Shugo Imahira, the reigning Japan Golf Tour (JGT) No. 1, will spearhead a powerful JGT challenge at the Malaysian Open when it returns next month after a five-year absence.
The world No. 36 Imahira will be among the 20 JGT members teeing off at the Kota Permai Golf and Country Club in Shah Alam from March 5-8.
The US$1mil (RM4.14mil) event is sanctioned by the Asian Tour in partnership with JGT for the first time.
All eyes will surely be on Imahira, who is set to be the highest-ranked player in the 156-man field.
Imahira has enjoyed some sensational form on the JGT, winning the JGT Order of Merit back-to-back in 2018 and 2019 powered by three victories, 12 top-three and 15 top-10 finishes during the two seasons.
Imahira, who has four titles to his name, will be aiming to win his first tournament outside of Japan.
Also making their way to Kota Permai are Shingo Katayama and Yuta Ikeda, regarded as the best golfers in the JGT history.
Katayama, 47, has won 31 titles to be ranked fifth on the all-time JGT winners’ list, while Ikeda, 34, is eighth with 21 wins.
The presence of top Japanese golfers will make up for the European Tour stars’ absence in the scaled down tournament this time.
When the Malaysian Open was last held in 2015, it was still an Asian Tour and European Tour jointly sanctioned event, carrying a purse of US$3mil (RM12.43mil).
Malaysian Golf Association, the event owners, have not been able to secure a new title sponsor after parting ways with long-time partner Maybank in June 2015.
The banking giants went its own way and joined forces with the previous Malaysian Open promoter GlobalOne to host the Maybank Championship.