Nachimuthu lands Order of Merit crown with Kinrara win

R. Nachimuthu poses with his trophy at Kinrara Golf Club's new viewing deck

Kuala Lumpur: There’s a saying that the early bird gets the worm but in the case of R. Nachimuthu, it was not only about capturing the Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM) Masters victory but emerging as the burgeoning Tour’s first Order of Merit winner.

Trailing overnight leader Shaaban Hussin by three strokes, Nachimuthu was amongst the first players to arrive at the Kinrara Golf Club and spend the early minutes of the morning gazing at the course, enjoying a a quiet, thoughtful moment to himself on the viewing deck. sun rose. Little did the know that at the end of the round, he would be standing there as the overall winner of the PGM Tour this year.

“I don’t know why but I had the inkling in me to turn up early today. I just sauntered to the viewing deck and fixed my gaze on the golf course. I knew I had a chance and I told myself to give it my best shot,” said the 40-year-old, who mixed six birdies and three birdie for a final round 69 to ease to a two-stroke victory over Shaaban in the RM300,000 tour championship.

A run of bogeys through 12th and 13th destroyed Shaaban’s dream of lifting a second title on the Tour this year while first round leader Nicholas Fung settled for third on 279. Sukree Othman (70) took sole possession of fourth with a 281 total while Zamri Shariff (72) was a further four strokes behind.

Nachimuthu, who had earlier in the year claimed a sensational come-from-behind victory at the PGM Penang Classic, not only claimed the winner’s cheque of RM50,400 but usurped a disappointed Md Rashid Ismail in the money list with a 16-tournament total of RM 159,166.50. A half-fit Rashid, who finished tenth on even-par 288 had to settle for second on RM144,721.33 with another two-time winner Nicholas Fung in third on RM121,376.67.

“[The Order of Merit] wasn’t my target actually. I think I played well this week, I struck the ball cleanly and drained some crucial putts despite the soggy condition. Today, I had two early birdies and that sort of gave me that confidence to charge. After the turn, I was just waiting to capitalise on any mistakes and when I managed to drain two consecutive birdies from the 14th after Shaaban’s earlier misses, I knew I had it in the bag,” said Nachimuthu.

“Overall, it’s been an unbelievable year for me, winning two tournaments on the PGM Tour and another at the Terengganu Masters,” added Nachi, who also pocketted an unspecified personal bonanza from PGM chairman Tun Abdul Sarji Abdul Hamid.

Shaaban admitted that complacency could have played a part after a bogey-stricken 74. “My bogey at 12th and double bogey at the 13th changed everything. Before that I still had a good chance of winning this tournament. Maybe I was a bit complacent because at the start I had a three-shot cushion but in golf you should never feel complacent, ” shared Shaaban, who won the PGM Terengganu Classic in February.

The PGM Masters also proved a decider of sorts for the lower ranked players with only the top 50 ranked players in the Order of Merit after the season finale earning their cards for the 19-leg tour next year.  The remainder of the professionals, including newly-qualified Professional Golf Association of Malaysia (PGAM) members, will be required to earn their Tour cards through a three-day qualifying school set for January 3 -5 at Impian Golf & Country Club and Kinrara Golf Club.

Final round scores & ties

276 – R. Nachimuthu 71-66-70-69
278 – Shaaban Hussin 68-67-69-74
279 – Nicholas Fung 66-70-71-72
281 – Sukree Othman 71-67-73-70
285 – Zamri Shariff 69-71-73-70
286 – Shaifubari Muda 72-73-71-70; S. Sivachandhran 72-71-72-71
287 – P. Gunasagaran 75-69-74-69: Airil Rizman 74-70-73-70
289 – Solhairy Shariff 72-75-70-72; Akhmal Tarmizee 71-77-69-72; Haziq Hamizan 73-71-72-73; Mohd Nazri Mohd Zain 69-75-72-73