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Strong Indian presence at Malaysian Open golf

Kuala Lumpur: Seasoned pros Jeev Milkha Singh and Jyoti Randhawa will feature in a strong contingent of Indian golfers who will be among the starters at the Maybank Malaysian Open starting Thursday.

Former British Open winner Louis Oosthuizen, who lost the play-off to Bubba Watson at the Masters play-off, the 2010 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, former PGA champion Martin Kaymer and Italian sensation Matteo Manassero are among the starters in the field.

Amid this, a strong Indian contingent led by Jeev, Randhawa and Digvijay Singh, the winner of the Panasonic Open India, will also be looking at making their mark at the event. Other Indians in the field include Anirban Lahiri, Gaganjeet Bhullar, Shiv Kapur, Himmat Rai, SSP Chowrasia, Gaurav Ghei, Chiragh Kumar and Sujjan Singh.

Digvijay will be out to prove that he can win outside of his comfort zone. He won his first Asian Tour title in India a fortnight ago and will be aiming to eclipse the stellar cast gathered at the USD 2.5 million event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour.

Manassero will defend his title this week but will face stern challenge from the Asian Tour lights including three-time Order of Merit winner Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand, Siddikur of Bangladesh and Asia`s rip-it and grip-it star Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

Digvijay believes he needs to mirror the success of two-time Asian Tour number one Jeev Milkha Singh, who has won six times on the Asian Tour and multiple titles in Europe and Japan.

"It is more important to prove yourself on foreign soil. We know those courses (in India) more than the foreigners but a good player will be one who can prove himself on any kind of golf course," said the 40-year-old.

"After that win (Panasonic Open India), a lot has changed especially my confidence and the way I look at the game. I`m not worried about keeping my Asian Tour card anymore and that`s the first thing that came into my mind," he added.

Siddikur finished as the top Asian in last year`s Maybank Malaysian Open where he was tied eighth. He hopes the positive memories will guide him to a long-awaited second Asian Tour title at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club. "I`ve been struggling to win a second title. I came close two weeks ago so I hope I can win again soon. I always enjoy coming and playing in Malaysia. When I see the crowd following and cheering for me, it gives me more energy to play," said Siddikur.

A one-week training session at the TPC Sawgrass in the United States in February has been working wonders for Siddikur, who has gained extra distance in his golf shots. "I`ve got more distance now and that has given me the confidence to play better. I`m hitting it at least 10 yards more," said Siddikur, the first Bangladeshi to play and win on the Asian Tour.

Kiradech knows he must overcome his nerves to launch a title assault at the Maybank Malaysian Open, where he finished in tied third place in 2010. "The field is strong and there`s pressure to be playing with these top players. It will be difficult to defeat them but it will be challenging. I feel a bit nervous but I`ll try to do my best. I always enjoy coming to Malaysia. It feels like home here," said Kiradech, who has won once on the Asian Tour.

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