Dodt sets early pace with sizzling 63

Mike Casper|The ClubHouse
Andrew Dodt

Shah Alam [SELANGOR]: Australian Andrew Dodt took advantage of a hot start to sign for an opening nine-under-par 63 and grab the clubhouse lead by two shots at the weather-disrupted Bandar Malaysia Open on Thursday.

Reigning Asian Development Tour Order of Merit champion Naoki Sekito of Japan closed with three consecutive birdies to sit in second place at the US$1 million event, which is sanctioned by the Asian Tour and in partnership with the Japan Golf Tour Organisation (JGTO).

Thai duo Phachara Khongwatmai and Pavit Tangkamolprasert returned with matching 66s, thanks to their respective front and back-nine 30s, to share third place with Chinese Taipei’s Chang Wei-lun and Bjorn Hellgren of Sweden, who came through the Asian Tour Qualifying School two weeks ago.

After two opening birdies, the 34-year-old Dodt added a birdie on the sixth and an eagle-three on seventh to turn in 31.

He nailed four more birdies on his way home to take his place atop the leaderboard just before play got suspended at 5.55pm due to lightning threats.

“It felt quite simple. I hit a lot of fairways and a lot of greens and holed a lot of putts. This is, overall, what I’ve been trying to do everyday. Just felt comfortable and easy. It’s great to shoot nine-under,” said Dodt.

“I birdied the first two holes and that kind of kicked off the round for me. My game’s in a good shape. I was very aggressively on my par-fives and there weren’t too much breeze. I could get on the green in two. That certainly helps.”

Dodt was thrilled to regain his fine form in Malaysia, where he claimed his third Asian Tour victory in Sarawak last August following a two-month injury layoff. He had missed two cuts in three starts on the Asian Tour so far this season.

“Malaysia has been a happy hunting ground for me. Today’s round is just another step in the right direction for me. I was first reserve on site when we played the Malaysian Open here back in 2008. So I just sat around the putting green the whole day and didn’t get to tee up,” he added.

Mohd Wafiyuddin Abdul Manaf ©Mike Casper|The ClubHouse

Mohd Wafiyuddin Abdul Manaf emerged as the best-placed Malaysian after carding a commendable 68 for a share of 13th place at the highly-rated Kota Permai Golf & Country Club, which last hosted the storied event in 2008.

The Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) assistant professional last featured in the Malaysian Open as a national amateur in 2013 and was excited to be back in the mix.

“Overall, I’m very pleased with the way I played. Happy to get off to a good start in my national Open. It’s a good boost in confidence for me because I haven’t played in tournaments for about three months already.”

“Getting to play and practise on this course last week helped me a lot. I feel really comfortable out there. If I could hit a few more greens in regulation, I think I could go a few shots lower. My putting was key today but I’m not really happy with my iron-play,” he noted.

A total of 51 players will resume their opening rounds at 7.40am on Friday with the second round slated to start at 7.50am.