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Saturday, May 3, 2014

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There's a spring in Mardan's step

The New Paper | Saturday, May 3, 2014

He is 46 now and his world ranking has dropped to No. 548.

But Mardan is hardly affected by those numbers.

Singapore's No. 1 golfer is confident he can repeat his 2006 heroics at the Osim Masters and win another European Tour event at the Laguna National Golf and Country Club this week.

"I did it once, why not again?" Mardan told The New Paper yesterday, ahead of The Championship which tees off today at Laguna National.

The tournament is co-sanctioned by the European Tour and Asian Tour and carries a prize purse of US$1.5 million ($1.88m).

Formerly known as the Ballantine's Championship, the event was held at South Korea's Blackstone Golf Club from 2008 to 2013, but it was moved to Singapore after it lost its title sponsors.

The top-ranked golfer here this week is world No. 64 Bernd Wiesberger from Austria.

Mardan believes his familiarity with Laguna - he has scored a number of wins there - gives him an advantage.

Last month, he won the PAR 72 LLP Laguna National-SPGA Golf Series, where the first two of three rounds were played on the Masters course.

Indisputably, the biggest win of his 20-year professional career was in 2006 at Laguna, when he beat Nick Dougherty by one stroke at the Osim Masters to bag $271,300, his biggest payout to date.

"It's nice to be back for a big event here. I have a lot of good memories of the good things that happened in 2006. Hopefully it will be the same this year," said Mardan, who wasted money booking plane tickets and paying for a visa to South Korea for the Ballantine tournament.

"I was struggling with my swing at the beginning of the year, but I am slowly getting better.

"I am very comfortable playing on this golf course.

"The greens are good and rolling fast. It will all be about driving straight and putting well and I will try my best this week. Hopefully, I can repeat the win."

For years now, Mardan has been flying the flag for Singapore on golf courses around the world.

He hopes young local golfers can step up to the plate and make an impression this week, much like he did eight years ago.

"If I can do it, I believe my countrymen can too," he said.

"I hope my victory on the European Tour can be a motivation to the youngsters.

"I believe players like Koh Dengshan, Quincy Quek and Lam Zhiqun (who are all in the field this week) have the potential, but lack opportunities.

"It's great that Laguna has stepped in to host this event at such short notice. They have done a great job to get everything ready.

"The relevant authorities should do a lot more to help provide a platform for these promising young golfers to compete at a higher level, otherwise the state of local golf will go down."

davidlee@sph.com.sg

This article was published on May 1 in The New Paper.

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