Singapore: Shaaban Hussin produced a timely masterstroke to give Malaysia a narrow advantage on the opening day of the Prudential Causeway Trophy on Friday.
In a dramatic finale to the foursome matches at Laguna National Golf and Country Club, Shaaban pulled off an audacious chip-in for an eagle-three at the par-five 18th to secure a tense one-hole win for Sukree Othman and himself over Lam Chih Bing and Lam Zhiqun – handing the visitors a 3½ – 2½ lead heading into Saturday’s six fourball contests.
“I’ll remember that shot for a long time,” said Shaaban, referring to the marvellous chip which he struck firmly to catch a steep slope behind the flagstick that brought the ball trickling back towards the cup.
As his ball disappeared below ground, Shaaban raised his arms before being mobbed by his team-mates who were watching nervously from the side of the green. However, victory was only confirmed after Lam Zhiqun’s putt for a matching three drifted past the hole.
Defeat was tough on the Singapore duo who bravely battled back from a seemingly hopeless situation of four-down through 11 holes. They halved that deficit and then won the 16th and 17th holes to improbably square the match before Shaaban’s pulled off his moment of magic.
Malaysia enjoyed a flying start with Nicholas Fung and Khor Kheng Hwai racing to a 4&2 victory over Goh Kun Yang and Poh Eng Wah in the first match out. The Malaysian pair combined effortlessly, winning four straight holes from the fifth with Khor draining a 30-foot birdie on the sixth before Fung sent his approach on the eighth straight into the pin for an eagle two.
“We were trying to get off the blocks as fast as possible and put a point up on the board to rally our team-mates. Nicholas played really well out there and it sort of rubbed on to me but importantly, we carried each other out there. We capitalised on our opponent’s mistakes but our ball-placing today was brilliant and it put them under a lot of pressure to hit it close and try to force the game,” said Khor.
“What an incredible finish to the first day. There was some excellent golf and it’s all set up for a thrilling weekend. Our players are in high spirits and in a happy place.”
~ Chong Chee Ming (Malaysian skipper)
But Quincy Quek and Marc Kawasoe gelled perfectly, sweeping to a 6&4 success against S. Sivachandhran and Kemarol Baharin to put the first point on the board for the hosts. “It was a tough test but we played some smart golf and both of discovered our form early on, which worked out to our advantage,” said Kawasoe.
“Getting off to an early lead definitely helped us gain momentum and we built on that lead and close out the match. Marc and I practise and play a lot together, so the chemistry was there and we understood what each of us needed to do out there,” added Quek.
In the second game out, Koh Dengshan and Mardan Mamat set the pace early on against Iylia Jamal and Kenneth de Silva. One-up through 14 holes the wheels then came off for the Singaporeans in spectacular fashion as they carded four successive double-bogeys that allowed their opponents to edge home.
“We were quite surprise because we did not go out there thinking we could actually pull of an upset but we stuck to conventional golf and it paid off in the end. We were trailing for most parts of the match but luck favoured us and we won three holes on a trot at the end to gain an important point for the team,” said the youthful duo, who played together as amateurs under the Malaysian Golf Association umbrella.
Behind them, Choo Tze Huang and Cheng Ren Chiat held their nerve to eke out a two-up triumph against Danny Chia and Hans Jamil. Seemingly coasting at three-up through six, Choo and Cheng found themselves one-down after 13 holes. But with Chia and Hans stumbling, the Singapore duo won both the 14th and 15th to move ahead once more, making sure of delivering a full point with a last-hole birdie.
Singapore captain Mohd Said Abdul Latif noted that the hosts will go back to the drawing board to get the kinks out of the system. “We knew that the Malaysians came ready to play and did really well. Our guys battled hard and the matches were mostly delicately poised. There many unlucky shots out there which took the momentum off our boys and in some of the matches, we couldn’t get the rhythm going.
Overall, some of them would have loved to play better but we’re looking forward to better results in the coming days. There are still many points to play for and hopefully we can retain the Prudential Causeway Trophy,” added Said.