PGA Tour tees off for 1st time in Southeast Asia

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PGA Tour tees off for 1st time in Southeast Asia

KUALA LUMPUR - The PGA Tour hosts its first-ever tournament in Southeast Asia this week, with the world’s top players vying for $6 million in prize money.

The lucrative purse at Kuala Lumpur’s Mines Resort and Golf Club has attracted many Americans who don’t usually travel abroad, including rising star Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson, John Senden, Heath Slocum and Ryan Moore.

But the field is also studded with top internationals, led by Ernie Els, Robert Allenby, Luke Donald, Choi Kyung-joo and Retief Goosen.

With only the top 25 from the PGA Tour’s FedExCup standings eligible, along with the top 10 players from the Asian Tour and five sponsor exemptions, there will be no halfway cut with all 40 golfers teeing off each day.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said it was the right time to co-sanction an event with the Asian Tour in the booming region.

“With such tremendous growth for golf in the region, the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic provides an exciting presence for the PGA Tour in Malaysia and Southeast Asia,” he said.

“It also presents a unique opportunity for our members to compete against the leading professionals from the region at an outstanding facility.”

Coming off an encouraging win in Bermuda last week, Els is in form and relishing the challenge of playing in Malaysia, a country he has never visited before.

“After last week’s win in the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, I’m coming in here feeling good about my game,” the big South African said on his Web site, adding that he has a new driver that is helping enormously.

“And I’ve got some positive putting vibes from last week’s back-nine performance on the greens.

“In the practice rounds leading up to Thursday’s first round I’ll be working on exactly the same things.

“The key was I felt very comfortable over the ball and was striking my putts sweet and with good pace, a nice combination.”

Like Els, Slocum is another form man having won the inaugural McGladrey Classic at St. Simons Island this month. Also peaking is Scotland’s Martin Laird, who was only beaten at the Shriners Hospital Open title on Sunday when Jonathan Byrd fired a hole-in-one at the fourth playoff hole.

This week’s tournament, which attracts world ranking points, gives Asian players an opportunity to test their mettle against their U.S. counterparts and Korea’s teenage sensation, Noh Seung-yul.

Noh will showcase his talent alongside Thai stalwarts Thongchai Jaidee and Thaworn Wiratchant, Singapore’s Mardan Mamat and Australians Marcus Fraser and Andrew Dodt.

Noh could be a dark horse in Kuala Lumpur, having won the European Tour-sanctioned Malaysian Open this year and then finishing runner-up at the recent Iskandar Johor Open, also in Malaysia.

“I have won here in March and also finished second in the Iskandar Johor Open last week.

“Hopefully, I can compete well again and maybe finish in the top three at the Mines,” said Noh.

Asia’s first Major winner Yang Yong-eun and Australian favorite Adam Scott are also playing.

The Asian Tour’s executive chairman, Kyi Hla Han, said having a PGA Tour event in Southeast Asia is a positive reflection on the region’s standard of golf.

“The CIMB Asia Pacific Classic will present our players with a good opportunity to compete against players from the PGA Tour,” he said.

The tournament will be played on a course lengthened to 6,370 meters (6,966 yards) to make it more competitive and accommodate PGA Tour requirements.

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