The Maybank Championship in Malaysia was played for the first time last year at the Royal Selangor Golf Club in Kuala Lumpur. The tournament’s first winner was Australian Marcus Fraser. This year the 2017 Maybank Championship will be played at the Saujana Golf and Country Club on the Palm Course which has recently been refurbished and lengthened to accommodate the event.
Although Saujana Golf and Country Club may not have the same aura associated with as some of the courses that have featured on the European Tour in recent weeks, the Palms course is nicknamed “the cobra” for a reason. The course has just recently been lengthened in order to accommodate for modern tournaments and following such amendments has reaffirmed its reputation as one of the hardest courses in the world. The course weaves its way through a palm tree plantation and boasts undulating fairways and a number of ravines that drop off very steeply so a player’s ability to keep the ball on the short stuff this week is going to be important.
On the 18th – 21st of February 2016, the first Maybank Championship was held at Royal Selangor Golf Club and featured some of golf’s biggest names. The field included the likes of Martin Kaymer, Robert Rock, Tommy Fleetwood, Louis Oosthuizen and the tournament’s eventual winner Marcus Fraser. The big Australian gave what many people called a short game masterclass in his victory last year after he shot a brilliant final round 68 to eventually win the tournament by 2 shots. Marcus Fraser was 2 shots behind standing on the 6 tee and spurred on by Soomin Lee’s double bogey, Fraser nearly chipped and went into the 17th just one shot off the lead. Fraser grabbed a share of the lead on the 17th when he kept his cool and sunk a testing 10 foot putt. Standing on the 18th tee both players were probably thinking ‘birdie to win’ but in fact Fraser only required par after his playing partner made another double bogey. Upon winning his third European Tour event, the Australian earned the highest prize purse of his career and passed the $6 million mark in terms of overall career earnings.
Coming off the back of the recent desert swing in the Middle East which always attracts the biggest names in golf, at first glance you could be mistaken for thinking that this week’s field in Malaysia is lacking a big name or two. But you would of course be wrong. Despite their being no Tiger Woods to write the headlines this week, there are plenty of other stars on show in Malaysia who will all be vying for a share of the $3 million prize purse.
The tournament showcases the likes of current Master’s Champion Danny Willett who will be looking to get a run of strong performances under his belt before he returns to Augusta in April. Charl Schwartzel makes it 2 green jacket winners in Malaysia this week as he goes in search of his first ever win on Asian soil. Returning champion Marcus Fraser also features and has been fairly quiet since his victory last year. The field also contains Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello who has been on hot run of form having qualified for the Ryder Cup at the end of last year and coming 6th in Qatar a couple of weeks back.
|Pundit’s Name||Winning Picks||Top 10s||11 – 20|
Nicholas Goldie (YGT) – Peter Uihlein (33/1)
He’s been showing some good form this season with 2 Top 10s already, including finishing tied 5th last week in Dubai, so I can see Uihlein crossing the finish line this week. Added to this, last year he finished in the Top 10 at the Maybank as well as 4th in the Thailand Classic so he’s a good bet for when the Tour heads to Asia. My slight concern is that he hasn’t won since 2013 so he could just be a consistent player on the leader-board but not in contention, however, from what I’ve seen to the start of this season I think his 2nd win on the European Tour is just around the corner.
Nick Martin (YGT) – Lee Westwood (18/1)
Freddie Pestana (YGT) – Jeung-Hun Wang (20/1)
Jeung-Hun Wang has had a incredible start to the season with a T-11 in Abu Dhabi and a brilliant win at the Qatar Masters which to top off what was overall a very good desert swing for the young Korean. Currently ranked 2nd in the Race to Dubai, Wang has been a hot run of form and with one of his two previous European Tour victories coming on Asian soil he is used to the humid conditions and knows how to come out on top.
Rory Anderson (YGT) – Lee Westwood (18/1)
Names like Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Charl Schwartzel and Bernd Wiesberger certainly catch the eye when it comes to picking a winner in Malaysia but at 18/1, I’ll be plumping for YGT’s very own Lee Westwood. Westy played pretty solidly during the Middle East Swing and his previus performances in Malaysia and across Asia make him impossible to ignore. While hosted at a different course to this year’s tournament, Lee strolled to a casual 7 shot win in the 2014 Malaysian Open, and also won on this course in 1997 before the event was co-sanctioned by the European Tour. Although Marcus Fraser’s win in 2016 was a shot out of the blue, the marquee names in each year’s field have tended to dominate this event, with recent winners including the likes of Anirban Lahiri, Lee, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Louis Oosthuizen. I’m hoping Lee continues that trend to grab his first win since his 2014 Malaysian masterclass.
Oliver Gunning (YGT) – Rafa Cabrera-Bello (12/1)
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