Kuala Lumpur: Indian golfer Anirban Lahiri will lead the Indian challenge at the CIMB Classic which will see an in-form cast of Asian Tour stars vying for honours at the USD 7 million event which starts on Thursday.
The current Asian Tour number one will be joined by Australia's Scott Hend, who won his seventh Asian Tour title a fortnight ago, Andrew Dodt and India's SSP Chawrasia at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club (KLGCC) West course.
World number 37 Lahiri, who finished tied seventh in Hong Kong last week, is hoping to maintain his pursuit of the Asian Tour's Order of Merit crown where he currently leads with a season haul of USD 1,060,684.
"This week is critical. That's probably the week that's going to decide a large extent how the rest of the Order of Merit chase runs out so hopefully I can play well. I've won at the KLGCC course earlier this year so that will be a huge motivation for me," said Lahiri, who is now the third player to earn more than USD 1 million in a single season on the Asian Tour.
Chawrasia will draw confidence from a tied-10th result at the Malaysian Open earlier this year, which was also played at the KLGCC West Course. He hopes his course knowledge will give him the extra edge this week.
"It's good for Asian Tour players to have the opportunity to play in the CIMB Classic. I think it's a good chance to get into the PGA TOUR but you've got to play well," said the three-time Asian Tour winner.
"I've played many times at the KLGCC and I feel comfortable on the course. You've got to hit it straight and putt well. There's a combination of long and short holes, it's a good course set up that doesn't only favour the long hitters," added Chawrasia.
Young talents Richard T Lee of Canada, Paul Peterson of the United States and Cameron Smith of Australia, who finished tied fifth at the CIMB Classic last year, will also feature in the event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and PGA TOUR.
Malaysia's Danny Chia, who ended a 13-year title drought at the Mercuries Taiwan Masters earlier this month, and veterans Prayad Marksaeng of Thailand and Singaporean Mardan Mamat, who have a combined total of 14 Asian Tour titles, also qualified for the CIMB Classic as the leading 10 players on the Order of Merit as of Sunday.
Local talents Ben Leong and Arie Irawan will also be part of the elite field which has attracted a stellar line-up including Major champions Ernie Els of South Africa, Keegan Bradley and Jason Dufner of the United States.