KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Most of the big names in the 40-player field at this week's CIMB Asia Pacific Classic have traveled a long way to play 72 holes of golf. But they realize the significance of participating in the first PGA TOUR-sanctioned event in Southeast Asia.
"Golf is a global game now. People want to see the U.S. players playing in Malaysia, China or Japan. New events like this tend to increase fan support for the game and create awareness that there are great places around the world to play golf in," said Englishman Luke Donald, who is ranked No. 8 in the world, the highest among the players at the Mines Resort and Golf Club.
The European Ryder Cup stalwart will be joined by a stellar cast that includes South Africans Ernie Els, a three-time major champion; two-time U.S. Open champ Retief Goosen and Tim Clark, who won THE PLAYERS Championship in May. The event is sanctioned by the PGA TOUR, Asian Tour and the Professional Golf Association of Malaysia.
The Americans in the field are Rickie Fowler, Ryan Moore, Kevin Na, Ben Crane, Ricky Barnes, J.B. Holmes, Ryan Palmer, Heath Slocum, Tom Gillis, Kevin Streelman, D.J. Trahan and Bill Haas, who has won two TOUR events this year.
Clark won his first PGA TOUR title at TPC Sawgrass and has continued to sparkle with six other top-10 finishes. He is eyeing more success this week.
"I think this is a very important stretch for us to come over here," he said. "We certainly don't want to travel all the way here and not have our 'A' game. It is something I'm geared for and getting my game in good shape to play well."
Clark lauded the development of golf in Asia in recent years.
"I've seen the growth down here. With the amount of Asian players we see in the majors and world golf events, it shows the game is growing," he said. "If you get onto the computer and the television, you can see the Asian Tour or Japanese Tour events. There's no question the game is growing down here and I think it is fantastic."
Els, who came from behind to win the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in Bemuda last week, had never been to Malaysia prior to this week.
"As much as I've traveled in my 20 years as a professional golfer, this will be my first visit to this particular part of the world," Els said in his weekly blog on PGATOUR.COM. "And this week's CIMB Asia Pacific Classic, a new tournament on the schedule, is the first PGA TOUR-sanctioned event in this region.
"It's going to be quite a week and I'm really looking forward to it. ... From what I've heard the architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. has done a pretty amazing job (with the course). I saw some photos on-line last week and it looks quite impressive, with many of the holes adjacent to a huge lake."
Three-time Asian Tour Order of Merit champion Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand; Korea's teen titan Noh Seung-yul, the current No. 1 on the Asian Tour; and fellow countryman K.J. Choi will be among the local favorites.
Also in the field is Korean Y.E. Yang, who delivered Asia's first major victory when he won the 2009 PGA Championship. He plans to end his year with a big bang to make up for a relatively quiet season in the United States.
Yang arrived at the impressive Mines Resort and Golf Club, built on a former tin mine, on Monday and instantly found a liking for the course.
"It's going to be fun. It looks like a fun course," said Yang, who is an honorary member of the Asian Tour. "It seems like a lot of birdies will come out. The key is to play well on the greens which are fast and undulating."
Yang hopes this week's event will spark other Asian countries to follow suit and establish lucrative tournaments as well.
"It's always good to have the Asian Tour bring in new ideas. This is definitely a good idea and to have the PGA TOUR partner with the Asian Tour and the Asian Tour partner the PGA TOUR, it reflects how the Asian Tour has made big strides for golf in Asia," Yang said.
"Hopefully the organizers and sponsors can sustain this effort for many years. This, being a benchmark event, hopefully the same type of events can spread and proliferate themselves around Asia."
Noh, Yang's Korean countryman, looks forward to testing his skills against some of golf's top names. He'll be paired in the opening round with Donald.
"It's great that this big event is being held and a lot of Asians are offered the opportunity to play. It's a good opportunity not only for the PGA TOUR players to showcase their talents but also good for the Asian Tour players to showcase our talents and hopefully, and probably, one of us can do well this week," he said.