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Top Europeans tee off in Malaysia

Ireland's Padraig Harrington and seven-times European number one Colin Montgomerie have been successful campaigners in Asia and are eyeing this week's Malaysian Open brimful of confidence.

World number 11 Harrington and Briton Montgomerie have each won twice on the Asian continent in the last two years and admit to enjoying the comfort level in this part of the world.

"I've been second twice here in Malaysia and had a fourth place result in 1999, so I do like it here," the 32-year-old Harrington told reporters as he prepared for Thursday's opening round at Saujana Golf Club.

"I don't have a problem with the heat and I feel very comfortable in it.

"Plus I have played well in Asia, winning the BMW Asian Open in Taiwan two years ago and then the Hong Kong Open just before Christmas," added the Irishman, who returns from nine weeks off to make his first tournament appearance of the year.

Harrington is the highest ranked player in a co-sanctioned field that also includes compatriot and fellow Ryder Cup player Paul McGinley, Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez and defending champion Arjun Atwal of India.

Montgomerie returns to action after tying for 16th and 13th at the South African Open and Johnnie Walker Classic earlier this year, satisfying finishes for a player using new clubs and a new caddie this season.

"I am putting better now than the first two weeks of the year and, if I can putt well, I am usually around the top of the leader board, so let's hope that is the case this week," the 40-year-old Scot said.

"But I'm very happy with my start to the season as I have new Yonex equipment and I am pleased with the way I am striking the ball."

Like Harrington, Montgomerie is delighted to be back in Asia.

"I feel comfortable here and I like the people and the hospitality around it," he said.

"I seem to do well in Asia," he added, referring to his 2002 victory at the inaugural TCL Classic in China and his win in the Macau Open at the end of last year.

McGinley, bidding this week for his first European Tour title since the 2001 Welsh Open, is determined to play his way on to Europe's Ryder Cup team to face the United States at Oakland Hills, Michigan this September.

"I want to make the Ryder Cup team, that's something I really want to achieve," said the 37-year-old Irishman, who holed the winning putt at The Belfry to clinch victory for Europe at the 2002 Ryder Cup.

"It's going to be tough to make it this year, though, as I think we are going to have the best European side ever.

"We've got a lot of strong players coming through and the qualification system will make the team even stronger.

"It's not going to be easy as you will really have to play well to make the side."

The Malaysian Open, won last year wire-to-wire by India's Atwal, is jointly sanctioned by the Asian PGA Tour and the European Tour.

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