- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 10, 2010

SINGAPORE (AP) - England’s Ian Poulter said this week’s $6 million Singapore Open will give him a chance to begin his push for golf’s No. 1 ranking.

The defending champion is among an impressive 204-man field for the event, which includes three of the four major winners of 2010: Phil Mickelson, Graeme McDowell and Martin Kaymer.

The tournament, which starts Thursday, is co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours.

Also in the field is Francesco Molinari _ fresh off his win at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai on Sunday _ along with Asia’s first major winner Y.E. Yang, and three-time major winner Padraig Harrington.

Kaymer and Mickelson, ranked third and fourth, respectively, are vying for the No. 1 spot held by England’s Lee Westwood.

Poulter, currently ranked 15th, also has designs on eventually claiming the top spot. The top ranking was way out of reach in the years when Tiger Woods was at his peak, but now Poulter sees a window of opportunity.

“Everybody is now in the frame to push forward,” Poulter said. “With that in mind, anybody in the top 10 in the world has a good six months, can find themselves moving up the world ranking higher enough to contend for that No. 1 spot. And that’s something I’m aiming for.”

The field will be spread over two courses this year in Singapore, with one round at the tighter Tanjong course and three at Serapong. The number of players meant not all will be able to get in practice rounds.

“It isn’t ideal,” Poulter said. “I’ll walk out with my caddie and have a good look at it and that’s about all I get on the other course (Tanjong).

“Sometimes it works for you and sometimes it works against you. We’ve all played a golf course blind.”

After a midseason lull, Poulter’s play has picked up with a strong performance at the Ryder Cup, and he is optimistic of a strong title defense.

Yang also started the year promisingly, getting a top 10 finish in the Masters, but has tailed off since.

“For many players, it would have been a successful year, but after the personal highs in 2009, it has been a bit disappointing, especially as I have not won on the PGA Tour, where I play the majority of my golf,” Yang said.

Yang is among a number of strong Asian contenders at the event, including former Asian Tour Order of Merit winners Thongchai Jaidee and Jeev Milka Singh, who won in 2008.

The amount of prize money _ the winner will pocket $1 million _ could play a decisive role in determining this year’s Asian Tour winner.

South Korea’s Noh Seung-yul leads the Order of Merit standings, ahead of Australian pair Marcus Fraser and Andrew Dodt.

The Hong Kong Open and Indian Open are the only two big-money Asian Tour events remaining this year after Singapore.

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