Seri Kembangan: Danny Chia rose to the occasion today to give himself an outside chance of winning the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic, Malaysia with a flawless third round of five-under 66 in punishing conditions at The MINES Resort & Golf Club.
The 39-year-old local hero, playing alongside his childhood idol Vijay Singh, stayed patient despite a long barren stretch before striking it hot in the closing phases of his round to take a share of fifth alongside the Fijian and American Jason Duffner on 11-under 202 in the US$6.1 million PGA and Asian Tours co-sanctioned tournament.
Shaaban Hussin, the other Malaysian representative in the field this week, fizzled with a mixed round of 76 after a horrible back nine, which included two double-bogeys on the 12th and 16th. Shaaban is just a stroke better than SSP Chowrasia, who currently lies last on seven-over 220 in the 48-player field.
Chia admitted to a slight case of anxiety as he teed-off in the shadows of the illustious Singh, who spent a good part of his early professional years on Malaysian soil.
“Probably the most nervous first five holes for me all week. I have been watching Vijay (Singh) golf on television since I started playing golf. He’s pretty much an icon for Malaysian golf, everybody loves him. Every shot I hit, I can feel that he is watching and I get really nervous,” said Chia, who birdied four of his last five holes to lie five strokes behind 54-hole leader Bo Van Pelt.
Having birdied the first par-five of the course on the third, Chia endured a couple of close missed before he drained a 30-foot putt on the par-three 14th to make up for his miscued tee-shot. He then took a calculated risk with his driver on the following hole and was duely rewarded with a two-putt chance for birdie, which he connected.
There was no turning back from that point on as he added another two birdies in the closing two holes for good measure, including a pressure-packed 20-foot breaking putt in front of a large home gallery.
“Probably the thing I am most happy with my round today was my patient approach. I did’t get any birdies after the third till late into the back nine. I kept telling myself to be patient and hopefully, the birdie will come and it did come at the last stretch,” said Chia, who’s last win on the Asian Tour came at the Acer Taiwan Open in 2002.
“When I stepped on the tee box (on the short par-four 15th), I was half hearted to go for the green or not. The temptation was huge, coming from that birdie on the previous hole. Deep down, I was really afraid to hit my driver but at the last moment, I told myself that if I wanted to step up my game, I had to do it and I hit one of the best drives I have hit all week.
“I guess the expectation is building up now. Everyday when I began my round, I don’t try to put a number to the round and just focus on playing my normal game. Even today, I probably caught a glimpse of leaderboard on the second last hole and thought that I still have an outside chance and then, I started to try really hard to nail my putts and make the birdies,” he added.
Chia laughed off any suggestion that he may crack under pressure, especially with an expected large partisan crowd tomorrow. “What do you think? It’s part of the game. I need it with me and try and overcome that. We will have to see,” shared Chia, noting that he enjoyed the excitement as the crowd when wild after his approach shot on the 18th.
Jeev rues cold putter
India’s Jeev Milkha Singh was the next best Asian, shooting a 67 to lie in tied 14th place at the Mines Resort and Golf Club. Jeev, a two-time Asian Tour Order of Merit winner, failed to get his putter firing as he settled for a 67 after a round of six birdies against two bogeys.
“I think I got ahead of myself. I hit it really well and it’s really disappointing. Tricky greens but I should have been more aggressive with some putts,” said Jeev.
Thai star Thongchai Jaidee was one-under after 15 holes but recovered with a pair of birdies from hole 14 to end the round on 68 to sit in tied 23rd place. “I played well but missed a few short putts on eight and nine (bogeys). Overall, it is still okay,” said the three-time Asian Tour number one.