Chia hits top gear at Classic

Danny Chia © Asian Tour

Kuala Lumpur: A new strategy and much more relaxed attitude saw Danny Chia charge up the leaderboard of the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic, Malaysia today.

Chia carded  a splendid second round 65 for a six-under 136 total, to take a share of 13th placing alongside young Thai star Chinnarat Padungsil and three others at the halfway stage of the US$6.1 million Asian and PGA Tours sanctioned event.

Shaaban Hussin, the other Malaysian in the 48-man playing field at The Mines Golf Club and Resort, fired a successive 72 for a 144 total.

Chia’s decision to be more cautious on the tee box paid off superbly as he returned with seven birdies. His only blemish of the day came at the par-four twelve where he dropped a bogey.

“I told myself I need to be patient and the birdies will come. The minute you hit a good shot, you will be rewarded with a birdie. There’s no point for me to be aggressive and go for everything,” said Chia, who lies seven strokes behind co-leaders Jeff Overton and Fredrik Jacobson

The winner of the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic, Malaysia will receive a cool US$1.3 million reward but Chia is not getting ahead of himself just yet. “I try not to think far ahead. I just try and enjoy every hole that comes along. If it happens then it is great, if not, at least I give myself a chance to play well,” said the 39-year-old.

“I thought about it (the prize money) last week but the minute I teed off, I enjoyed playing the round and not thinking about how much my result this week was worth,” he added.

The experienced Malaysian has consistently featured as the top domestic player in successive Malaysian Opens and feels that the experience will help him handle the pressure from a large expectant home following. “It’s nice to have the home support. The crowd that followed me were very well behaved and I really appreciate it. Hopefully, we will have the same kind of crowd that will be following me tomorrow,” shared Chia.

Shaaban birdied his opening hole but lost momentum when he mishit his chip on the fourth hole and settled for bogey.

“After I birdied the first hole, I thought I would burn the course. But I lost my confidence with my bogey on the fourth hole. I duffed my chip and that was a huge mistake. I struggled after that,” he admitted, noting that once again the back nine proved his saving grace.

He was not surprised with Chia’s impressive round and said he needs to step up his game. “He is the best player in Malaysia. I hope to draw some confidence from Danny’s round. Hopefully I can play as well as him,” said Shaaban.

Chinnarat tees ’em up right

Chinnarat Phadungsil © Paul Morris/Asian Tour

Chinnarat, the youngest ever Asian Tour champion after winning the 2005 Double A International Open on home soil at the age of 17 years and five days while as an amateur, credited his radar guided tee shots for his round of six birdies against one bogey.

“I hit every fairway today except on the last hole. I could have recovered but topped my chip! I worked at the driving range (Thursday) to get my rhythm back and it seemed to work for me,” said Chinnarat.

Thailand’s Kiradech, winner of the SAIL Open in India earlier this year, was on a relentless charge with three straight birdies from the 15th hole before dropping his third bogey of the day on the last hole for a 67.

“I’m not in top form to catch the leaders. I’m hitting my driver very good but my iron play has been disappointing. My coach is coming this weekend and hopefully we can work out my iron play,” said Kiradech, who is a former world junior champion.

Asian Tour honorary member Jeev Milkha Singh of India rued a cold putter where he was three-under for the day before dropping a stroke on the last hole. He finished on 69 to lie in tied 25th place.

“I’m quite disappointed. I could have easily finished on four-under. The putter let me down. At least I’m hitting it a lot better. I just need to work on the short game,” said the two-time Asian Tour Order of Merit winner.