Padraig Harrington is teeing off his 2019 season in buoyant mood at the Maybank Championship as his recovery from a wrist injury exceeds expectations.
“I wouldn’t say the wrist is 100%, it might not be 100% for about nine months, or at least another six or seven months. I’m working away at it.”
The European Captain for The 2020 Ryder Cup is making his first appearance in the Kuala Lumpur event, but has previously enjoyed success in Malaysia, recording five top eight finishes in the Malaysian Open, including tied sixth on his last outing six years ago.
Those results also include two runner up spots, with one coming at this week’s venue, Saujana Golf and Country Club, as he finished just behind fellow three-time Major champion Vijay Singh in 2001.
“It’s interesting to come out here. I hit shots on the range here, I hit shots last week and the wrist is holding up, there’s no doubt about it. There’s a certain amount of mobility issues and I need to work on the strength of it, but in general it’s right on track. If anything, it’s probably ahead of expectations.
“Traditionally the Malaysian Open was my first event of the season, if you go back 20 years. It’s my first event this year and I’m looking forward to that good karma, let’s say.
“It’s a very good set up this year. The changes to the greens have substantially changed the way the course will play. The greens are firm. It looks like the changes are excellent, a really, really good challenge.”
Joining the Irishman in the field is fellow European Tour and Ryder Cup stalwart Miguel Ángel Jiménez, who echoed Harrington’s praise for the recent changes at Saujana.
“There have been a few changes, the first couple of holes are different. The greens are all new. The golf course is in very good shape. I feel comfortable here. I like this kind of weather. It’s nice, I feel good. Good golf course, good design. I enjoy coming to Malaysia.”
The flamboyant Spaniard has enjoyed great success in Asia over the years, with his 21 European Tour victories including five Hong Kong Open titles. The 55 year old is feeling as competitive as ever as he successfully balances life on the European Tour and the over 50s circuit, capturing his first two senior Major titles last year including the Senior Open presented by Rolex on the Staysure Tour.
“I’m still playing well on both tours. Now I dedicate more than 20 % to senior golf. But I still like to play on the European Tour too. I play maybe six tournaments a year.
“I still have my category to play, and as long as I have my category I will keep playing. If I didn’t feel competitive I wouldn’t come here. When the moment comes that I don’t feel competitive, I won’t come. There is no point coming just to show up.”
The co-sanctioned Maybank Championship is an event much closer to home for Malaysia’s highest ranked player Gavin Green. The 2017 Asian Tour Order of Merit winner has played in all three previous editions of the tournament and is relishing the prospect of chasing a first European Tour title, and his second on the Asian Tour, in front of a home crowd.
“It’s such a big one for me. I love playing in front of a home crowd. Maybank have helped me and been with me through the years. It would be really good to play well and finish as high as I can.
“I feel good, I’ve been playing well the last few weeks. I’ve just had a couple of hiccups here and there that disrupted the whole game, but it’s been good so far. I got my coach down for a couple of days and worked with him, trying to get ready for this event.”