Order of Merit leader Scott Hend of Australia and a strong line-up of young Asian Tour stars will feature at the US$7 million CIMB Classic which starts on Thursday.
Hend, a nine-time Asian Tour winner, will be joined by countryman Marcus Fraser, who won in Malaysia in February, and young guns Jeunghun Wang of Korea, Soomin Lee, Miguel Tabuena of the Philippines and Chan Shih-chang of Chinese Taipei at the TPC Kuala Lumpur.
India will also be well represented by reigning Asian Tour Order of Merit winner Anirban Lahiri, S.S.P. Chawrasia and Gaganjeet Bhullar, who won in Korea three weeks ago. Another Korean Younghan Song will make up the leading top 10- players on the Order of Merit.
Tabuena, Wang, Lee, Lahiri, Bhullar and Song, who are still in their 20s, represent a new breed of young and talented Asian Tour stars searching for more glory at the CIMB Classic.
With a cool prize purse of US$1.26 million on offer to the winner of the CIMB Classic, Hend is hoping to race ahead of the chasing pack as he aims to become the newest Asian Tour number one.
“I’ve been very close to winning the Order of Merit previously, only to the pipped by guys obviously playing a bit better. I think you’ll find this year at two of us going over the million dollar mark, possibly three of us. It’s going to be a very close tussle,” said Hend, a two-time winner this year.
“With the CIMB Classic being a great tournament that we can get into, the guy in 10th place, if he runs third in that tournament, it’s on and it’s going to be a pivotal tournament. Then Hong Kong would probably be my last tournament. It’s crucial this week but there’s still a lot of golf left,” he added.
Ranked fifth on the Order of Merit, the 22-year-old Tabuena is determined to give Hend a run for his money on the Merit race where he trails the big-hitting Australia by slightly over US$280,000.
“I guess an outside goal is the Order of Merit. Knowing that the CIMB Classic counts may give me a chance to challenge Scott Hend and Marcus Fraser. It’s going to be a big week. I know I have the game to do that. The other goal is to win a tournament before the end of the year,” said Tabuena.
Chan, ranked third on the Order of Merit courtesy of two victories this season, is hoping for a memorable debut at the CIMB Classic, which will also be his first event on the PGA TOUR.
“The season has been good for me so far and this is a reward for all my hard work. There will be a good field this week but I’m playing well and I’m excited to tee off among some of the world’s best golfers,” said the 30-year-old Chan.
Defending champion Justin Thomas will also feature in the CIMB Classic alongside Adam Scott of Australia, who finished second last year, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia of Spain and Asian Tour honorary members K.J. Choi of Korea and Vijay Singh of Fiji.
Malaysia will be represented by Gavin Green and Danny Chia.
Offering full FedExCup points, the CIMB Classic will feature 78 players – 60 coming from the PGA TOUR, the leading 10 players from the Asian Tour Order of Merit and eight sponsor’s exemptions.
It returns to TPC Kuala Lumpur (formerly known as Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club) as the second event of the 2016 – 2017 PGA TOUR season and will carry a total purse of US$7 million.