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Charlie Wi favourite at Indonesia Open

Korean Charlie Wi will put recent success to one side as he tries to preserve his No.1 ranking in Asia at the US$1 million Enjoy Jakarta HSBC Indonesia Open 2006, which tees off on Thursday.

Wi won the Maybank Malaysian Open last month to surge into first place on the UBS Asian Tour Order of Merit with US$213,981 in winnings from two events.

The 34-year-old joins Thai pair Thongchai Jaidee and Thaworn Wiratchant, India's Shiv Kapur and Jyoti Randhawa and China's Zhang Lian Wei as one of the favourites to win on Sunday at Emeralda Golf Club.

Having spent a week in Los Angeles furnishing his new house, Wi is ready to fill his boots on the Asian Tour until May's SK Telecom Open in Seoul before deciding on his next career move.

"It feels really good after having won a tournament but it's a new week," said Wi, who earned US$208,330 in Kuala Lumpur after his 54-hole victory.

"What I've done two weeks ago is in the past and now I have to start all over again. I want to look beyond that and give myself a chance to win this week.

"It's a new week and everyone starts from zero and I hope to deliver a good result once again. Top 10 would be good for me and anything better would be a bonus."

Wi lost his US PGA Tour card last season but can choose from the Asian Tour, European Tour or Nationwide Tour in the US on which to further his career.

One golfer who has his heart set on Europe is England's Chris Rodgers, the Pakistan Open winner who will be hoping to celebrate his 30th birthday on Sunday in style.

Rodgers missed the cut in his past two tournaments and is determined to make amends in the Jakarta event, which is once again co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours and promoted by Parallel Media Asia.

"Winning any tournament on any day is fantastic but it would be a dream to win a European Tour event on your birthday," said Rodgers, who moved to Bangkok in September so he could get used to Asia's heat and humidity.

"To be honest, the prize money is not the main thing for tournaments like these. It's the exemption to the European Tour that the players want.

"The Asian Tour is strong and will get there soon but, at the moment, it is everyone's dream to play in Europe."

The feeling among players is that the weather will play a big part over the next four days. With heavy rains pelting the Emeralda Golf Club every morning so far this week, fairways have become muddy and offer little bounce.

Therefore, keeping the ball on the fairways should be easier with the greater challenge coming on and around the greens.

For Thongchai, second to Wi in Malaysia and third on the Order of Merit, putting will be the key to victory.

"I'm looking to improve on my putting. This is what I've been practising because the other parts of my game are pretty good," said Thongchai.

Defending champion Thaworn, the reigning Asian number one, is sixth on the Asian money rankings with US$61,832 and needs to keep the likes of Thongchai and Wi in his sights if he is to repeat his success of last year.

"I will go all out to win but golf does not depend only on one tournament. We'll see how it goes," said Thaworn. "I've just got to make sure I stay away from the rough, which is very unforgiving.

"Even the greens are a little bit tricky but, overall, I think it's a great course."

Welshman Stephen Dodd, who won twice on the European Tour last season and took Wales to glory in the WGC-Algarve World Cup in Portugal, leads the overseas challenge.

"My form so far this season hasn't been great but your year is based on the whole season, not the first month or two," said Dodd.

"The Asian players are a lot more used to these conditions so they have the advantage. Players such as Thongchai and Thaworn are proven winners so they deserve to be favourites."

Dodd will be able to see Asia's top talent up close, having been grouped with Thaworn and Randhawa for the first two rounds in Jakarta.

Randhawa, the 2002 Asian No.1, is looking for his first title on the Asian Tour since the 2004 Volvo Masters of Asia.

"I'm feeling good and hitting the ball well," said Randhawa, tied 37th in Malaysia two weeks ago. "I want to get some results and move up the rankings. I'm looking forward to the tournament."

The field for the Enjoy Jakarta HSBC Indonesia Open comprises 156 players, of which 75 are Asian Tour pros.

March 2, 2006


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