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Campbell tabs Faldo as favorite in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR -- Michael Campbell believes a resurgent Nick Faldo could be the player to beat when the Malaysian Open starts on Thursday.

Campbell, who lost in the opening round of last week's Match Play Championship in California, told reporters he never doubted Faldo was capable of returning to winning ways.

"I'm not really surprised that Nick has been playing well. He's a great player and he's won six majors," Campbell said, following Faldo's third-place finish in the Singapore Masters over the weekend. "He had some personal problems in the past and, if you're not happy, it'll affect you on the golf course.

"But now that he's married again to a lovely girl, whom I know personally, it's really reflected on the course. It's great to see a great player recapturing his form again."

Faldo, who has not won an individual title since the 1997 Nissan Open, put in a rousing last-day charge in the Singapore Masters with four birdies in a row from the 11th. But he had too much ground to make up on the lead, and a bogey at the 17th slipped him back into third.

Faldo has, however, edged closer to victory in each of the four European Tour events he has played on the 2002 schedule.

He shared 26th place in the Asian Open, finished tied for10th at the Johnnie Walker Classic, tied for sixth in the Heineken Classic and then clinched third in Singapore.

The Malaysian Open, won last year by Vijay Singh in a playoff, is co-sanctioned by the European Tour and the Asian PGA Tour for the fourth year in a row.

Campbell finished in a tie for seventh at last year's event and wants to forget all about his 2-and-1 defeat by Niclas Fasth last week in the Match Play Championship, a title he was confident of winning.

"It was a cut-throat format, and I lost in the first round despite shooting 4-under," Campbell said at Royal Selangor Golf Club. "Niclas played great, and that's match play for you. Confidence-wise, it wasn't pleasing because I knew I was playing well enough to win the Match Play, but it was one of those things."

Campbell said he is looking forward to this week and was encouraged by his play in Tuesday's pro-am.

"My expectations are pretty high," he said. "I'm playing well and my swing feels good after working hard with my coach for a week and half in
the U.S."

Also playing in this week's tournament are 1991 U.S. Masters winner Ian Woosnam, Padraig Harrington, Jarmo Sandelin and Arjun Atwal, who became the first Indian player to win a European Tour event at the Singapore Masters on Sunday.