Ailing Rashid secures Causeway success for Malaysia

Team Malaysia pose for a photo with sponsor representatives at the conclusion of the Prudential Causeway Trophy ©David Ash|PMG
Team Malaysia pose for a photo with sponsor representatives at the conclusion of the Prudential Causeway Trophy ©David Ash|PMG

Singapore: Seasoned campaigner Md Rashid Ismail played through the pain barrier to help Malaysia secure a dramatic 12½ – 11½ victory over holders Singapore to lift the Prudential Causeway Trophy on Sunday.

Dubbed the weakest link in the Malaysian squad after a recurrence of a problematic back condition, Rashid proved his critics wrong with a battling display against Singapore’s up-and-coming professional Choo Tze Huang to secure the all-important half-point that saw the visitors avenge their painful defeat in maiden edition of the Ryder Cup-style team match play last year.

With the scores poised at 12-11 in favour of the Malaysians, Choo needed to defeat Rashid to tie the contest, in which case Singapore would have retained the trophy by dint of being the defending champions.

Rashid Ismail is a picture of relief after holing his putt on 16th to secure the win for Malaysia ©David Ash|PMG
Rashid Ismail is a picture of relief after holing his putt on 16th to secure the win for Malaysia ©David Ash|PMG

But Rashid, who went ahead for the first time with  a birdie at the 12th, completed a fairytale comeback with a stunning birdie at the par-four 16th where he struck a majestic nine-iron approach from 117 metres to within a yard of the cup. As his ball disappeared below ground for a birdie to guarantee Malaysia victory, Rashid was mobbed by his jubilant team-mates.

“It’s an amazing feeling. I’ve enjoyed many highs in my career but this will definitely stand out. I did it for my country and I told my captain that I would not let him down even if my back gave way,” said 41-year-old Rashid, who conceded the final two holes with his team success assured.

Rashid, who lost his fourball match yesterday after sitting out of Friday’s opening foursomes, said: “I have a swollen tendon (in lower back) which is very painful, especially hitting iron shots. It’s a problem that has plagued me for over two years but I jarred it badly on Wednesday and it was always going to be touch-and-go from there on. This morning I took a pain killer and I managed to get through, even though I think I was only able to swing at about 60 per cent.

Ahead 6½ – 5½ at the start of the singles at Laguna National Golf & Country Club, Malaysian skipper Chong Chee Ming watched his team endure a roller-coaster ride on what proved to be a thrillingly unpredictable day of wildly fluctuating fortunes.

Malaysia stormed out of the blocks and appeared set for an overwhelming victory with blue numbers dominating the leaderboards. But Singapore’s middle order fought back courageously to ensure the outcome remained in doubt right to the last.

“I’m almost speechless,” said Malaysian captain Chong. “After last year’s defeat, we were determined to win. It was a real ding-dong match and a memorable week.”

The tone for a topsy-turvy final day was set in the opening match with S. Sivachandhran sprinting into a three-up lead through three holes against Singapore veteran Madasamy Murugiah and coasting to a 6&5 triumph.

Behind him, in-form Malaysians Nicholas Fung and Danny Chia easily outgunned Singapore’s top two players Mardan Mamat and Lam Chih Bing.

Mardan lost each of the opening three holes to Fung. It was too much ground to make up and he eventually succumbed 3&2 to Fung, the only Malaysian to post three points out of three games during the week.

Danny Chia ©David Ash|PMG
Danny Chia ©David Ash|PMG

It was a similar story for Lam Chih Bing who went from all-square after two to four-down through seven holes. With Chia playing steadily, there was no way back for the Singaporean.

Further bad news for the home team came when Goh Kun Yang was comprehensively thrashed by Iain Steel, 7&6.

Among the early carnage, the shining lights for Singapore were Quincy Quek and Marc Kawasoe. Having combined to win both their foursomes and fourball matches earlier in the week, the duo were responsible for keeping alive Singapore hopes with impressive singles successes.

Quincy Quek © David Ash|PMG
Quincy Quek © David Ash|PMG

In the second match out against Kemarol Baharin, Quek recovered well after losing the first hole. All square at the turn, Quek ramped up the pressure at the start of the back nine, winning the 10th, 11th and 13th with pars and the long 12th with an eagle to set up a 4&3 win.

Kawasoe was also in inspired form in a 4&3 trouncing of Hans Jamil, while Lam Zhiqun, Chang Ren Chiat and Koh Dengshan contributed three consecutive points to give a Singapore a glimmer of hope.

With Sukree Othman getting the better of Poh Eng Wah it looked as if Shaaban Hussin would deliver the winning point for Malaysia. But Singapore southpaw Justin Han denied him in dramatic fashion, snaring a downhill 30-footer on the undulating 18th green to secure a hard-earned half. That meant it all came down to Choo and Rashid in the last match – with both teams tied six-all at the end of the singles.

Singapore’s non-playing captain Mohd Said bin Abdul Latif, Singapore’s non-playing captain, was magnanimous in defeat. “I congratulate my team for the way they battled and I also congratulate the Malaysians. They were a strong team and much better prepared than last year.”

Prudential Assurance Company Singapore (Pte) Limited chief marketing officer David Ng applauded the Malaysian team’s effort. “On behalf of Prudential Singapore, I’d like to congratulate Team Malaysia on their outstanding performance. Their determination to claim the Prudential Causeway Trophy this year was evident in the energy and spirit shown throughout the tournament, making it a double win for Malaysia after their junior players walked away with Wednesday‘s Prudential Junior Causeway Trophy,” said Ng.