SHAH ALAM, Malaysia, AP
U.S. Masters champion Vijay Singh says he’s ready to scale new heights this year, and wants to start by winning his second Malaysian Open. Although it ranks nowhere close to the majors in kudos, the US$910,000 Malaysian Open is the richest golf tournament in Asia and, according to Singh, a sentimental favorite. “I spent a great deal of time in Malaysia and have many friends here,” Singh told reporters Wednesday ahead of the Feb. 15-18 championship at the Saujana Golf and Country Club. “I have planned and prepared for this event. In fact, I have been working hard in the off season. My game is now at a level that will take me to great heights this season. I am driving further and my putting, which had been the cause of my downfall in the past, has also improved. I feel I will have a good year.” Singh won the Malaysian Open in 1992 and was denied back to back titles by American Gerry Norquist who finished ahead of the Fijian in 1993. “I was disappointed with that result but I hope for a better finish this time,” said Singh, the world No. 8. “I have come all this way to play well and win. I don’t want to disappoint the people who have to see me.” Singh’s likely biggest rivals will be world No. 16 Michael Campbell of New Zealand and American John Daly. Others in the lineup include Spanish legend Seve Ballesteros, Irish Ryder Cup hero Padraig Harrington and Italy’s Constantino Rocca, whose greatest achievement was defeating Tiger Woods in the 1997 Ryder Cup singles. Campbell is in excellent form and comes to Malaysia just two weeks after becoming the first golfer to defend the Heineken Classic title in Perth, Australia. Daly, winner of the 1991 U.S. PGA championship and the 1995 British Open but who is more recently known for his struggle with alcoholism, said he had dropped from 119 kilograms (262 pounds) to 95 kilograms (210 pounds) in weight and is feeling in great shape. “Mentally, I am better than I have ever been and my game is getting closer to where it once was,” Daly said. “I am getting a little confidence back.” Defending champion Yeh Wei-tze of Taiwan leads a large field of Asian players which includes South Korea’s Kang Wook soon and Anthony Kang, India’s Jyothi Rahdhawa and Arjun Atwal, Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee and Frankie Minoza of the Philippines.