Jin set for KL tonic
Jin Jeong is David John's headline pick this week for the Maybank Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur.
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Kuala Lumpur staged last month's extremely successful EurAsia Cup which ended in a dramatic 10-10 stalemate and the city now hosts the Maybank Malaysian Open.
The venue has obviously switched to its regular haunt of the Kuala Lumpur Golf & County Club but Asia's marvellous fightback under Thongchai Jaidee should have the players from the Far East bang up for the challenge of facing Lee Westwood and Louis Oosthuizen among others.
- 1pt e.w. Jin Jeong at 175/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 (Sky Bet, Stan James) - classy performer who looks overpriced this week.
- 1pt e.w. Nicky Fung at 250/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 (general) - showed some quality for the future at the EurAsia Cup and confidence high.
- 1pt e.w. Anirban Lahiri at 80/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 (Stan James, Ladbrokes) - also on a high after EurAsia Cup and not far from a European Tour breakthrough.
- 1pt e.w. Chawalit Plaphol at 225/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5 (Stan James) - fine effort in Manila and worth a shot with game in good shape.
Look no further than the latter duo for the market leaders this week as they jet in from Augusta National after a solid week for the Englishman and a so-so one for Oosthuizen.
Both are former champions in the event - Westwood way back in 1997 before it became part of the European Tour schedule, while Oosthuizen was on target two years ago by three shots from Stephen Gallacher a week removed from losing the Masters to Bubba Watson in a play-off.
So a victory can't be completely ruled out for either of the duo bearing in mind as well that this is a pretty big drop in class for two top-tier performers.
But I would rather have my money elsewhere at the respective prices and I am going to extend the theory that the Asian golfers this week can make a big impact thanks to some added belief gained from the EurAsia Cup.
They will have to reverse a recent trend here, as outside of Kiradech Aphibarnrat's victory 12 months ago, the Asian Tour regulars have failed to feature very prominently on the final leaderboard in the last three years.
But top pick is going to Jin Jeong of South Korea, who is priced up at a rather insulting-looking 175/1.
The South Korean made his breakthrough last October at the Perth International but has been seen only fleetingly since his excellent second behind George Coetzee at the Joburg Open.
While the winner received the lion's share of the plaudits, it was Jeong who very much looked the player to take from the event and a slightly better day on the greens would have seen him lift the trophy.
A missed cut in the Victorian Open and a T60 at Doral is hardly compelling form but I really feel that a golfer of his class and potential has been rather overlooked this week.
Historically, his compatriots Seung-yul Noh and KJ Choi have both shown excellent form in this event while relative inexperience does not seem to hold back the younger contingent here either with recent triumphs for Aphibarnrat, Noh and Matteo Manassero.
I am going to put up two heroes next from the Asia team in last month's clash with Europe - Nicky Fung and Anirban Lahiri.
I think that local man Fung was one of the biggest benefactors from the EurAsia Cup in terms of moving forward with his career.
He was perhaps a surprise selection and although he failed to register a point, he seemed to grow each day in the event and gave European captain Miguel Angel Jimenez a tremendous tussle in the singles when only giving best on the final green.
He said: "I learned a lot from the match and the week. I played well under the pressure."
He will be under a certain amount of scrutiny once more and while he has yet to even make a cut on the European Tour, his form in Asia at the back end of 2013 with a couple of top-fives suggests he is going in the right direction.
Two under-par rounds over the weekend in KL at the CIMB Classic on the PGA Tour will also not have been lost on him so I am quite keen to side with him this week while he has that bit of momentum.
Lahiri is a bit more established and the big-hitter from Bangalore may not be far away from getting his head in front on the European Tour.
He has yet to triumph outside of India but adapted to conditions extremely well here at the EurAsia Cup and provided a vital point for his team after he took the notable scalp of match play demon Victor Dubuisson on the final day.
Converting that sort of form to a regular strokeplay event is not always straightforward but like Fung, I can only see positives from the experience that Lahiri labelled "one of his best days in golf".
A closing 74 at the SAIL-SBI Open scuppered any chance of catching the dominant Rashid Khan but I still think he goes into this week in very good shape and should see him improve significantly on a rather modest tournament record.
Thailand's Chawalit Plaphol is the final pick and again it is a case of taking a bit of a chance on some iffy event results in favour of some very good current form.
He was beaten by just a solitary shot at the Solaire Open by Canada's talented Richard T Lee in a windy Manila but went down fighting in what was a strong performance.
"My game is good so hopefully the win will come soon," he said afterwards and although this is obviously tougher company, he clearly feels he is in the right shape to make a run at getting involved on Sunday.