Singapore: Hosts Singapore fired the first salvo as they took a comfortable 4-2 lead in the Prudential Causeway Trophy after the closely-fought Friday foursomes.
Bidding to become the maiden winners of the annual match-up pitching the best professionals from both sides of the Causeway, the Lions got off to a fiery start to take an early advantage in four of the six matches.
But the Singaporeans’ much-touted chemistry and familiarity with the ferocious World Classic course of Laguna Golf & Country Club was matched by the Malaysians’ resilient and never-die attitude as the visitors salvaged two critical points heading into Saturday’s fourball format.
Airil Rizman Zahari and Sukree Othman ensured that the visiting team skippered by Chong Chee Ming drew first blood with a convincing 4&3 defeat of Poh Eng Wah and M. Murugiah but the hosts quickly levelled matters with Lam Zhiqun and Lam Chih Bing cruising to a 4&3 victory of their own over Danny Chia and Rizal Amin.
By then Md Rashid Ismail and Akhmal Tarmizee Nazari had rallied back for an improbable comeback, halving the match with Vincent Khua and Mitchell Slorach after being four-down at the turn.
With the tie looking nicely balanced, Singapore pressed ahead courtesy of their fifth pairing of Chang Ren Chiat and Choo Tze Huang, who combined for four straight gains from the 13th to triumph 3&2 over Nicholas Fung and Anis Helmi Hassan.
The second match saw an old rivalry re-kindled with Malaysian veteran S. Murthy taking on his amateur-day adversary Mardan Mamat alongside S. Sivachandhran and Koh Dengshan respectively. The Malaysians were 1-up coming into the final hole but the Singaporean number one Mardan had the last laugh as he set up a tap-in birdie for his partner Dengshan to finish all square.
Shaaban Hussin and R. Nachimuthu pushed the final match to the wire but lost out 2-up in the end to Quincy Quek and Marc Kawasoe, leaving Singapore captain Lip Ooi delighted with a two-point advantage after day one.
“I think what went right for us today was my pairing and the sequence of play. Hopefully we can get the same momentum over the weekend but I reiterated to the boys that they have to play their hearts out,” said Ooi.
Chih Bing and Zhiqun were Singapore’s strongest performers on the day and felt that the overall display by the Singaporean team augured well for their chance to lift the trophy.
“We had a good start as we won a couple of holes easily. We got a big break on number nine as winning that hole with a bogey was a big turning point for us,” said Chih Bing. “When we first looked at the pairing, this was one of Malaysia’s strongest teams so we knew that we had our work cut out for us and luckily we were able to play some solid golf today and pull it off,” he added.
“As a team, we are actually like the underdogs. The whole Malaysian team consists of full-time players and for us, we got eight touring professionals, while the rest are teaching professionals, so a win would be a good boost to Singapore as that will show how much our standards have risen,” said Zhiqun.