Thursday March 21, 2013
Schwartzel returns and hopes to finally land elusive title
By S. RAMAGURU and RAJES PAUL
MAYBANK MALAYSIAN OPEN
SOUTH Africa’s Major winner Charl Schwartzel hopes to be third time lucky when he tees off in the Maybank Malaysian Open at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club (KLGCC) today.
The 2011 US Masters champion made his Malaysian Open debut in 2011 and came back last year for the same meet but could only manage a sixth placed finish.
“I have been here a few times and I love the courses here as they are very challenging. But I have yet to win here and hope it will change this weekend,” said Schwartzel.
“I like to move around to different courses.
“That is why I take the opportunity to play in different parts of the world and I believe that it helps me to improve my game.”
Schwartzel has three top 10 results, albeit without a victory, this season.
“I am confident of my game and I do not think that not having won a title this season is a reflection of my readiness for the challenge here. I know my game quite well and I believe that it is good enough to be competitive here.
“I think it is more about what you can do and also I know how well I can play given the recent form I have had. So I believe I will be able to challenge the top stars here,” he said.
He, however, finished 2012 with a flourish.
Schwartzel won the Thailand Championship in early December for his first victory since his 2011 Masters win. It was also Schwartzel’s first win on the Asian Tour as he cruised to an 11 stroke victory.
The following week he won the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa.
Yesterday, Schwartzel paired up with Her Majesty, Tuanku Hajah Haminah Hamidun, in the pro-am event.
“Her Majesty is a fantastic lady and we had a great time. She’s a good player. The golf course is pretty long for her but she hits it nicely. She was very friendly and we had some fun,” said Schwartzel.
Besides Schwartzel, the other Major winner in the fray is Ireland’s Padraig Harrington. Former world No. 1 Luke Donald, 2010 winner Matteo Manassero and former Asian Order of Merit winner Thongchai Jaidee, a two time winner here, are also in the mix for the title.
Harrington is a three-time Major champion and will be playing wearing his new eyeglasses which, hopefully, give him a clear vision of the Seagram trophy which is awarded to the champion.
Harrington has a good record in Malaysia having won the 2010 Iskandar Johor Open and finished tied 13th in the 2006 Maybank Malaysian Open which was also staged at the KLGCC.
He was also runner-up behind Vijay Singh of Fiji in 2001.
But all eyes will be on debutant Luke Donald the former 2011 world No. 1.
Donald has never won a Major but with the US Masters looming next month, it is a chance to put in same useful preparation for the Augusta biggie.
Asian Tour players also have a good chance to win the Open. Thailand’s Thongchai has won it twice and India’s Gaganajeet Bhullar, Taiwan’s Liang Wen-chong and 2012 Order of Merit winner Thaworn Wirantchant are among the contenders.
Thaworn, the reigning Asian Tour Order of Merit champion, is ranked 81st in the world and has a wealth of experience playing in Malaysia.
His best result in the Malaysian Open was joint-eighth in 2004.
His success on the Asian Tour last year also earned him a special invite to the US Masters in April and one cannot rule out his chances.