Experience will play a major part for Maybank ambassadors Danny Chia and Shaaban Hussin, as they once again spearhead the domestic challenge at the 51st edition of the National Open, which begins Thursday.
The duo, who have been mainstays of the event over the last decade, will lead a 22-strong Malaysian line-up, including six amateurs with some of the golfing world’s biggest stars as well as the best players from both the European and Asian Tours for the US$2.5 million co-sanctioned tournament.
Other than Chia and Shaaban, the domestic stars in action include PGM Tour 2011 Order of Merit winner R. Nachimuthu, Md Rashid Ismail, M. Sasidaran, S. Murthy and Airil Rizman Zahari, Nicholas Fung, Sukree Othman, S. Sivachandhran and Ben Leong.
The starting amateurs include five national players namely Chan Tuck Soon, Muhd Afif Mohd Razif, Low Khai Jei, Abel Tam and US-based amateur Muhammad Arie Irawan Ahmad Fauzi as well as wildcard George Wee.
Over the years, Chia who has carried Malaysia’s hopes of winning the Open, expressed his intent of going one step better this year. "The Maybank Malaysian Open is the tournament that I want to most play well in and I'm glad that I'm coming into this event relatively pain-free," said the 40-year-old Chia, who struggled with a back problem throughout last year.
"My preparation dates back to the conclusion of the tournament last year. I noticed some shortcomings about my game and got down to rectifying them early on. Since the start of the year, I've also been selective with my tournament commitments to allow my body to recover and keep me fresh and focused to do well this week," he added.
While admitting that the pressure will be on him to perform, Chia remains undaunted about playing in front of the large local galleries. "The pressure is always on. Sometimes, you need to play under pressure because it's meaningless to play otherwise. It's a matter of how I control myself under the spotlight. I really want to play well but I have to try not to be on the other side, which is giving myself; way too much pressure that I can handle”.
"Of course, my hopes are still up, I've never let it go. I'm still hoping to be the first Malaysian to lift the Seagram trophy or that one of my compatriots could achieve that feat," he shared.
On the key to success at the challenging West Course, Chia said, "Solid ball striking with my irons is going to be crucial on this golf course but end of the day, I think it comes down to putting . I was happy with the way I putted here last year except for the last five holes on the closing day, which could have seen me achieve a better result. I have had my ups-and-down at this tournament. It's always been the consistency that I'm gunning for, put together four good rounds and create a chance for myself to achieve a result I can be proud of," concluded Chia, who finished tied-41 last year.
Shaaban, on the other hand, is coming into form just at the right time with two good performances in recent weeks, notably a second placing at the domestic PGM Clearwater Classic on and a tied-13th finish in the Asian Tour's ISPS Handa Singapore Classic last week, where he led the tournament after 36 holes.
"I'm definitely coming into the tournament feeling much confident about my game. I thought too much about winning on Sunday and that put too much of pressure on myself. I guess it rattled my momentum and I struggled in the end," said the 33-year-old.
Having multiple Malaysian Open starts to his name since his amateur days, Shaaban understands the need to be focused if he is to advance in the competition.
"This week, I intend to be more cautious in my approach. I feel I can do better but I don't want to put unnecessary pressure on myself and treat this week as just as another tournament. No doubt it's our National Open and many of my friends and supporters will be in attendance but I don't want to think about that." added a jovial Shaaban, who jokingly added that he was targeting nothing less than the championship.
Twenty-year-old Tam of Johor, is hoping to get it right as he makes his second appearance at the National Open. "This is not my first Maybank Malaysian Open, so I'm quietly confident that I know what needs to be done on this golf course. I am definitely excited to be part of the Malaysian line-up this week and while I like to keep my expectations low, I want to prove my best," he shared.
Chan, who was the best placed amateur last year, despite missing the weekend play by two strokes was delighted to be once again selected to play the tournament. "I am buzzing with excitement and look forward to teeing-off the tournament alongside Alvaro Quiros. I like to express my gratitude to the Malaysian Golf Association, for having the faith and trust in me to take up this challenge and I would like to minimise my errors and make the halfway cut this time."
Having missed out on previous editions of the tournament due to his collegiate commitment, Arie is raring to have his bite of the Maybank Malaysian Open. "I'm definitely delighted to have the opportunity to start at this prestigious event. The goal this week is to play my best, whether its making the cut, contending come Sunday or even winning, I will consider it a good job done,” said the University of Tulsa senior.
A star-studded field is expected at this year’s Maybank Malaysian Open, with the Malaysian professionals competing with some of the world’s best players for the championship title. With a prize purse of USD 2.5 million up on offer, spectators can expect an exciting tournamentl.
For more information on the Maybank Malaysian Open 2012, log on to www.maybankmalaysianopen.com.