Kuala Lumpur: Masters champion Charl Schwartzel will be hoping to turn green to gold as he bids for a second straight victory at the US$2.5 million Maybank Malaysian Open starting on Thursday.
The super-charged South African is still on an emotional high after lifting his first Major title at Augusta National in thrilling fashion on Sunday, which rewards the champion with a green jacket.
Malaysia’s national Open is celebrating its golden anniversary with its 50th edition this week and a star-studded cast which include reigning Major champions, British Open winner Louis Oosthuizen, PGA Championship holder and world number one Martin Kaymer and world number nine Rory McIlroy has assembled at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.
Title holder Noh Seung-yul will lead the Asian Tour’s challenge alongside established stars Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand and Indian stalwart Jeev Milkha Singh, both former Asian number ones. Recent winners S.S.P. Chowrasia of India, who leads the Order of Merit, countryman Anirban Lahiri and big-hitting Thai Kiradech Aphibarnrat are tipped to contend.
Schwartzel, ranked 11th in the world, arrived in the Malaysian capital early Wednesday after an arduous 20-hour journey but he was upbeat of his chances ahead of the Maybank Malaysian Open.
“I think this is the strongest field the Maybank Malaysian Open has had. I’m looking forward to this week. Whenever I enter a golf tournament I try to play my best and see if I can win this one as well,” said the 26-year-old.
“By winning the Masters, you feel like you can win anything. It gives you a lot of confidence. You’re on such a high and you feel you can win anything,” he added.
Schwartzel arrived without his golf clubs although the green jacket was safely tucked in his luggage. He knows he must quickly overcome fatigue and jetlag to contend in Malaysia.
“Right now as I’m sitting here, I don’t know if it is morning or night. We’ve had a 12 hour time change and a 24 hour flight. I’m a bit disappointed my clubs didn’t arrive. I’d like to hit some balls but I’m still looking forward to this week,” said Schwartzel.
Despite missing the cut at the Masters Tournament, Kaymer is focused on the Maybank Malaysian Open where he will be gunning for his 10th European Tour title.
“People have to realize that I’m not a machine, not a robot. I have bad days as well,” said Kaymer. “But I’m thinking about the Maybank Malaysian Open and that’s important to me,” added the amiable German, who took over the reigns of world number one since February.
McIlroy is determined to put last week’s Masters Tournament behind him where he led for 63 holes before unravelling on the back nine for an eventual 80. Arriving on the same flight with Schwartzel, the mop-haired Irish star was ready to bounce back.
“I’ve got a 1pm tee time so hopefully I’ll come here mid-morning and practice. My caddie has walked the course and I hope to get the rhythm and tempo going. Playing the course blind is never a bad thing. You don’t know where trouble is so you get to play more aggressively and fearlessly,” said the 21-year-old.
He said last week’s bitter experience will make him a better player. “The one thing I’ve learned is that I need more experience of playing with a lead and not to do anything differently on the last day. I lost control after my first bad shot and couldn’t get myself back in the tournament. I won’t let that happen again,” said McIlroy, who is touted as a future world number one.
The power-packed Oosthuizen, featured in the Maybank Malaysian Open in 2009 and will be determined to improve on his tied seventh placing then. “I think it is going to take me until Saturday to get over the jetlag but I had a good round this morning and the course looks really good,” said Oosthuizen.
He hopes to get his putter on fire as he aims to win his fourth European Tour title this week. “I’ve been working on a few things on my game especially my putting. I’m trying to get it to be more consistent and to how good it was in the middle of last year,” he said.
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