Defending champion Shubhankar Sharma is hopeful of retaining retaining the Maybank Championship title when the US$3 million event gets underway at the Saujana Golf and Country Club next week.
The young Indian’s two-shot victory at the Saujana Golf and Country Club last year was the springboard to further success as he would go on to clinch the prestigious Asian Tour Order of Merit at the end of 2018.
The 22-year-old golfer will be returning to the same venue where he overturned a four-shot deficit and closed with a magnificent 10-under-par 62 to win his second Asian Tour title last February.
“The most memorable moment for me in 2018 was winning the Maybank Championship. That started things off for me. The victory opened many doors for me,” said Sharma, who also went on to play in all four Majors and all the World Golf Championships tournaments in the year.
With his victory at the Maybank Championship, Sharma became the first Asian and second Asian Tour member after inaugural Australian winner (2016) Marcus Fraser to clinch the title.
“2018 is the year that I’ll remember for the rest of my life and obviously that win in Malaysia played a huge role in those good memories too. I’m feeling ready to go and take off from where I left last year,” said Sharma.
The Indian joins an illustrious list of Asian Tour Order of Merit champions that include Australia’s Scott Hend, Malaysia’s Gavin Green, Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee, compatriot Arjun Atwal and David Lipsky of the United States, who will all be returning to contend at the Malaysian showpiece which starts from March 21-24.
Green, who became the first Malaysian in the Asian Tour’s history to lift the coveted Order of Merit title, will be banking on the home ground advantage for a better showing after finishing tied-39th and tied-47th in 2018 and 2017 respectively.
“I feel I’m mentally and physically prepared. Definitely there’s a chance (to win) but I need to stay patient and handle the pressure of playing in front of the home crowd,” said Green.
Other notable names in the strong 156-man field include Major champions Ernie Els and Padraig Harrington. Japanese star Ryo Ishikawa as well as Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond and Poom Saksansin.
The ASEAN invite category will also feature Singapore’s Johnson Poh and Jesse Yap, Myanmar’s Ye Thet Aung, Indonesia’s Danny Masrin and Philippines’ Angelo Que, who are part of the five-player ASEAN line-up.