Monday, April 11, 2011

Can Danny finally end Malaysian misery?

Pic: Danny Chia

DANNY Chia is no stranger to the Maybank Malaysian Open, and has seen his name at the leader-board on two occasions, only to falter after the cut-off.
And he is eager to prove himself again, when he tees off at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club (KLGCC) alongside 21 other Malaysian hopefuls.
The fact that no Malaysian has won this national cham pionship since 1962, has made him more determined.
“I came close in 2008 and 2009, only to crumble under pressure. However, I have taken it as a learning curve, and as always, will aim to make an impression at the KLGCC,” said Chia.
He has had a lousy start this season, as he was bogged down by a wrist injury, but he has amassed over US$600,000 in The Asian Tour since 2004, He was also the first Malaysian to win on the Tour, when he triumphed in the 2002 Taiwan Open.
Chia was in contention in the Maybank Malaysian Open in 2008, and was the halfway leader in the 2009 edition before finishing in tied 11th.
“I have recovered from the injury, well almost 90 per cent, and after playing a round this morning (yesterday), I feel the greens at KLGCC are much better than last year.
“The greens have matured, unlike last year when the course was newly refurbished, and I believe it is going to be a better Open for me as well as the other Malaysians,” said Chia.
Among the other local hopefuls are Iain Steel, Ben Leong, Shaaban Hussin and S. Siva Chandhran.
While Chia currently sits in 64th place on the Asian Tour career earnings, his compatriot Iain Steel lies as the highest ranking Malaysian in 57th place with earnings of US$664,246.
Steel holds the distinction as the first golfer from the country to play in the British Open and is highly regarded as the most consistent golfer on the Asian Tour where he has kept his Tour card since 2006.
An elusive Asian Tour title continues to elude Steel, whose father is Scottish, but it would be a fitting occasion should he win the elusive Seagram Trophy next week.
On the other side of the spectrum, Ben Leong will be eager to make his first cut in the Malaysian Open after five attempts.
The young Malaysian was victorious in the 2008 Worldwide Holdings Selangor Masters, which saw him beat Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand in an epic duel and he has gone on to enjoy fruitful results on the Asian tour.
However, with the world No 1 Martin Kaymer of Germany and newly crowned Masters champion South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel also on the same course, it will be a mammoth task for a Malaysian to sweep the elusive title.

Augusta hero Schwartzel set for Malaysia date

SOUTH Africa’s Charl Schwartzel, the newly crowned Masters champion, will be among the draw-card for the Maybank Malaysian Open starting on Thursday at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.
The others with hot putters are world No 1 Martin Kaymer of Germany, Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa and Rory McIlroy of Ireland.
Schwartzel beat a field of renowned golfers including Tiger Woods of the US and Lee Westwood of England, at Augusta National.
He birdied the last four-holes at Augusta and shot 66 for a 14-under-par 274, winning two shots over Australian’s Adam Scott and Jason Day.
His four-shot final round winning comeback is the largest at the Masters Tournament since Sir Nick Faldo overcame a six-shot deficit to beat Greg Norman in 1996.
This is also Schwartzel’s first Major title and he became the third South African to don the green jacket following Gary Player and Trevor Immelman.
McIlroy displayed a stunning round of golf at the Masters but a triple bogey on the final round forced the 21-year-old to give up his three-day lead.
The 50th edition of the Maybank Malaysian Open will see a dazzling display of golf as Malaysian professionals compete with some of the world’s best players for the USD 2.5 million purse.

Peter Thomson at KLGCC

FIVE-TIME British Open champion Peter Thomson, who played in the Inaugural Malayan Open in 1962, yesterday made his presence felt at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.
Back then, Thomson competed in the Malayan Open Golf Championship which attracted a strong field of 76 pro fessionals including 1963 British Open champion Bob Charles, Taiwanese Hsieh Yung Yo and Japan’s Hideyo Sugimoto.
“It’s quite an impressive line-up at the 50th Malaysian Open this year.
“With Charl Schwartzel coming off the Masters at Augusta and the line-up is definitely a strong one. There are 22 local professionals playing, that is more than what you would normally get back in those days,” said Thomson.
The 81-year old shared a joke or two with members of the media while reminiscing about his Open wins by adding, “The third time I won the Open, I went down to the car dealership because I really wanted a Jaguar but they said I didn’t have enough money. So that just meant I had to go back out and win another Open.”
Shaaban Hussin, also a Maybank ambassador, is looking forward to the tough challenges that will present itself at the Malaysian Open. Aside from that, Shaaban is hoping he will get his chance to play alongside his idol, Rory McIlroy.
“I have to step up my game if I want to play alongside the greats. But whatever it is, I’m not too nervous about the Malaysian Open because I won’t be the sole Malaysian representative. I just need to adjust my game to the greens because it’s fast, long and tough.”