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Fowler & Others in Malaysia this Week


Rickie Fowler is part of an excellent field that has ventured to Kuala Lumpur for this week's CIMB Asia-Pacific Classic, an event co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour and Asian Tour. It's the first PGA Tour event ever to be played in Southeast Asia.

In addition to the 21-year-old former All-American at Oklahoma State, the tournament includes such luminaries as England's Luke Donald; South Africans Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Tim Clark; Americans Ryan Moore, Kevin Na, Ben Crane, Ricky Barnes, J.B. Holmes, Ryan Palmer, Heath Slocum, Kevin Streelman, D.J. Trahan and Bill Haas; and Asians Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand, and Koreans Noh Seung-yul, K.J. Choi and Y.E. Yang.

The event, which gets underway Thursday at the Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed Mines Resort and Golf Club, is an important steppingstone to spreading the gospel of golf around the world. "Golf is a global game now," Donald said. "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."

"I think this is a very important stretch for us to come over here," added Clark. "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.

"I've seen the growth down here," Clark said. "With the amount of Asian players we see in the majors and world golf events, it shows the game is growing. 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 is another player sold on promoting the game internationally. "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 online last week and it looks quite impressive, with many of the holes adjacent to a huge lake."

Fowler has done a good job meeting the high expectations after a stellar amateur career. Though he hasn't won yet in 2010, he's earned $2,612,708, ranking 23rd on the money list and with seven top-10 finishes. The Californian also ranks 32nd on the World Golf Rankings list. "There's always the expectations from the outside, whether it be the media or the fans," he said.

"I think I have maybe higher expectations of myself, so I will push myself harder than the fans and media might push me. I don't think the added pressure of the fans and the media has an affect right now. I'm trying to live up to my own goals and pushing myself as hard as I can to be the best player I can be.

"Even if there is that little bit of pressure, I like it. I like playing under pressure and it's pretty cool to be considered part of the new young gun players coming up."

Despite his garish outfits on the course, Fowler has fit right in on the PGA Tour. His play even earned him a spot on the 2010 U.S. Ryder Cup team. "The guys on the Tour have been awesome since I turned pro last year. It's like a big family out there. Everyone is out to help whoever," he said. "At times you may have to ask for it, but I have had guys come up and say 'Hey, if you need anything, then just ask.'

"When I got picked for the Ryder Cup, the guy that sticks out was Justin Leonard, who came up to me and said 'Congratulations' and 'anything you need, advice you want, just ask.' It's been awesome to get to know some of the veterans and being on the Ryder Cup with Tiger (Woods) and Phil (Mickelson), and Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker, they have all been great to me."

The CIMB Asia-Pacific Classic, which features the top 25 players on the FedEx Cup standings, along with the top 10 players from the Asian Tour and five sponsor exemptions for a total of 40, is Fowler's first event in Asia. He's relishing the experience. "I love traveling and want to see different parts of the world and play in different parts of world," he said. "It's great to be part of a small field and a select field."