#MaybankChampionship Preview What They Said

Tue 07 Feb 2017

#MaybankChampionship Preview What They Said

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Anirban Lahiri (Ind)
Thoughts coming back?
It is like coming back home for me. I won a couple of years ago in Kuala Lumpur. Obviously I’ve played in two EurAsia Cups and so many years on the Asian Tour so it is always a warm welcome for me. I played at Saujana as an amateur many years ago so it is like de-ja-vu for me again.  It has been a while but it is nice to be back.
What do you remember about Saujana?
I barely remember much but the layout is pretty much the same. I remember the second hole used to have three or four tiers but it has two tiers now. There are a few things that standout but it is all sketchy.
How’s the game feeling?
I got off to a good start end of last year in Malaysia. It has not been as good as I liked it to be. I only played three events this year but I feel like my game is in the right place. I’m making a lot of birdies which is a good sign. I probably need to tighten my round a bit and put four good rounds together.
Any problems with jetlag?
This morning was a struggle for me having flown in yesterday. A couple of days here I will be fine. Somehow Malaysia brings out the best of me so hopefully come Thursday I can bring my best game on the golf course.
Anirban Lahiri of India Anirban Lahiri of India
How much impact does your success have in golf in India?
I don’t think I’ve done enough. I think my best golf is ahead of me and the biggest impact has yet to happen. Obviously the last few years I’ve seen some difference. Last year when I was at the Hero Indian Open, I saw a lot of kids, more than what I saw in previous years. Having said that, it is not only me. If you look at Aditi Ashok, she has taken the ladies golf world by storm. Between the two of us we are making the game a little bit more attractive for the younger generation. In terms of development, it will take years. You won’t see results overnight but hopefully we do our bits and keep it moving in the right direction.
How important is it to you to come back to Asia?
Personally it is very important for me to come back to Asia for many different reasons. I want to stay in touch with my roots. This is where developed my golf and it is important to stay in touch. You will always see me coming back to Asia, to India for sure. It is like chicken soup for me – I meet my friends and play on courses where I grew up playing on. Mind you these are great events to be playing in. I’m not really making a big sacrifice. It is something that I really enjoy doing.
How important is the co-sanction events between the Asian Tour and European Tour?
I think we are already seeing the benefits. If you look at the number of Asian Tour players who have won in the co-sanction events in the last 36 months, it is a big number. They’ve managed to graduate to the next level of golf. It is like events like this that gives more players an opportunity. For me even making the cut in an event like this in the past was a good experience. This specific event has always played an important role for the Asian Tour Order of Merit race so this is a very, very important event.
Nicholas Fung (Mas)
Thoughts coming back?
I’m very excited coming back to Saujana. It is one of my favourite golf courses. I’ve played here so many times when I was young.
What do you think of the course?
This golf course is more about being aggressive off the tees. I don’t hit it far but if I keep my ball in play I think I can do well. The greens are soft and it is good for me to attack so it suits my game.
How’s the game after the Lunar New Year?
I rested for one week last year because of the Chinese New Year but I’ve been playing well. I made the cut in Singapore and Myanmar and I’ve had a lot of motivation from my friends, family and sponsors. I’m feeling very positive about my game and the week ahead.
Nicholas Fung of Malaysia Nicholas Fung of Malaysia
Your target this week?
My target is to go as low as I can. I don’t want to think about winning and putting pressure on myself even I’m playing at home. I want to go as low as I can.
Is a top-10 result good?
A top-10 result is achievable but I don’t want to overthink things. I just hope my putt drops this week.
Anything you want to improve on after a good year last year?
I just want to improve on my distance. I hope to gain more distance. I’m not saying my putting is bad but it will be good if I can putt better.
What do you think about the Asian Tour and European Tour co-sanction events?
It is good to the Asian Tour players to explore and play outside of Asia. It gives us a chance to play in Europe. Just look at Wang (Jeunghun) when he won last year and recently. If I do get to play in Europe, my concern is the good. I will miss Malaysian food. Even when I travel sometimes, I bring Malaysian food with me and cook in the room.
This will be a good week for a first win?
Yes, hopefully this will be the week I win my first victory.
Danny Willett (Eng)
“I know the course pretty well. I first came here eight years ago, my first event on tour which I was first reserve for and then didn’t get in. I’ve been back here for a couple of corporate days in between so I know the course well.
“It’s a lovely little track, I know they’ve re-laid the greens since I was here last November and the course is in really good shape considering all the work that they’ve had to do to get it up to standard. I think the guys should be in for a treat.
“It’s a fun golf course, a lot of decisions to make off the tee. If you want to lay yourself and make your second shots easier you can, but then you have longer into the greens. It depends on how you want to play it. It’s good to finally get a competitive tournament here finally.
“I played on Bermuda grass in college and I think that helps on a lot of the Asian courses. I think that helps for us guys who have played on that grass a lot. Playing for a couple of years in Alabama it was mostly Bermuda grass and that helps.
“The weather is nice and warm so my record here is pretty good. I’ve had a few close calls so we’ll see how things play out.
“I’ve only played three tournaments, ten competitive rounds of golf and some of it has been good, some of it bad. I’m going through some changes with a few bits so just trying to bed them in now – I thought I had it pretty good last week but it didn’t quite filter through for all four days on the golf course.
“I played the Pro-Am this morning and I’m going to do a little bit of work in the afternoon so hopefully I can keep some good feelings going. Usually I come out of the blocks quite quickly, in the last few years anyway.
“This year has been a little bit slow so far but hopefully we can progress working forward and hopefully this year keep progressing.
“It’s been great in the past year. Obviously a lot has changed and it’s been a bit up and down, there’s been the highest of highs and some pretty poor lows in there as well. I think I had dented confidence on the back of last season and I’m trying to get through that now.
“But you can’t take away from what last season was, it was by far the best season of my career. I know that it ended a bit poorly the last few months but you can’t take away what happened for the first six months of that year.
“I played great in Sun City at the start of last year and then brought the form into Dubai and won there and the played nicely in a few of the World Golf Championships, finished well in Doral, and went on to win at Augusta. Then I finished second in the Race to Dubai.
“I think if you look at it on the whole it was a great year. If you break it down into sections, there were definitely some better than others so I’m just trying to look back on the bad sections and try and see where it went wrong and try and improve on that.
Danny Willett of England Danny Willett of England
“It’s been fantastic and it’s great to be back in Asia to play golf again. Hopefully I can have a good week here on a golf course that I like.
“It’s just about time management for me now. Everything’s a little bit busier, a little more going on and all a little bit more rushed. I just need to make sure that everything I do on a week-to-week basis is planned so I can make time for everything else, whether it’s family or gym or rest or whatever it may be.
“We lead a pretty strange life, tour professionals. We et some really high highs and fantastic experiences, we travel the world and see some great places. But at the same time it’s very busy when you’re out there working and practicing, trying to get everything to come together on any given week.
“It’s pretty stressful, so it’s just making sure you’ve got the time there to do everything you need to do for yourself and to make sure the extra bits are in there, doing the media and spending time with the family if they’re out. So time management would be right up there on the list.
“The schedule works pretty well this year actually. I sat down and looked at the schedule with Chubby at the back end of last year and there’s actually a bit of a natural break on the European Tour after this week where there’s some good events but if you don’t want to do a lot of travelling, some guys will miss some events.
“It makes perfect sense now to go and play a few events in America to lead up to World Golf Championships and Majors so I’ll try and do two in a row over there to try and get my numbers up. I’ve got to get my 15 events up in America and I’ve got my numbers in Europe so I’m fine for that. It’s just now about looking at golf courses I want to play and which I’ll do well around.
“It will be busy but I think it’s worthwhile giving it a good go in America this year and seeing how we go and then if I like it then I’ll carry on down that road and if I don’t like it then luckily I’ve got exemptions on both sides of the Atlantic for five years now so I can make decisions and do what I want to do.
“I tried not to put too much pressure on myself after Augusta but that expectation levels go up because you know what you can achieve when you play well so it’s very difficult to drop those levels.
“But unfortunately if you keep those levels high all the time then frustration levels sometimes match, so I’m trying to find a good balance between my expectations and what I want to achieve. On thing I’ve found difficult is lowering those expectation levels, and ultimately play better. It’ll be nice to get my name on a few more Major trophies.
“This golf course gives you a lot of choices. A lot of courses you’re hitting driver every hole and you don’t have to think much about it, every hole looks pretty similar. I find that a lot of the golf courses in Asia give you a lot of choices and this one highlights that perfectly.
“If you want to take on the golf course from the tee, it gets pretty tight from around 300 to 330 yards. If you want to lay it back you need to avoid a few of the fairway bunkers or else you can lay it short of them.
“It gives you loads of options, whether or not you want to hit a wedge into the green or an eight iron into the green or a six iron into the green. That then determines whether or not you want to hit driver, three wood or five wood.
“That for us golfers is fun to play, it’s not the same. You have to speak to your caddie and ask him what he thinks, instead of him just standing there and giving you driver and then walking down the fairway.
“I think if you were to speak to the guys throughout this week they’ll probably be hitting a lot of different golf clubs. That highlights good golf courses for me, when it gives you options, even though you’re all trying to get to the same place.”
Charl Schwartzel (Rsa)
“I struggled with my knee a little at the end of the year and it never really got better so by the time it came to January for my MRI scan it turned out I needed a longer break.
“That has actually allowed me to be a lot fresher than I think I would have been, to sort out some of my clubs and get some practice done to get my game in shape. I think overall it’s been a good thing. It’s been nine weeks since I last played competitively and it’s the freshest I’ve ever been.
“I’d like to climb the world rankings more this year. I’m focussed on Majors, 2011 is a long time ago so I’m playing PGA Tour for the majority of events so I’ll see if I can get it going out there, that’s what I’m aiming for.
“I have memories of this place from 2002, I played the Eisenhower Trophy as an amateur and I don’t remember it being this hilly. I can’t remember how we did so we obviously didn’t win. We had some great fun, myself, Louis Oosthuizen and Shaun Norris who is also here this week.
“There’s a lot of holes that I remembered when I was out there today and I’m actually very excited to be here. It’s a course that was a good memory even if we didn’t win. It’s nice to be back here and hopefully I can make new memories here.
Charl Schwartzel of South Africa Charl Schwartzel of South Africa
“I definitely prefer warm weather than cold so that’s maybe a reason why I like it here in Malaysia, you never get cold over here. The golf course is demanding, it requires you to hit the ball straight and although the rough is not very long you can get a massive flier so it’s quite uncontrollable.
“I find sometimes the tougher the course is, the better I play so sometimes these kinds of courses suit me. The course is not very long though so you’ve got to think the winner will be 16 under and up.
“I think co-sanctioned events are a very good idea. It gives a lot more guys the opportunity to compete against different people otherwise it gets very stagnant, up against the same guys. They can’t get comfortable and they can keep performing better.
“I think also for a spectator, it’s much more interesting when these guys are coming together for co-sanctioned events.
“I definitely can feel like I don’t travel as well as I did five years ago but by no means is it a burden for me yet. The knee injury just comes from 14 years playing as a professional. Ive not had many injuries in my career and these things just happen.
“I enjoy travelling and on the European Tour you can do a lot more. But I definitely feel like my body doesn’t recover like it used to.
“PSG are my main sponsor. I was Nike for nine and a half years so I was with them for a long time, but they’ve pulled out of golf equipment and I’ve formed a great relationship with PSG so it’s a new beginning.”