Donald feels he’s coming into form

World number three happy with performance in Tampa Bay as he prepares for Malaysian Open

Padraig Harrington plays his tee shot on the fifth during the Pro-Am ahead of the Maybank Malaysian Open. Photograph: Ian Walton/Getty Images

Padraig Harrington plays his tee shot on the fifth during the Pro-Am ahead of the Maybank Malaysian Open. Photograph: Ian Walton/Getty Images


World number three Luke Donald believes he is shaping up to challenge for a first major title at the US Masters next month.

But the Ryder Cup star will first aim to defy the effects of jet-lag and a 12-hour time difference to claim an eighth victory on the European Tour in the Maybank Malaysian Open this week.

Donald finished fourth in the defence of his Tampa Bay Championship on the US Tour at the weekend and thinks he is finding top form at an important stage of the season.

“The results in my first couple of events weren’t as I’d have liked, but last week there was a lot of improvement,” Donald told a pre-tournament press conference in Kuala Lumpur.

“I’ve felt a lot more comfortable with my game in the last couple of weeks and a lot more in control of the golf ball. I had a lot more chances and had a decent chance to defend my title.

“I came up a little short in the end, but the game feels like it’s trending in the right direction. We’ve got the Masters in a few weeks’ time and I’m excited about that.”

Donald finished third on his Masters debut in 2005 — no debutant has won at Augusta National since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 — and almost created more history in 2011 when he won the traditional par-three contest and went on to finish fourth in the tournament proper. No player has ever won both in the same year.

The Ryder Cup star only arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday but does not expect to have too many problems coping with the long flight and 12-hour time difference from the United States.

“I’ve travelled a lot as a golfer and that has certainly helped me become a global player; learning how to deal with different courses, different grasses and different types of competition,” he added. “Those are the things that make me a good player.

“Any time you have a 12-hour time difference there’s a bit of adjusting to do, but I’ve never really had a problem with jet-lag in the past.”

Former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel is also in the field this week, along with three-time major champion Padraig Harrington and former winner Matteo Manassero.

Manassero, already the youngest winner in European Tour history, was just 17 years and 363 days old when he captured his second title at the 2011 Maybank Malaysian Open.

The 19-year-old, who then claimed a third victory in last November’s Barclays Singapore Open, was also joint seventh here last year and returns to Kuala Lumpur feeling fitter than ever following an intensive winter workout programme.

“I did a lot of running and cardio training to lose weight,” the Italian said. “I lost about six kilos. Now I’m trying to build up some strength and put some muscle on. When you lose weight it can change the feeling of the swing, especially in the change of direction.

“On the follow through I’m lighter so my hips are turning a little too quickly sometimes. But it’s nice because I feel better and I can produce more speed, which is what we’re working on.”