Malaysia’s Gavin Green believes the comforts of home will give him the opportunity to put up a performance befitting of his status as the country’s number one golfer when the Maybank Championship starts on Thursday.
Green, who has been plying his trade mainly in Europe since claiming the 2017 Asian Tour Order of Merit crown, is playing in a home event for the first time in almost a year.
The Malaysian’s last appearance on home soil was at the Maybank Championship last year where he finished tied-39th and he is seeking a much improved performance in front of the local crowd this week.
Australian rookie Zach Murray, who claimed his Asian Tour breakthrough in New Zealand at the start of the month, is hoping to continue his winning run in Malaysia.
The 21-year-old served notice of his talent with his wire-to-wire victory in what was only his third start on the Asian Tour since coming through the Qualifying School last December.
Newly appointed Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington is meanwhile playing in his first competitive event after suffering a broken wrist at home late last year.
The Irishman is aware of the tough challenge ahead as he believes the course conditions at the Saujana Golf and Country Club will provide one of the sternest tests for players who are used to playing in Europe.
Did you know?
- Gavin Green is the first Malaysian to win the Asian Tour Order of Merit title in 2017.
- As a 23-year-old then, Green became the second youngest golfer to win the accolade since 2004, when the Asian Tour was established. Korea’s Seungyul Noh was 19 years old when he won the merit title in 2010.
- Green claimed his maiden Asian Tour title at the 2017 Mercuries Taiwan Masters, after notching four top-10 results earlier in the year, including three runner-up finishes in India, Chinese Taipei and Korea.
- Prior to turning professional in 2015, Green enjoyed an illustrious career which saw him become the first amateur to win on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) following his victory in 2014.
- He also represented his country at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro alongside Danny Chia, a two-time Asian Tour winner, where he finished where he finished 47th.
- Zach Murray of Australia is the third fastest rookie to win on the Asian Tour after Kane Webber (2006 Macao Open) and Todd Sinnott (2017 Leopalace Myanmar Open), who both won on their second starts on Tour.
- Murray secured his 2019 Asian Tour card at the Qualifying School last December after finishing fourth in the 90-hole event.
- Murray led from start to finish when he won the Nexus Risk TSA Group WA Open (an event on the PGA Tour of Australasia) as an amateur golfer in October 2018. One month later, he made his professional debut at the Australian Open. Murray claimed another wire-to-wire victory for his first professional title at the 100th New Zealand Open earlier this month.
- Murray was ranked as high as 19th on the World Amateur Golf Ranking.
- Padraig Harrington is a back-to-back winner of The Open in 2007 and 2008. He also won another Major at the PGA Championship trophy in 2008.
- The Irishman has won four times in Asia, including in Malaysia back in 2010 when he captured the Iskandar Johor Open title.
Gavin Green (Mas)
I feel good, I’ve been playing well the last few weeks. I’ve just had a couple of hiccups here and there that disrupted the whole game, but it’s been good so far. I got my coach down for a couple of days and worked with him, trying to get ready for this event.
We all call them legends (Els, Harrington), they are part of what has made golf what it is now. It’s good to have them here. Obviously we’re all dealing with the heat, it’s a lot hotter than usual. I think it will be a fun week. The crowds are good this week, the greens are looking better, the course is looking better, hopefully the weather holds up and we can get a good four rounds in.
The greens should be good all week. After last year they tore them down and re-did them. It’s the first time they’ve been open since the changes. The greens are quick, especially with the contours, it gets really fast. You need to be aware of where they put the pins. You’ve got to think your way around. If you miss in the wrong spots you can get into some serious trouble here.
It’s such a big one for me. I love playing in front of a home crowd. I don’t really get much opportunity like this as I’ve been playing more in Europe nowadays. Maybank have helped me and been with me through the years. It would be really good to play well and finish as high as I can.
Zach Murray (Aus)
It’s really nice to win on the Asian Tour and to know that I did it so fast after coming through Qualifying School. I’m playing at the Saujana Golf and Country Club for the first time and it’s going to be a good physical test. I played the pro-am yesterday and I really enjoyed it. The course is in fantastic conditions. I enjoy playing in Asia as a whole and it has been great. After making my professional debut at the Australian Open, my goal was to get a card somewhere in the world and I looked at the Asian Tour. I managed to get my card there and obviously that win in New Zealand has changed my life and I’m trying to take it all in now. My goal for this year is to finish as high as I can on the Asian Tour Order of Merit.
Padraig Harrington (Irl)
I wouldn’t say the wrist is 100%, it might not be 100% for about nine months, or at least another six or seven months. I’m working away at it. Traditionally the Malaysian Open was my first event of the season, if you go back 20 years, so it’s my first event this year and I’m looking forward to that good karma, let’s say. It’s interesting to come out here. I hit shots on the range here, I hit shots last week and the wrist is holding up, there’s no doubt about it. There’s a certain amount of mobility issues and I need to work on the strength of it. Maybe hit a few less balls in the short term, but in general it’s right on track. If anything it’s probably ahead of expectations. It’s a very good set up this year. The changes to the greens have substantially changed the way the course will play. They also have nice run offs – very green has this five or six yards of fairway run off where you run own into a little collar of rough. Very, very awkward.
The greens are firm. It looks difficult to me, you can never quite tell. I don’t want to prepare myself for eight under par winning the tournament – it might be 20 under par – but it feels like it’s an eight under par with the firmness of the greens. Obviously it depends where the referees set up the pins. It looks like the changes are excellent, a really, really good challenge.
It’s actually not tricky as a golf course, the firm greens are what will make it difficult this week. Some people might call firm greens tricky, but at the end of the day quality golf shots are going to have to be hit into the greens. You’ll have to be on the fairway hitting those shots. I think the golf course is difficult in the right way. We’re not used to coming to Asian tournaments where the greens are this firm. It’s a wake-up call.