Robust Rashid takes early Johor lead

Md Rashid Ismail

Johor Bahru, July 11: Mohd Rashid Ismail continued his quest for a maiden victory on the Professional Golf of Malaysia Tour after taking the opening round lead at the RM150,000 PGM Johor Classic.

The 38-year-old Johor native, who has yet to claim a title after nine stops on the burgeoning local tour,  carded a splendid round of six-under 66 at the Johor Golf & Country Club to open up a two-shot lead over Khor Kheng Hwai, Mohd Iylia Jamil and Hilmi Abdul Rahman.

Ruhaizad Hashim was fourth with a round of 69 while the trio of Hanafiah Jamil, R. Nachimuthu and Nicholas Pua were a further shot behind.

Despite just arriving yesterday night in Johor Bahru after a joint third finish at the Negeri Sembilan  Masters Invitational, Rashid displayed tremendous stamina and composure to get off to a bright start with five birdies thru six holes before dropping a bogey on the seventh to make the turn on 32.

He lasted the distance to end the round on a flourish with two consecutive birdies on the 17th and 18th to take a two-shot advantage into tomorrow’s second round.

“I told myself to be strong today. I did feel a little lethargic after the drive down to Johor Bahru yesterday but nonetheless, I’m confident that I have enough energy in my legs and the drive to succeed within me to sustain the pace,” he said.

“I know the course quite well, having played previous Iskandar Johor Opens here, so not having a practice round was not that bad after all. I acclimatised to greens quickly and my putting was terrific today,” added Rashid.

Khor, who started on the 10th tee, enjoyed an equally good start, making the turn with three birdies in the bag before holing an eagle on the par-five second. His only blemish of the day came on the ninth when he dropped a bogey.

“It was a great round and while I’m disappointed with the way I finished, I’m not going to complain. The course was fine today and I do enjoy playing here, so it could be my week if everything goes has planned,” shared Khor.

A flawless front nine saw PGM Kinrara Classic winner Iylia get off to a good start and the 21-year-old mixed three birdies against two bogeys on the back nine to stay within touch. “It was a good round as I know this course quite well. The plan is really to keeping it going and minimising errors. I three-putted the last hole after misjudging the pin, so it’s quite important to get it right,” he said.

A total of six amateurs were in the field of 78, with Abel Tam and Daeng Hakim Daeng Aziz tied 29th on two-over 74.

Leading second round scores
66 Mohd Rashid Ismail
68 Khor Kheng Hwai, Mohd Iylia Jamil, Hilmi Abdul Rahman
69 Ruhaizad Hashim
70 Hanafiah Jamil, R. Nachimuthu, Nicholas Pua
71 S. Sivachandhran, Kemarol Baharin, Sukree Othman, Akhmal Tarmizee