Asian Tour young guns Jeunghun Wang of Korea and Miguel Tabuena of the Philippines aim for a dream debut at the CIMB Classic, which starts on Thursday, after enjoying their best season on the Asian Tour.
Tabuena and Wang, ranked fourth and fifth respectively on the Order of Merit, are among six first time Asian Tour players to make their first appearance at the US$7 million event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and PGA TOUR.
Marcus Fraser of Australia, Chan Shih-chang of Chinese Taipei, Soomin Lee of Korea and Younghan Song are also playing for the first time in the prestigious event which is staged at the TPC Kuala Lumpur.
The 21-year-old Wang enjoyed a memorable two-week stretch in May when he triumphed in Morocco before going on to seal back-to-back victories at the Mauritius Open, which was tri-sanctioned by the Asian Tour, European Tour and Sunshine Tour.
The victory in Mauritius and three other top-five results helped the young Korean to move inside the top-10 on the Order of Merit where he currently sits in fourth place and trails the leader Scott Hend of Australia by slightly over US$270,000.
After the hot start to the year, Wang was side-lined because of a stomach bug which saw him hospitalised and losing six kilograms. He believes he is back to his best form and fully recovered after finishing in tied 13th place in Macao last week.
“I felt really tired last week especially on the back nine so I couldn’t focus on my putting. It was hot last week and it will be hot again this week so last week was like a practice for me,” laughed Wang.
“Overall I’m feeling better and healthy again. I’m hitting the ball quite well and I like playing on this course. It is in perfect condition. Honestly, I’m not thinking about the Order of Merit anymore because it gives me a lot of pressure. I just want to focus on my own game and relax. Maybe if I do that, I can win again,” he said.
With two runner-up results this year including three other top-10s, Tabuena is playing some of his best golf ahead of the CIMB Classic. It will be his first appearance in the event and third PGA TOUR start after earning an invite to the Sony Open earlier this year and in 2012.
“This is my first time playing in the CIMB Classic. It has always been one of my goals since I joined the Asian Tour in 2011. It has been the best season for me this year. I guess it shows that the hard work is paying off. It is really a dream come true to be playing here,” said Tabuena.
After turning 22 last week, Tabuena is looking forward to an important two-week stretch starting with the CIMB Classic and the World Golf Championship (WGC) tournament in China next week as he aims to rack up enough FedExCup points to qualify for the Web.com Tour finals.
“It is a big step up in my career to be playing in the CIMB Classic. Obviously one of my dream is to play on the PGA TOUR. I’m hoping to get enough FedEx Cup points this week and the next to get myself into the finals of the Web.com Tour which is how Anirban (Lahiri) got his PGA TOUR card last time. This is probably the biggest two weeks in my career,” said Tabuena.
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.