Danny Chia of Malaysia will rely on accuracy over power when he defends his title at the US$800,000 Mercuries Taiwan Masters which starts on Thursday.
The 43-year-old Chia hopes for a repeat success but he will face a strong challenge from man of the moment and home favourite Chan Shih-chang, who won his second Asian Tour title in 2016 on Sunday.
Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand, a two-time Asian Tour number one, local stalwart Lin Wen-tang, winner of the Mercuries Taiwan Masters in 2009, and Miguel Tabuena of the Philippines will also feature at the Taiwan Golf and Country Club.
Chia overcame an intense final three holes to end a 13-year title drought last year and he hopes to draw confidence from his battling performance and overcome a poor run of form.
After making only three cuts in 11 appearances, the Malaysian is determined to rise to the occasion and make it a truly memorable year where he also represented Malaysia in the Olympics last month.
“The last three holes were nerve-wracking for me (on last year’s victory). I had a few four or five footer putts to hole and the intensity was tremendous. I never felt that much of tension or pressure on my shoulders before!” said Chia, a two-time Asian Tour winner.
“I feel good playing on this course. It is a shot-making golf course and not a power over control type of course. I think it is an advantage for me because I don’t hit it as long as I use to. I’m more in the ball control category now.”
“We always try to improve so even though I was playing quite well early in the year, I’m always finding ways to get better. And when you make changes, your game tends to go down for a while. I’m sure I’ll get back on track soon,” said Chia.
Last year’s victory was a big turning point for Chia as he qualified for the CIMB Classic in Malaysia and WGC-HSBC Champions in China on his own merit. He is hoping for a similar fate this year.
“I always want to play my best golf regardless of the qualifying dates for CIMB Classic or WGC-HSBC Champions. If I play my best golf, things will come automatically without me having to worry about it. That’s always my philosophy,” added the Malaysian.
Ranked fourth on the Order of Merit, the in-form Chan is the highest ranked player in the elite field this week and he will be one of the hot favourites to contend at the Mercuries Taiwan Masters which is celebration its 30th edition.
“If you told me earlier in the year that I would win two Asian Tour events in 2016, I would say ‘why not’? I’m very confident and happy with how I’ve been playing,” said Chan, who rose through the Asian Development Tour (ADT) ranks.
“Mentally, I’m very strong and my putting is better as compared to last year. My putter is on fire at the moment so I hope I can continue. It is a good time to be in top form. There are a lot of big events coming up so it will be nice to carry on the momentum,” he added.
Rashid Khan of India, who finished tied third in last year’s edition, will be sweating over his fitness after injuring his wrist and falling sick before the start of the Mercuries Taiwan Masters.
“It is disappointing because every time I start to play well, I seem to injure myself. When Queen’s Cup was about to happen I had a motorcycle accident. Now I have a fever and a wrist injury after falling down in front of the hotel. I think my wrist is feeling okay but I’m worried about my fever. That’s my main concern now,” said Khan.
“I’m putting a lot of ice on my wrist and it is way better now. If you are not fit, you can’t play in all the big Asian Tour events that are coming up. I’m not going to play in the pro-am today. I’m going back to rest and hopefully recover,” added the two-time Asian Tour winner.