Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia will attempt to end their season on a high this week when taking on some of the Asian Tour’s finest at the Iskandar Johor Open.
It has already proved a season of comebacks for both players with Els lifting his first major title for a decade at the Open and Garcia winning on the PGA Tour for the first time in four years, as well as helping Europe clinch the Ryder Cup.
While both admit an Asian Tour victory would do little to top what has already come before it in 2012, the duo - playing together for the opening two rounds - intend to enjoy their first-ever experience of Horizon Golf & Country Club.
“This is one of the fastest growing tournaments in Asia and it’s fun to be here,” said Els, who is returning to action from a two-week break back home in Florida.
“Anyone who knows me knows that I always look forward to teeing up somewhere new.
“I felt like I shock off a bit of rust in my swing back home, so hopefully my game will be sharp enough to put on a goof show here.”
Garcia was similarly confident with where his game stood following a fourth place at the Thailand Golf Championship last week.
“Like Ernie, this is my first time to the course but also my first time in Malaysia and Johor.
“I got to look at the course yesterday and was impressed. It’s just a shame there’s been so much rain.
“But I’ve come off a good week in Thailand and a solid year, so I am looking forward to hopefully putting on a good show and going for the win.”
Els and Garcia will be joined for the opening two rounds by highly-rated Malaysian amateur Gavin Kyle Green. The 18-year-old, who is playing on a sponsor’s invitation at Horizon Hills Golf & Country Club, is one of the most talked-about amateurs in Malaysia having won countless titles in his country, on top of becoming the first local in 15 years to win the Malaysian Amateur Open.
Green, who is now studying at the University of New Mexico where he’s a member of the college team, said: “I’m so excited, this is the biggest moment of my career.
“I’m not feeling nervous yet but it might be different when the time comes. I’ll just need to concentrate on my own game.”
Marking the final event of the Asian Tour season, current leader Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand will be aiming to fend off the challenges from the likes of Australian Marcus Fraser, currently second on the Order of Merit, South African Jbe Kruger and Indian Gaganjeet Bhullar, who all have a mathematical chance to become Asia’s number one.
Iskandar Johor Open
Horizon Golf & Country Club, Johor Bahru
Thursday December 13 to Sunday December 16
Par-71; 6,857 yards
Lowest score: -20 (Padraig Harrington 2010)
Most wins: 1 (Artemio Murakami 2007, Retief Goosen 2008, KJ Choi 2009, Padraig Harrington 2010, Joost Luiten 2011)
Did you know
The event was first held in 2007 when it was played at the Royal Johor Country Club in Johor Bahru, but it was added to the European Tour in 2011 where the purse increased from $1.25m to $2m.
Both players might be competing on a new course but given their superior world ranking and experience compared to this week’s field, this event is a shootout between Garcia at 4/1 and Els at 6/1, with preference for the former given his performance last week. A tempting each way shout is a resurgent Michael Campbell at 25s. Visit 888sport.com for more prices.
Thursday: Sky Sports 2 from 10.30am
Friday: Sky Sports 2 from 10.30am
Saturday: Sky Sports 4 from 5am
Sunday: Sky Sports 4 from 5am
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