Kuala Lumpur: Danny Chia was not going to allow an early setback to spoil his CIMB Asia Pacific Classic, Malaysia debut.
The 39-year-old opened his campaign at the US$6.1 million event with a respectable round of even-par 71 at the The Mines Resort and Golf Club. The local hero got off to a fast start with a birdie on the third hole before wayward tee shots caused him a double and triple bogey over the next two holes.
Chia steadied ship with three further birdies to turn in 36 before adding two birdies against one bogey on his homeward nine to lie as the best placed Malaysian in tied 33rd position, one stroke ahead of compatriot Shaaban Hussin.
“To be honest I was a bit nervous in the beginning because I didn’t know what to expect. In fact I lost a bit of concentration in the first few holes but I played pretty well throughout the round,” said Chia, who noted that he would change his strategy and take a more cautious approach with his tee shots to give himself a chance of making a charge up the leader board in the next three days.
“If you hit the ball good on this golf course, you will have a lot of birdies. I might have a different strategy on the tee box because I was a little bit too aggressive with my tee shots,” said Chia, the first Malaysian to win on the Asian Tour in 2002.
“I would have been happier if I didn’t mess up on those two holes but on the positive side, we still have three more days to go and I’m hitting the ball very solid,” he added.
Shaaban who qualified for the event after winning the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic, Malaysia national qualifier, was three-over after the turn but salvaged his round with two birdies on holes 14 and 17 to lie in tied 41st place.
“I struggled in the beginning with my irons shots. I missed a lot of greens. Luckily my putting was good on the first nine or I would have been on five or six over after the first nine,” said Shaaban.
Thongchai and Siddikur lead the Asian charge
Thai star Thongchai Jaidee and Siddikur of Bangladesh fired matching three-under-par 68s to spearhead the Asian Tour charge. The popular duo were placed tied 12th, five shots off the pace set by Robert Allenby of Australia at The Mines Resort and Golf Club.
Indian stalwart Jeev Milkha Singh, a two-time Order of Merit winner, was a further shot back in tied 19th place in the event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and PGA Tour.
Siddikur was four-under going into the last hole before an errant approach shot landed in the greenside rough which forced him to settle for a bogey.
“I should have made the up-and-down there but my chip fell short off the green. I’m still happy with my score because there’s still a long way to go,” said Siddikur, who finished tied 11th in the maiden edition last year.
Siddikur added he was brimming with confidence after playing with four-time PGA Tour winner Mark Wilson of the United States. “I’m feeling even more confident now because my driving distance compared to Mark was about 10 yards different. The distance of our iron shots were almost the same. It goes to show that the standard of our game is almost the same and if they can play on the PGA Tour so can I,” said Siddikur, the first Bangladeshi to win on the Asian Tour.
Playing for his fifth consecutive week, Thongchai struggled with fatigue but managed to return with five birdies against two bogeys at The Mines Resort.
“My body is a bit tired. I had a good sleep in the last two days. I’ll try to have a good rest today and get myself ready,” said the three-time Asian Tour Order of Merit winner.
Singh, who is recuperating from a back injury, turned in 34 before adding two straight birdies from the 16th hole against one bogey on 14.
“I’ll take a two under especially after a two-week break. My back is still not 100 per cent. I need to release the club more as I’m still holding back with the club. I feel as the weeks go by, it’ll get better,” said Singh.