Comeback king Nachimuthu triumphs in Penang

Penang, May 26: After six years of hunting for a victory, seasoned professional R. Nachimuthu (pic) found himself back on the winner’s podium today, after earning a comeback-from-behind win at the RM125,000 Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM) Penang Classic.

The 40-year-old closed with a stunning round of 65 for a tournament total of 272, to lift the title by one stroke ahead of early pacesetter Anis Helmi Hassan and Shaaban Hussin at the Penang Golf Resort.

Overnight leader M. Sasidaran faded with a final round of 73 for a share of fourth place with Md Rashid Ismail on 278. One stroke behind the duo was rookie professional Chan Soo Keong, who recorded his best finish this year on the Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM) Tour, tied sixth alongside veteran P.Gunasegaran on nine-under-par 279.

Starting the final round two shots off the lead, Nachimuthu  got off to a flying start, birdieng his opening hole before nailing an eagle on the second. He proceeded to mix two bogeys with two birdies on the front nine to make the turn at 33 before draining four birdies in a flawless inward nine of 32 to set the clubhouse lead at 16-under-par.

He watched anxiously as Anis lipped his birdie putt on the final hole, which could have forced a playoff and  hand him the victory. “I have been trying for so long since I won the PNB Kinrara Classic in 2005. I have come close on many occasions since, most recently at the PGM Harvard Classic a month back where I held the lead coming into the final day. So, I’m very happy with my score today (65) and breaking my title drought,” said the 40-year-old, who took home the champion’s purse of RM18,000.

“At the start this morning, I had nothing on my mind other than maintaining my rhythm. I had a good start and I think the round just played into my favour. The prize money will surely come handy in terms of preparation for my next tournaments,” he added.

Anis (right), who for much of the week looked like the potential winner, added another sub-par round of 67 for a four-day total of 273. Three consecutive birdies from the start saw Anis move into the provisional lead and a further four birdies saw him cruising towards his maiden professional victory. But a bogey on the short par-three 17th and the unlucky miss on the 18th left the 26-year-old counting the positives of the week.

“This week I played some very good golf and this was my first sub-par tournament for some time, so it can only be a confidence-builder,” said the former international. I think I played a great round today until I hit a daft teeshot on the 17th into the bunker. I recovered well but the par putt was really pressure-packed and I missed. I don’t think the 18th hurt that much, it’s just part of the game,” he shrugged.

PGM Terengganu Classic winnerShaaban (left) was also within a shout but was undone by his sole bogey on the 17th. “I put myself in the contention with two long birdie putts on the 15th and 16th but somehow, two-putted the par-three and left myself with too much to do on the last hole. Overall, I was hitting my irons sweetly but the greens here were quite tough to read,” shared the 31-year-old.

Damian Chin finished as the best amateur, carding rounds of 73, 72, 82 and 77 for a total of 16-over-par 304. He received a RM200 PanWest voucher for his effort.

The PGM Penang Classic was the seventh leg of the burgeoning PGM Tour which teed-off in December 2010. The tour’s next stop is the RM180,000 PGM Melaka Classic, which will feature on the Asian Development Tour calendar,  from June 9-12 at the Ayer Keroh Country Club in Melaka.

Leading final round scores
272 R. Nachimuthu (72-69-66-65)
273 Anis Helmi Hassan (72- 65-69-67); Shaaban Hussin (68-69-69-67)
278 M. Sasidaran (69-69-67-73); Md Rashid Ismail (72-64-71-71)
279 Chan Soo Keong (69-68-73-69); PS. Gunasegaran (72-72-69-66)
280 Kemarol Baharin (65-74-71-70); S. Sivachandhran (71-67-72-70); Airil Rizman Zahari (71-73-68-68)
282 Khor Kheng Hwai (70-72-69-71)