Photo - Asian Tour
ELS TARGETS VICTORY AT CIMB ASIA PACIFIC CLASSIC, MALAYSIA
Kuala Lumpur: An upbeat Ernie Els of South Africa hopes to cash in on the inaugural US$6 million CIMB Asia Pacific Classic, Malaysia starting on Thursday as he chases a third Tour victory of the year.
The three-time Major winner, nicknamed the ‘Big Easy’ for his cool demeanor and effortless golf swing, is one of the top picks at the spectacular Mines Resort and Golf Club alongside Australian Adam Scott, Ryder Cup stars Luke Donald of England and American Rickie Fowler.
Korean teen titan Noh Seung-yul, the current Asian Tour Order of Merit leader, will spearhead the region’s challenge alongside reigning number one Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand in the 40-man tournament which is sanctioned by the Asian Tour and PGA Tour, the first such collaboration between both tours.
Els is feeling excited with his second visit to Malaysia, saying his one-shot victory at the four-man PGA Grand Slam of Golf in Bermuda last week put him back on the right track after back-to-back titles in America earlier in the season.
“After last week's win, I’m coming in here feeling good about my game,” said Els, currently ranked 11th in the world.
“Like everybody in the field, we’re excited to be here. We have a great sponsor (CIMB Group) who have signed up the tournament for six years. It is a wonderful thing for the tournament. It gives it longevity and you can really build on it now. I like to play good.”
Els was delighted with his new driver in the bag last week and also pleased to find his touch on the greens. “It felt great and I was definitely getting it out there a long way. I'm expecting to drive the ball very well again this week.
“And I've got some positive putting vibes from last week's back-nine performance on the greens,” said Els, who has amassed over 65 tournament victories around the world.
Scott, who has won titles in China and Singapore previously, will be aiming to add the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic, Malaysia onto his collection in his first visit to Malaysia.
After a poor couple of seasons, the dashing Australian claimed victory at the Texas Open this year and has finished top-10 in three of his last six starts in America.
“I’m enjoying it very much as I always do in Asia. The course is very impressive. It’s in fabulous condition and it’ll prove to be a challenge to everyone,” said Scott.
“I would like to keep the good vibe going here in Malaysia. I love playing up here and I’ve had some success. I feel very welcomed in Asia and the people are always so nice. I love to win this week.”
Scott believes his game is back on the upswing after a few seasons in the lull. “At the end of last year, I started swinging the club better and had some good results and built some good momentum from there and I’ve won a couple of events. I’m fairly pleased with where my game is at. It’s still a work in progress but I can see there is a lot of room for improvement which is good,” said Scott.
The 21-year-old Fowler, who made an impressive Ryder Cup debut highlighted by his come-from-behind halve point in the singles with Edoardo Molinari, represents the new and exciting breed of young Americans hitting the global stage.
He was happy to fly halfway around the world in his bid to land the US$1 million top prize. “The game feels good and I’m excited to be here. I think the toughest part was getting here with a lot of flying,” said Fowler, who has registered eight top-10s this season.
“This is my first time in Asia as a professional. It is great that we are coming over here and I love to travel and seeing different parts of the world. I’m excited to be here especially since this is a first-time event and being part of a small field. I think it is going to big movement for us and I look forward to a fun and good week.”