Kota Kinabalu: Marquee players Mardan Mamat from Singapore and Filipino Antonio Lascuna stamped their authority on the opening day of the Sabah Masters shooting matching four-under-par 67s.
The experienced duo top the leaderboard ahead of Malaysian Danny Chia, Singapore’s Koh Dengshan plus Somkiat Srisanga and Rattanon Wannasrichan from Thailand who carded 69s.
The US$75,000 tournament, which is being played at Sutera Harbour Golf & Country Club, is the final event of the ASEAN PGA Tour’s 2012-2013 season.
Local favourite Nicholas Fung, the current leader of the Order of Merit is looking to wrap up the number one spot this week, returned a one-over 72. Thailand’s Annop Tangkamolprasert, the sole player who can catch Fung with a victory here, fired a 70. Defending champion Wisut Artjanawat from Thailand came in with a 73.
“That’s a great way to start the year,” said Mamat, who made six birdies and two bogeys. “I had a very good 2012 and I am glad it is continuing into the new year. It is early days though.”
The 45-year-old won the Philippine Open last season showing he is getting better with age and during his impressive career he has triumphed twice on the ASEAN PGA Tour. Most noticeably he claimed the Mercedes-Benz Masters Malaysia in 2010 while battling with the effects of fasting during Ramadhan.
Fellow veteran Lascuna is still looking for his first win on the ASEAN PGA Tour despite dozens of runner up finishes. “You need a good short game around this course to score well and that part of my game worked well today. I think this course suits my game so maybe this can finally be my week,” said 42-year-old Lascuna.
Incredibly the Filipino has won 18 titles on the Philippine Golf Tour and in 2007 he was victorious in the Selangor Masters.
Chia made a solid start, showing the kind of form that won him the opening leg on the burgeoning domestic Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM) Tour at Kinrara last Sunday. “Nice to get off to a good start and stay with the leaders. I am quite with the way I am playing and would love to claim back to back titles,” said Chia, who eagled the par four eighth.
Leading first round scores
67 – Mardan Mamat (SIN), Antonio Lascuna (PHI)
69 – Danny Chia, Koh Dengshan (SIN), Rattanon Wannasrichan (THA), Somkiat Srisanga (THA)
70 – Kwanchai Tannin (THA), Annop Tangkamolprasert (THA), Rufino Bayron (PHI), Iain Steel, Marvin Dumandan (PHI)
71 – Rory Hie (INA), S Sivachandran, Mike Bibat (PHI), Piya Swangarunporn (THA), Pasavee Lertvilai (THA), Pijit Petchkasem (THA)
72 – Mohd Sukree Othman, Nicholas Fung, Anthony Fernando (PHI), Lam Yu Shuen, Jhonnel Ababa (PHI), R. Nachimuthu