Editor’s note: Charlie Wi didn’t learn he was in the CIMB Classic field until less than two weeks before the first round of the event, when Rickie Fowler withdrew due to back issues. But that hasn’t dampened Wi’s enthusiasm for returning to the CIMB Classic after a one-year hiatus as part of the elite 48-man field. The trip to the Malaysia brings Wi to a place he is quite familiar with and one where he has found tremendous success. Born in Seoul, Korea, the California resident has two victories in Malaysia – the 1997 Kuala Lumpur Open, his first win as a professional, and the 2006 Malaysian Open.
Wi is hoping for some more Malaysian magic to help boost his up-and-down 2012 season. Wi finished 60th in the FedExCup standing on the strength of a runner-up finish at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am as well as two other top-four finishes (T4-Valero Texas Open, T3 The Greenbrier Classic).
PGATOUR.COM sat down with Wi to talk about his return to Malaysia and expectations for the 2012 event.
Q. You've won two tournaments in Malaysia - what do you think accounts for your tremendous success here?
Wi: I am very comfortable in the warm weather and playing Bermuda greens. I think that is what accounts for my success, not only in Malaysia, but also when I play in Florida and Texas.
Q. What are some of the more memorable moments from your two wins in Malaysia?
Wi: Well, the 1997 Mild Seven Kuala Lumpur Open was my very first professional win, so that will always be the one I cherish the most. As a side note, the week I won, there was a huge fire in Indonesia and all of the smoke and ash was blown toward Malaysia. It made it difficult to see and our faces became covered in soot and ash as we played.
Q. You tied for 18th at the inaugural CIMB Classic but did not play last year. Talk about how important it was to you to make the field and return this year?
Wi: I really love playing in Asia and, more specifically, playing in Malaysia. Because of that, I really wanted to be a part of this field. I love the culture and the people I have met here over the years.
Q. As a player who has traveled, played and won around the world, what sorts of things do you enjoy about Malaysia?
Wi: It is a very multi-cultural country where you can find all different types of food and people. I really love sightseeing there because the architecture is amazing. I especially love visiting the twin towers.
Q. Next year, the CIMB Classic will be elevated to a FedExCup event, with official money/official win status. What are your thoughts on this change and what it means to the players, as well as to the importance of golf in the region?
Wi: I think it is excellent for all players involved, as the field will be expanded. It will allow more PGA TOUR-based players to visit Asia and experience the great culture that Malaysia has to offer. Many U.S.-born players have not had the opportunity to travel the world to play golf as I have. I think making the CIMB Classic an official PGA TOUR event will entice more players to participate and, once they’ve had the experience of playing here, it will expand the way they look at Asian golf.