Gyeonggi-do (Korea): Himmat Rai is one of the three Indian golfers, who is all set to tee off at the inaugural USD 750,000 CJ Invitational golf hosted by K J Choi at the Haesley Nine Bridges Golf Club, starting on Thursday.
The other two Indians in the fray are Anirban Lahiri, winner of the Panasonic Open (India) and Sujjan Singh, fifth at the Avantha Masters.
Himmat, who had an epic battle with Choi at the Iskandar Johor Open in 2009, where the Indian finished third behind him, said, "The course is gorgeous. We`re looking forward to it. It`s great that Mr K J Choi is hosting this event. We`ve been looking forward to it on the calendar. It`s amazing and we`re looking forward to it."
He also narrated the battle between him and Choi in 2009.
"It was a great day for me and my confidence when I played with Choi at the Iskandar Johor Open in 2009 and finished third behind him. It was amazing as he was almost like a teacher throughout the final round. I learnt a lot of lessons that day and basically played my own game, yet learning along the way," explained Himmat.
"I made a real note of it and referred to it often when I needed to. I`m looking forward to play here. It`ll be nice if I have a chance to play with him again," he added.
Emphasising that winning in Singapore has been very positive, Himmat said, "It`s given me immense confidence. I`m looking forward to the rest of the year. I`m trying to get into good shape, specifically to each golf course.
"Until December, I`ll stick to what I`m doing and then I`ll have a review in the larger perspective on how I should set my goals. My key is always to stick to my process."
Choi, who cut his professional teeth in Asia before winning eight PGA Tour titles, is hosting the Asian Tour`s newest tournament this week where his foundation will also support various initiatives towards the local communities.
Bangladeshi Siddikur, fourth on the Order of Merit, also joined the chorus of praise for Choi, saying his initiative was a huge boost for the game in the region.
"When I was growing up, I knew K J Choi`s name. He`s the number one player from Korea and he`s very famous around the world. He`s giving back a tournament which is nice. It`s great for us. There are some players whom I like and K J is one of them," said Siddikur.
Chinese veteran Zhang Lian-wei, who has competed alongside Choi since the late 1990s, expressed his gratitude to the Korean who is the highest ranked Asian player in the world at 14th position.
Three-time Asian Tour champion Chapchai Nirat of Thailand has regularly followed Choi`s progress at the world stage and admired his achievements.
"I have always liked K J as a player. After he played on the Asian Tour, he went straight to America. I have always liked him and whenever I see him at tournaments, we try to speak to each other. He`s a good man," said Chapchai.
With a big prize pot to shoot for, Asia`s top stars led by Noh Seung-yul of Korea, three-time PGA Tour winner Anthony Kim of the United States and Choi will spearhead the elite field at the immaculate Haesley Nine Bridges.
For some, the CJ Invitational is another fight for survival to finish in the top-60 in the Order of Merit, which will see players retaining their Tour cards for 2012.
Australia`s Scott Barr, currently ranked 62nd, is hoping to solve his putting woes to move himself into the safety zone.
A top-20 finish at the Hero Indian Open last week provided a huge boost for the Singapore-based Barr, who became a father for the first time last month.
The tournament will feature 55 players each from the Asian Tour and Korean Golf Tour plus 10 sponsor`s invitations, making it a 120-man field.