Steel inches closer to CIMB Classic slot

Iain Steel of Malaysia © Khalid Redza/Asian Tour
Iain Steel © Khalid Redza/Asian Tour

Kuala Lumpur: The man of the moment Iain Steel continued his consistent run by shooting a four-under-par 68 to seize the second round lead at the RM150,000 SapuraKencana National Qualifier on Tuesday. 

Steel, who won two Asian Development Tour (ADT) events this month, mixed his card with seven birdies against three bogeys to lead by one-shot on one-under-par 143 at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.

Shaaban, aiming for a fourth consecutive appearance at the CIMB Classic, and Rashid Ismail shared second after posting a 70 and 71 respectively in the three-day qualifier.

R. Nachimuthu (72) and Lim Eng Seng (71) trailed Steel by two shots to stay in contention at the SapuraKencana National Qualifier which rewards the winner with a spot at the CIMB Classic in October.

Starting from the 10th tee, Steel was even-par after nine holes but bounced back with five birdies against one bogey on the homeward stretch to put himself in position to earn a maiden appearance at the US$7 million CIMB Classic.

“My game was solid. The pins were a little bit more accessible and I took advantage of that. If I found out the secret to why I’m playing well, I would be a millionaire! My putter has been behaving itself so I’m trying to ride on it,” smiled the 42-year-old Steel.

The Sabahan is oozing confidence from his come-from-behind victories in Terengganu and Chinese Taipei, and hopes to carry the momentum into the final round.

“Winning breeds confidence. I don’t like to leave it on the last day to win like what I did in my last two victories. I like to be in the last group and shoot low numbers. I think that will be more fun,” he added.

Shaaban traded four birdies against two bogeys and is on the brink of making another appearance at the CIMB Classic. He won the qualifier in 2010 and 2011 and earned a spot in the event as the second highest Malaysian ranked on the Official World Golf Ranking last year.

“It was a good round. I missed a few birdie putts but that’s okay. I’m one shot back from Iain but anything can happen. I’m not going to give myself pressure and think about making a fourth straight appearance at the CIMB Classic yet. I’m just focussed on the final round,” said Shaaban.

Rashid, playing in his first event in two months, was surprised with his consistent run after changing his swing due to a tendon injury below his right hip.

“It was the same game but with less mistakes. I’m happy with how I played but I don’t have any targets because I’m playing with an injury. I’m very lucky that I’m able to play. It will be a bonus if I can qualify for the CIMB Classic,” said Rashid.

Leading second round scores:
143 – Iain Steel 75-68
144 – Mohd Shabaan Hussin 74-70, Md Rashid Ismail 73-71
145 – Lim Eng Seng 74-71, R. Nachimuthu 73-72
146 – Nicholas Fung 74-72
147 – Akhmal Tarmizee 74-73, Kemarol Baharin 74-73, Zurie Harun 72-75
148 – Mohd Rizal Amin 75-73
149 – Sukree Othman 77-72
150 – S. Sivachandhran 78-72, Azman Basharuddin 78-72