Rizal Amin of Malaysia will look to close friend Rickie Fowler for inspiration when he contends at the PGM MNRB Sarawak Championship which starts on Wednesday.
Rizal, who won his first Asian Development Tour (ADT) title last year, grew up in the city of Temecula, California, just across the town from where Fowler lived and have been friends with the PGA TOUR star since high school.
He was delighted to see Fowler win The Players Championship on Sunday, as his victory proved critics wrong especially after suffering the ignominy of being voted one of the most overrated golfers in a poll conducted in Sports Illustrated recently.
“We know each other and we play golf together. In fact, I saw him last year when I went back to the United States. His caddie was also the head coach for my university golf team,” said Rizal.
“It was a bit unfair the way people look at Rickie. They see him as a young guy with a rich and famous lifestyle but he isn’t like that. He is hardworking and humble and a good friend,” he added.
Rizal enjoyed a breakthrough win on the ADT last year and is eager to return to winning ways at the RM200,000 (approximately US$55,400) ADT event held at the Kelab Golf Sarawak.
“The win last year lifted a big burden off my shoulders. Before the win there was some negative talk by people but it motivated me more. I let my clubs do the talking and people can say whatever they want,” he explained.
“You must have a great support system to push you forward or you will be down in the barrels because of the criticism. After the win, I believe that I did belong out here and I’m glad I stayed patient and continued to think positive.”
The 31-year-old has been struggling with swing issues after losing some weight, but he is slowly finding his best form after placing tied 11th in Sabah last week.
“I’m trying to get used to the changes I’ve been going through. I wanted to lose weight for health purposes and I’ve lost about 10 kilograms. That has affected my swing but my game is slowly coming back. Hopefully I’ll have a good week and give me a good jumpstart,” said Rizal, who currently weighs at 105 kilograms.
Reigning Order of Merit champion and title holder Pavit Tangkamolprasert of Thailand will headline the PGM MNRB Sarawak Championship alongside current ADT Order of Merit leader Hsieh Chi-hsien of Chinese Taipei, Greg Moss of the United States and Malaysians Arie Irawan and Wilson Choo.
Since it was inaugurated as a gateway to the Asian Tour in 2010, the ADT has grown from five events in the first year to a record 21 tournaments in both 2014 and 2015.
The ADT will continue to reward the top-five finishers on the Order of Merit at the end of this season with Asian Tour cards for 2016.
With the Olympic Games looming in 2016 where golf will be reintroduced as a medal sport, players in the region could earn their spots in Rio de Janeiro by earning Official World Golf Ranking points through the Asian Tour and ADT.
For more information on the ADT, please visit www.asiandevelopmenttour.com