Atwal leads strong Indian challenge at Malaysian Open

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

KUALA LUMPUR - Arjun Atwal will lead one of the strongest Indian challenges in a co-sanctioned event at the Maybank Malaysian Open title starting Thursday.

Atwal, winner at Malaysian Open in 2003 and 2008, will be looking forward to adding a third Malaysian Open to his kitty of titles.

The event co-sanctioned by European and Asian Tours will have as many as 10 Indians, signalling the growing strength of Indian golf in the region and world. This total does not include Jeev Milkha Singh, who is playing on the US Tour.

Besides Atwal, there will be Jyoti Randhawa, Chinnaswamy Muniyappa and Gaganjeet Bhullar, all of whom won once each on Asian tour in 2009. The Indian contingent also includes past Asian tour winners in S.S.P. Chowrasia, who won a co-sanctioned event in 2008, Shiv Kapur and Rahil Gangjee, Anirban Lahiri, Himmat Rai and Digvijay Singh.

“I always feel good coming to Malaysia. This is where I have won twice, so it gives me a lot of confidence when I tee up here,” said Atwal, who won the event at Kota Permai and Mines Resort courses in the past. With the event now being held at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club (KLGCC), it will be a great win for Atwal, should he manage that again.

Also looking for a third title in Malaysian Open is Thai star Thongchai Jaidee who is hoping to carry his rich vein of form. The reigning Asian Tour number one is relishing a return to the $2 million tournament which shot him to fame with victories in 2004 and 2005 and he will chase a third victory against defending champion Anthony Kang of the US, Asian Tour honorary member K.J. Choi of Korea, Australian Andrew Dodt and former Ryder Cup star Darren Clarke of Ireland at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.

Thongchai is enjoying a stellar start to his season where he currently ranks 44th in the world courtesy a third place finish in Dubai and a superb quarter-final appearance at the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship.

The 12-time winner knows victory at the tournament sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour is within his reach as he had finished runner-up in the 2006 edition when KLGCC hosted the event.

He credited a new putting device for helping him enjoy a fast start to the 2010 season.

Thongchai labelled the newly refurbished KLGCC as the best course in Malaysia.

A rejuvenated Clarke, who has been playing in the Malaysian Open since the mid-1990s, hopes to continue his impressive start to the season where he recorded top 10 finishes in India and Africa. However, he is not taking the strong Asian Tour line-up lightly.

“I think the standard of Asian players has improved dramatically. The quality is getting better and better, as have the courses. When you come to a golf course like this one this week you realise how much the standards have risen in Asia,” said Clarke.

Last year’s European Tour rookie of the year, Chris Wood of England, knows he will need to adapt to the humid weather if he wants to be in contention.

Filed under: Golf

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