Indonesian Masters starting Thursday.
The Englishman will celebrate his birthday on Sunday, April 24th, which will also be the final round of the inaugural US$750,000 showpiece staged at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club.
“It will be nice to win because my birthday is on Sunday but it will be difficult as there are a lot of strong players out here in Asia and you have to play well to win,” said Westwood.
The former world number one will headline a stellar field of Asian Tour stars with three-time Order of Merit champion Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand, Gaganjeet Bhullar of India and Siddikur of Bangladesh.
Westwood has won over 30 international titles with victories in Malaysia, Macau and Japan and he will be looking of extending his stellar record with a win in Indonesia this week.
“It has been quite a while since I played in Indonesia. This is a big tournament in Asia. I like to play all over the world and consider myself a global player. I’m playing in Korea next week so it is good to start my Asian campaign this week. I like to play everywhere in the world if I can,” said Westwood, who was crowned Europe’s number one in 2000 and 2009.
He played nine holes with 16-year-old whiz kid Miguel Tabuena on Tuesday and tipped his hat to the young Filipino, who he predicts has a bright future ahead.
“I enjoyed playing with Miguel. We went out to play nine holes and he looks to be a very good player. I also played with Rory (Hie) and they are both young men with a lot of talent.”
When asked if they were the future of Asian golf, Westwood replied, “You have to think so but I don’t like to put too much of pressure on the lads. They should go out there and enjoy themselves. They got enough talent to be around for a few years.”
Returning from a back injury, decorated Thai star Thongchai, 41, hopes to draw inspiration from his victory in Indonesia in 2009.
“I won in Indonesia before and I’m feeling confident. There is quite a strong field here. We have Lee Westwood and all good Asian Tour players but if I putt well, I think I have a good chance of winning,” said Thongchai.
Thongchai, who will be paired with Westwood and Siddikur in the first and second rounds, believes putting will be the key to victory this week.
“This is a new event in Indonesia and I decided to play here to support the Asian Tour. There are a lot of young talents here which is exciting for golf in Asia. Anyone can win this week and putting will be very important because the greens are tricky,” said the Thai, who has won an unprecedented 13 Asian Tour titles.
Hie, who will lead the local challenge this week, echoed the sentiments of Thongchai.
“The key here is getting to know the greens. The fairways are wide so this week will be a putting competition,” said Hie, the first Indonesian to earn an Asian Tour card in 2009.
He had the opportunity to play a nine-hole practice round with Westwood on Tuesday and hopes to put the experience to good use this week.
“There are a lot of really good players but I’m pretty excited to see how my game compares to these legends. It was nice seeing how Westwood hits the ball and practice. It was a good learning experience for me and if I play my best, I think I will finish in the top-10,” said Hie.
Ticket sales for the Indonesian Masters are available at www.ibudibjo.com where all proceeds will go towards Habitat for Humanity, which the event is partnering. The non-profit organisation builds homes for the underprivileged in Indonesia.
The Indonesian Masters is earmarked to become the country’s foremost golf championship, with plans to raise its prize fund and attract other international stars to Indonesia in the coming years.
Other sponsors of the Indonesian Masters include Four Seasons Hotel, Royale Jakarta Golf Club, PNTS, Garuda Indonesia, Mercedes-Benz, Coca Cola, San Miguel, Casillero del Diablo, Toshiba, Brava Radio and Yahoo!
All the latest news from the Indonesian Masters is also available on www.indonesianmasters.com. The Indonesian Masters will be broadcast “live” over four rounds to over 130 countries worldwide, reaching over 400 million homes via the Asian Tour’s television platform.