Malaysia a close second after first round of Asian Qualifier

Iain Steel and Shaaban Hussin / © Khalid Redza (Asian Tour)

Petaling Jaya: Eyeing a first appearance at the Omega Mission Hills World Cup in over a decade, Malaysia got off their campaign to a great start, carding an opening round of 64 to trail leaders Singapore by one shot at the Asian Qualifiers in Seri Selangor Golf Club today.

The home team, comprising of the newly formed pairing of Iain Steel and Shaaban Hussin, got off to a strong start when Shaaban, making his debut in the Asian Qualifying, eagled from 10 feet on the par five fifth hole in a round of six birdies and one bogey which they dropped at the demanding closing hole.

“I was feeling a bit nervous but Iain gave me some tips on how to play in this type of format. He helped me a lot and he played very well,” said Shaaban.

Sabah-born Steel said the real test would be the second round’s foursomes format. “Tomorrow is the crunch as we will find out how this partnership is really going. The competition will level out and we will know where everybody stands. It will be a different ball game tomorrow and we need to stay patient and keep the big numbers away,” said Steel, who is bidding for a first World Cup appearance.

Mardan Mamat and Lam Chih Bing / ©Asian Tour

Mardan Mamat and Lam Chih Bing of Singapore continued their formidable partnership by taking the opening round lead with a sizzling eight-under-par 63 in the fourball format at the Omega Mission Hills World Cup Asian Qualifying on Wednesday.

The Singaporean duo combined effectively to sink eight birdies in a bogey-free round at Seri Selangor Golf Club to give themselves a strong chance of earning one of three tickets available to November’s Omega Mission Hills World Cup in Haikou, China.

New Zealand’s Michael Hendry and Gareth Paddison, who shot two straight eagles on the fifth and sixth holes, are a stroke back in third while the Myanmar team of Zaw Moe and Nay Bala battled to a 66 to stay three shots adrift.

Lam and Mardan, aiming to qualify for their fifth World Cup appearance together, showed their fondness for the Seri Selangor course with six straight birdies from the eighth hole. “We combined really well. Mardan was rock solid. I kind of struggled but I was happy I managed to contribute a few birdies out there,” said Lam, a winner on the Asian Tour.

Veteran Mardan was delighted with his team’s start and praised Lam for his birdies on the ninth, 10th and 11th holes. Lam also saved par at the last hole to put Singapore atop the leaderboard.

“The course isn’t playing easy. There are tricky pins on some of the holes and it is hard to read these greens. Both of us have been playing okay. When Lam is having a bad hole I come in to save the hole and vice versa. Lam’s birdies before the turn was the turning point for us,” said Mardan, who had qualified with Lam at Seri Selangor in 2006 and 2009.

Hendry and Paddison of New Zealand eagled the fifth and sixth holes respectively to turn in 31 but rued missed chances on the homeward nine.

“Gareth played very well and I kind of hung in there. The front nine was probably the key for us. Neither of us played outstanding golf but Gareth definitely played better than me. Overall we combined well and that’s what you are supposed to do in this format,” said the 31-year-old Hendry.

Veteran Moe was pleased with his combination with newcomer Nay Bala. “This is our first time teaming up. This is a veteran and young combination. I wanted a young partner because he has more energy to play golf. I will try to remain steady while he goes on the attack,” said Moe.

Bala, 21, is playing in his first World Cup qualifying but didn’t show any signs of nervousness. He holed a 15 foot eagle putt on the fifth hole to get the team off to a good start.

“I didn’t play well on the back nine. Apart from the eagle, there wasn’t any really special. It was a normal day and I need to push myself to do better in the next few days,” said Bala.

Full first round scores (Fourball)
63 – Singapore (Lam Chih Bing, Mardan Mamat)
64 – Malaysia (Iain Steel, Shaaban Hussin)
65 – New Zealand (Michael Hendry, Gareth Paddison)
66 – Myanmar (Zaw Moe, Nay Bala Win Myint)
67 – India (Anirban Lahiri, Gaganjeet Bhullar)
68 – Chinese Taipei (Tseng Hua-yen, Lin Kuan-po), Pakistan (Mohd Shabbir Iqbal, Muhammad Munir)
70 – Sri Lanka (Anura Rohana, Mithun Perera), Philippines (Mars Pucay, Antonio Lascuna), Korea (Kim Hyung-sung, Park Sung-joon)
73 – Hong Kong (Wong Woon Man, William Fung), Indonesia (Hardjito, Burhan Bora)
74 – Senegal (Niang Samba, Gueye Diadji)
76 – Vietnam (Nguyen Thai Duong, Michael Tran)
77 – Ghana (Stephen Kwame Klah, Godwin Sai)
78 – Brunei (Pengiran Hassanal, Moksin Jinaidi)