Kuala Lumpur, February 2: Arie Irawan hopes to live up to his new stature as the highest ranked Malaysian in the world by putting up a strong showing at the US$3 million Maybank Malaysian Open which starts on Thursday.

The 24-year-old Arie overtook Danny Chia on the Official World Golf Ranking thanks to his breakthrough victory on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) last week and he is now setting his sights firmly on a good week in his National Open at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club’s West course.

“Last week has built the confidence heading into this week. I’m stepping up to another level and I know I can do well on the Asian Tour and European Tour. I have to trust my game and have the self-belief to do well,” said Arie, who is now ranked 357th in the world.

He will be among 22 other Malaysians including Chia, Nicholas Fung, Rizal Amin and Shaaban Hussin dreaming of becoming the first local player to win the prestigious Maybank Malaysian Open, which is sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour.

“One of my goals is to be the top Malaysian in the world and I have now achieved that. But now that I’m number one, I have to push even harder to be better. I know I can compete with these guys and I hope the hard work pays off,” said Arie.

He hopes a positive attitude will lead him to a dream victory this week. “I want to win one or two events on the Asian Tour. I’m being greedy but I believe if you have the correct mind-set then I think I can win. It is a lot to ask but I’m keeping positive.”

Veteran Chia, who is recovering from a debilitating shoulder surgery at the end of 2013, is showing glimpses of his best form after winning on the local PGM circuit earlier this year.

“Everything is looking good. The Maybank Malaysian Open is my National Open and it is my national pride to want to go out there to try and win the event. Apart from giving my best, there’s nothing much more that I can say. I’m happy with the way I’m playing,” said Chia.

Rizal is relishing a return to KLGCC as he lifted his first ADT here in December, albeit on the East course. He believes hooking up with former LPGA Tour player Lim Siew Ai as his coach has paid dividends.

“She is a good coach and she has helped me a lot. She was a big help when I won on the ADT last year. I met her two years ago and we went through a lot of transition and work. It has really helped with my golf game,” Rizal explained.

The 31-year-old hopes to make amends for missing the Asian Tour Qualifying School in Thailand by putting on a solid performance at the Maybank Malaysian Open. “I had a boil on my right thigh and had to go for minor surgery. That was a little setback for me but I rather play pain free and play healthy golf. Now I’m back to full fitness and I’m feeling good for this week,” said Rizal.

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