The European Tour heads to Malaysia this week for the Maybank Malaysian Open at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club. England's Lee Westwood is the defending champion.

The European Tour heads to Malaysia this week for the Maybank Malaysian Open at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club. England’s Lee Westwood is the defending champion.

This tournament has moved in the schedule this year, last season it was contested the week after the U.S. Masters. There’s also been a significant hike in the prize fund – the winner in Kuala Lumpur will pick up €440,000. As such, a strong field has assembled in the Malaysian capital. Defending champion Lee Westwood will look to build on his good showing last week in Dubai, so too will 2010 U.S. Open winner Graeme McDowell.

“I was very happy with how I played in Dubai,” said the Northern Irishman. “You’re never quite sure how you’re going to play in the first tournament back after a good break, how you’ll do when you’ve got the card back in your pocket. But I was very pleased, it’s a good start.”

The Malaysian Open was the first tournament to be co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours, back in 1999. Since then winners of the Malaysian Open have included Fiji’s Vijay Singh and Thongchai Jaidee from Thailand who won in 2004 then successfully defended his title the following season.

Last year, England’s Lee Westwood put on a formidable performance to win by seven shots from Bernd Wiesberger of Austria, Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa and Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts.

Westwood is looking forward to a return visit to a course where he has enjoyed such success.

“The way I played here last year, to win by seven was very satisfying,” he said. “I was only here just before Christmas for the PGA Tour event so I feel I’m really getting to know the course very well. I feel like I’m a member!”

The course at Kuala Lumpur G&CC was originally designed by Nelson Howarth and opened for play in 1991. But, the track was totally reconstructed for the 2010 Malaysian Open, although the routing and layout remained the same.

There’s always a threat of thunderstorms in Kuala Lumpur so don’t be surprised if there’s a delay or two to the play this week.

Venue: Kuala Lumpur G&CC, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Date: Feb 5-8
Course stats: par 72, 6,967 yards
Purse: €2,650,000 Winner: €440,000
Defending Champion: Lee Westwood (-18)

TV Coverage:
Thursday 5 – Sky Sports 4 from 7am
Friday 6 – Sky Sports 4 from 7am
Saturday 7 – Sky Sports 4 from 6am
Sunday 8 – Sky Sports 4 from 6am

Player Watch:
Lee Westwood – It’s hard to look past the Englishman this week. He won the event last year by seven shots, he played very solidly last week in Dubai. He played a PGA Tour event on this course at the end of last year and he’s clearly confident about his chances.

Bernd Wiesberger – The Austrian was tied second in this event last year and he was tied fourth in Dubai last week. Definitely a good chance for him this time out.

Andy Sullivan – The Golf Monthly columnist is on good form – tied fourth last week and just a month since his maiden victory in South Africa. He was tied 13th in this event last year, but that would have been considerably better had it not been for a poor last round. This is a course that suits his game.

Key hole: 14th. It may be only 358 yards long but, with a heavily bunkered fairway, and a tricky approach over a lake, it’s a hole that requires a careful and strategic approach.

Skills required: Staying dry. There’s quite a bit of water to contend with, particularly on the back nine. If the trouble is successfully avoided then low scoring will be possible.