Kota Kinabalu [SABAH]: Local boy Ben Leong will be counting on home comfort when he tees off the storied Sabah Masters, which gets underway at the Sutera Harbour Golf and Country Club starting Thursday.
The 33-year-old Sabahan, who enjoyed a tied-sixth place finish in Thailand a fortnight ago, hopes to capitalise on his recent fine form and put up a strong performance on home soil at the US$300,000 full-field Asian Tour event.
Placed 56th on the latest Order of Merit, Leong will also be aiming for a good showing to boost his ranking on the money list, where he needs to stay inside top-60 to retain his playing rights on the region’s premier Tour for the 2020 season.
“It was great to finish top-10 in Thailand. Lots of positives and confidence. It’s going to be a home game for me this week. It’s nice to be playing on home soil. I can sleep on my own bed. Definitely higher expectations for me but I’ll just take it as if I am playing elsewhere. I’ll just tell myself there’s no expectations although there will be at the end of the day,” said Leong.
Leong, the only Malaysian to win an Asian Tour event on home soil, will spearhead the local challenge along with big-hitting Amir Nazrin, Daeng Rahman and Shahriffuddin Ariffin at the event supported by the Tourism Malaysia with an aim to boost tourism in Sabah.
“I have been playing consistently. I struggled at the start of the year but it’s all in the past now. I am looking forward to this week and the rest of the year. Definitely hoping to win again. That’s always my goal but I try not to get ahead of myself. The aim is to put the ball on the fairway and green and try to make the putt, control what I can control,” he added.
The Asian Tour last visited Kota Kinabalu when it held the 2008 Qualifying School in multiple locations in December 2007. Leong topped the class in front of his home supporters that year for his second straight Qualifying School win.
Korea’s Yikeun Chang and newly minted winner Joohyung Kim will also feature in the championship alongside Indonesia’s Rory Hie, Thailand’s Danthai Boonma and Pavit Tangkamolprasert – all proven champions on the Asian Tour.