Johor Bahru: R. Nachimuthu produced a majestic eight-under-par 64 to grab a one-shot lead from countryman Shaaban Hussin in the first round of the Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM) Johor Championship on Wednesday.
Straight-hitting Nachimuthu nailed eight birdies in an unblemished round at the Johor Golf and Country Club, thanks largely to him finding 17 greens in regulation at the RM200,000 (approximately US$55,400) Asian Development Tour co-sanctioned event.
Shaaban snared an eagle, seven birdies and two bogeys to spearhead the chasing pack with his 65 while current ADT Order of Merit leader Hsieh Chi-hsien of Chinese Taipei, who was victorious on home soil two weeks ago, American Greg Moss, Nicholas Fung and S. Murthy are a further stroke back.
“I just hit it solid,” said Nachimuthu. Being bogey free is always nice on this course. If I putt well, I can always score as my ball striking is normally not a problem.”
Starting his day from the 10th tee, the former domestic Order of Merit champion turned in 31, rolling in a tricky 15-foot downhill birdie putt on 18 which provided the highlight of his round.
“It was a difficult putt, I didn’t expect that one to go in as I was just trying to park it. The other birdies were pretty much from close range, inside of 10 feet,” he said.
“I’m familiar with this course. You have to keep it on the fairway which is very much my game. This is probably my best round on the ADT and I will keep to my game plan, which is to hit fairways and greens. If I decide on driver on a hole, I will stick to the plan. It’s always good to have a clear mind when you play.”
Shaaban was delighted with his fast start, which included an eagle on the par five 11th hole. “I’ve been on fire since I shot a 62 in the final round of another tournament last week,” said the slender Malaysian, who has registered two top-10s on the ADT this season.
“I played really well again and I’m hitting the irons really good … hitting them close. I did miss a few putts, probably some six chances from about eight feet. If I can putt better, the score would be lower.”
Shaaban found joy with a seven-foot eagle conversion at his second hole of the day on 11 where he nailed a four hybrid approach from 210 yards to near perfection. He then made four birdies in a row from the 14th hole to turn in 30.
“I hit it really high and good and the ball stopped close to the pin for my eagle. I played easy golf again, just hitting a lot of greens and whenever I made a putt, the ball went in,” he said.
Leading first round scores (Par-72) >
Malaysian unless stated
64 – R. Nachimuthu
65 – Shaaban Hussin
66 – Hsieh Chi-hsien (TPE), S. Murthy, Nicholas Fung, Greg Moss (USA)
67 – Casey O’Toole (USA), Blake Snyder (USA), Lam Chih Bing (SIN)
68 – Michael Tran (VIE)
69 – Wilson Choo, Ichiro Suzuki (JPN – Am)