Rashid stays top after Seremban win

Rashid Ismail all smiles after his second victory on the PGM Tour in Seremban

Seremban: Md Rashid Ismail held off a resurgent Shaaban Hussin to lift the Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM) Seremban Classic today to maintain his stranglehold at top of the Tour’s Order of Merit. It was the 38-year-old’s second victory on the burgeoning domestic tour this year, joining Danny Chia and Nicholas Fung as the only other double winners so far.

Starting the day with a healthy three strokes advantage, Rashid carded a solid final round of 69 at Seremban International Golf Club to finish two shots ahead of Shaaban Hussin (68) with a four-day total of 14-under 274.  A further five strokes adrift in third was R. Nachimuthu, who leapfrogged the competition with a 68 – his first round in the 60s all week at the RM125,000 tournament.

National amateur Jeremiah Kim, who had led the field earlier in the week, settled for even par 72 and sole fourth on six-under 282 while PGM Lanjut Classic winner S. Murthy and P. Gunasagaran took fifth and sixth placing on 284 and 285 respectively. The trio of  Haziq Hamizan, Wilson Choo and M. Sasidaran were a stroke behind in tied seventh.

Shaaban Hussin ©Ravi Chitty/The ClubHouse

Rashid got off the good start, mixing four birdies against a bogey on the front nine but it was Shaaban that almost stole the thunder with a solid run of tee-to-green perfection. The latter was six-under through 12 holes, including a sensational eagle of the 11th, to pull level with the overnight leader before a snap hook on the 14th and a poor recovery led to a double bogey.

Shaaban dropped a shot on the 16th and despite a birdie on the last, it was scant consolation for the PGM Terengganu Classic winner as Rashid sealed the victory with some good percentage golf on the homeward stretch.

“I’m very pleased with my performance this week and I felt that I was hitting the ball very comfortably this week after my long layoff due to a back injury. Iron play was slick all week and and I had my fair share of makeable birdie opportunities all week, which I capitalised on,” said Rashid, who carded earlier rounds of 69,69 and 67.

“It was an easy cruise as my first victory [in PGM Johor Classic where he won by a massive eight strokes], Shaaban was on my neck all day and after his run of bogeys, I paced myself with the knowledge that the only way he could catch up with me is if I made a mistake,” added Rashid, who extended his lead at the top of the Order of Merit, taking home RM21,000 today for a total of RM138,571.33 after 15 tournaments.

“I’m quite surprised with my commanding lead on the Order of Merit, it’s not something that I really thought about at the start of the year.”

Shaaban was glad with his display, taking stock that it was a confident  boosting performance after missing the halfway cut by a slim one-stroke at the Iskandar Johor Open last week. “I’m quite happy to be honest, I wanted to put behind the disappointment at Horizon Hills behind me and I felt my game coming back this week. Twelve-under-par is definitely a good total over four days and I had my chances today.

“On the 14th, I was too cautious because of a sudden gust of wind and I hooked my drive behind a tree on the adjoining fairway and I could’t get myself cleanly out of that. Dropping another bogey on 16th didn’t help and though I charged for an eagle on the last, it was a tad too late,” shared the 31-year-old, who remains with one victory at the Terengganu Classic to his name.

Jeremiah Kim ©Ravi Chitty/The ClubHouse

But it was the performance of two of the country’s most promising amateurs that proved a silver lining in Seremban, with Jeremiah Kim and Low Khai Jei both putting on a composed display to give the seasoned professionals a run for their money.

“I’m very happy with how I played this week, I stuck to my gameplan and strategy and after finishing with runner-up finishes at both the Penang and Melaka Amateur Opens over the last two weeks, finishing as the best amateur here with a fourth place finish as been outstanding, ” shared the 17-year-old Kim, who didn’t give any thought to the possibility of winning despite leading midway through the tournament.

It was another reassuring display by the Taiping-based Low, who once again displayed his abilities on the long challenging SIGC layout.

“Very good overall and I enjoyed playing with the professionals and it was a good learning experience. I still have a long way to go,” said the 15-year-old, who put behind his own disappointment of having to pull out mid-way through the SEA Games due to food poisoning despite leading the chase for the gold medal in the individual event.

Lady professional Ainil Johani Bakar, who was making her debut on the tour, finished in 46th position at 17-over 305 (78-75-74-78) and was delighted with her showing, despite only making .

“It’s been a good week for me, it was exciting playing with the guys and it felt good to be in a competitive field [for the first time since the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia]. Playing four days here as definitely given me a boost; off the back tees, the course was playing much longer because of the rain and I had a good run out, even if I’m really tired now” explained Ainil, who earned a special exemption to play here in preparation of her appearance at the Hero Women’s Indian Open next month.

Leading final round scores:

274 Md Rashid Ismail 69-69-67-69
276 Shaaban Hussin 66-71-71-68
281 R. Nachimuthu 70-73-70-68
282 Jeremiah Kim (A) 69-68-73-72
283 S. Murthy 75-70-68-70
284 P. Gunasagaran 70-71-71-72
285 Haziq Hamizan 72-73-71-69; Wilson Choo 72-72-68-73; M. Sasidaran 68-70-72-75
287 S. Sivachandhran 71-72-70-74
288 Sahal Saedin 73-69-74-72