manila.mastersSingapore’s veteran star Mardan Mamat returns to his “second home” ready to successfully defend a title for the first time in his career at the US$1 million Resorts World Manila Masters starting on Thursday.

The 48-year-old Mardan has never repeated as champion throughout his illustrious Asian Tour career which includes five victories but a return to Manila Southwoods Golf and Country Club has boosted his confidence.

Mardan will face an elite field which includes 12 players from the top-20 of the current Order of Merit. Top contenders include home hero Angelo Que, American left-hander Paul Peterson and Thailand’s Prom Meesawat, who has finished second and third here in the past two years.

“When I played the pro-am (on Tuesday), there were a lot of good memories coming into my mind. It gave me a confidence,” said Mardan, whose 20-under-par 268 aggregate saw him win by six shots last year.

“It’s nice to be back. I always have good support when I come to Manila. The fans always make me feel at home. The Philippines is almost like a second home to me now,” added the 2012 Philippine Open champion.

He knows a successful defence at the Resorts World Manila Masters, which is the richest golf event in the Philippines, will also help in his Olympic dream. Mardan is currently 59th on the men’s Olympic rankings, with the top-60 by next July qualifying for Rio de Janeiro.

“It’s an event every athlete wants to be in. I would like to keep myself in that position. To have the chance to represent my country in the Olympics would be a dream come true,” he said.

Local hope Que hopes a week off at home where he spent time fine-tuning his game with coach Bong Lopez will help him roll up the right numbers to win the Resorts World Manila Masters. He also hopes to reap on the advantage of playing on his home course.

I’ve been practising a lot. I’m pretty prepared. I worked on something with my coach and hopefully everything will click,” said the likeable Filipino.

“As I’ve played in Japan this year where the course is narrower and not as long, I’ve been hitting it quite soft, 70 or 80%. My coach has told me to let it go this week and just have a go at it. I’ve done that the past few days, I’m a bit sore, but I’m getting used to it again. I need to get back to the game style that I had before.

“Maybe I can win here. I won’t say it’s impossible, it’s possible. But the field is pretty strong, Mardan is here to defend and Paul is here. Everybody is hungry to win. We all need some breaks to get lucky.”

Peterson, who has posted four top-10s this season and is ranked eighth on the Merit list, hopes to improve on his tied-fourth place finish here last season.  “I love the layout of the course. I think it will play better to people who can hit the fairways and that has been my strength for the year so far. The layout suits my game. I know I will do well if I can continue to keep the ball in play,” said the 27-year-old from Arizona, who is still seeking a maiden win in Asia.

Burly Prom, a two-time Asian Tour winner, feels he is due a victory at the Resorts World Manila Masters after losing in a play-off in the inaugural edition in 2013 and finishing third last season which he shot a course-record nine-under-par 63 in the third round.

“I’ve got a two, a three here and I’m looking for number one now. Not number four!” said Prom, who finished top-five in Singapore last week. “It seems like my game is coming back. Last week, it was a good finish on a very good golf course. I feel good about this week.”

 Resorts World Manila Masters partners include Manila Southwoods Golf and Country Club and supported by Marriott, Scientific Games, Aristocrat, IGT Asia Pte Ldt, Fuji Xerox, Konami, Levelwear, Mitsubishi Motors, RGD LTD, Net Pacific, Inc, Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company, Avis and Glenmorangie. 

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