Kuala Lumpur: A resurgent Sergio Garcia goes toe-to-toe with US Ryder Cup sensation Patrick Reed at the CIMB Classic beginning Thursday, as reigning FedExCup champion Billy Horschel looks to lift his game to an even higher level in the Malaysian event.
Garcia, who will be paired with Reed, is enjoying some of his best form in years at 34.
The Spaniard has won once in 2014, finished second to world number one Rory McIlroy in the Open Championship in July, and played solidly in Europe`s recent Ryder Cup victory as he returned to the world top 10.
Along with England`s Lee Westwood, Garcia and the 24-year-old Reed comprise the premier trio for the first two rounds when they tee off together at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club (KLGCC).
"It`s going to be fun to be able to play with both of them," said Garcia, the highest-ranked player in the field at world number four.
"Obviously I`m quite friendly with Lee, so it should be good fun to be able to play with both, and hopefully we`ll be playing well."
Reed was a revelation in the Ryder Cup where, along with fellow young playing partner Jordan Spieth, he was a rare bright spot for the United States in another humbling loss to Europe.
Horschel, 27, has also emerged as one of golf`s hottest young talents, clinching the season-long FedExCup crown and its whopping $14 million payday in September.
The American said he won`t just "sit back and enjoy" that windfall but is aiming for his first Major win this year and to defend the FedExCup title.
"I`m always thinking about the next level," he said.
Co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour and Asian Tour, the CIMB Classic offers the winner $1.26 million and 500 FedExCup points.
Last year`s winner, Ryan Moore of the United States, is back to defend, as compatriot Jason Dufner continues his comeback.
Dufner, the 2013 PGA Champion, took nearly three months off due to a neck injury but showed little rust in a steady showing during his return last week at the ISPS Handa Perth International.
Other contenders include South African Major winners Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, and Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, the top-ranked Asian player in the world at 21st.
All competitors will need to be wary of the steamy local conditions, said Westwood, who won the 2014 Malaysian Open at KLGCC.
"To play on the KLGCC you have to be able to manage your body well and stay hydrated all the time because of the heat," he said.
The tournament offered a sponsor`s exemption to 16-year-old Guan Tianlang of China, who caused a sensation by qualifying for an invitation to the 2013 Masters.
Then only 14, Guan was the youngest player ever to compete at Augusta National, and made the cut, but has yet to match that performance.