‘Asian Major’ has stars ready for the Sentosa battle

November 11th, 2008 - 5:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Sentosa (Singapore), Nov 11 (IANS) In-form Padraig Harrington and Phil Mickelson, between them have six Majors, and if you add Ernie Els, the number rises to nine. The trio will hog headlines this week as they fight for the Barclay’s Singapore, which in terms of quality of play, set-up and the field, not to talk of the US$ 5 million prize purse, certainly qualifies as an ‘Asian Major’.Harrington is coming off his greatest year, having won the last two Majors, while Mickelson last week conceding his World No. 2 ranking to Sergio Garcia at Shanghai, and then there is Els, who desperately wants to get back to the top-10 in the world as he is at 11th place.

K.J. Choi, Asia’s top star and Adam Scott, the Australian seen as the heir-apparent to Greg Norman, are probably among the two best players waiting to win their first Major, just as Garcia is.

India’s Jeev Milkha Singh, who had his career-best finish at the Masters and then finished in top-10 at the PGA Championships, too, nurtures of making it big at the Majors. “That’s where we all want to do our best. This year I was very happy with my showing in the Majors.”

It does not get any bigger in terms of a full field event as the Singapore Open bids to claim its place among the world’s best tournaments.

The Asian Tour will have its own challengers, apart from proven stars like Jeev, who is looking for his second Asian Tour Order of Merit title. He battles it out with Kiwi, Mark Brown, who is the current leader. There is also Liang Wen-chong, the No. 3 on the Money List.

The Serapong golf course has seen some rains this week. While the rough is done as compared to previous years, the greens will be softer and could see scoring higher than before.

Harrington, never one to talk big about his ambitions and goals, is keen on winning the US$5 million Barclays Singapore Open to round off the best season of his career.?Harrington, winner of three of the last six Majors including the British Open and US PGA Championship in succession, said Tuesday, “I am very focused on trying to get one last win for the year just to put the icing on the cake for my Christmas.”

Harrington, the world number five, added that the world rankings were becoming increasingly important and the tournament ensured there were good rewards.

Eighteen of the top-20 players on the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit, including the last six Merit winners, are in this week’s field as well.

“This tournament is very important. You have got a very strong field. There are rewards this week, you get good world ranking points which are very important,” said Harrington.

Mickelson, who came down to world number three after Garcia won in Shanghai Monday, downplayed the importance of the rankings but highlighted his desire to do well here. He finished 23rd last year, when he was affected by the high heat and humidity.

“The conditions last year were different to what I thought they were going to be, with the greens being very difficult, very grainy. I needed to adjust my putter and get a little bit more loft and get it on top of the grass so that it would start online easier,” said Mickelson, who needs to win this week to regain his number two status.

Thai star Thongchai Jaidee, a two-time Asian Tour number one, will be amongst the region’s finest looking to wrest the title.

“It’s a big week, big tournament with world class stars. It’s very good for the Asian Tour and Singapore,” said Thongchai. “Playing alongside big stars raises my game.”

Injuries and illness blighted the front half of Thongchai’s season but now that he is fully fit and refreshed after a week’s break where he celebrated his 39th birthday, the Thai hopes to end his two-year title drought.

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