, David Lipsky of the United States, Indian duo Anirban Lahiri and Digvijay Singh and Australia’s Kieran Pratt will also compete next week with the aim of winning their second titles of the year.