Trio headline local challenge at Bandar Malaysia Open

Ben Leong ©Mike Casper|The ClubHouse

Shah Alam [SELANGOR]: Proven Asian Tour winners Ben Leong, Nicholas Fung and Danny Chia are ready to fly the Malaysian flag when they tee up at the Bandar Malaysia Open, which gets underway at the highly rated Kota Permai Golf and Country Club on Thursday.

The trio, who holds a combined total of four Asian Tour wins and nine Asian Development Tour victories, are part of the 47-man strong local challenge vying to become the first Malaysian to win their National Open, which returns to the Asian Tour this week after a four-year hiatus.

Leong, the only Malaysian to win an Asian Tour event on home soil, is optimistic of his chances but will adopt a relaxed approach when he chases for a second victory and first since 2008 at the US$1 million event, sanctioned by the Asian Tour and in partnership with the Japan Golf Tour Organisation (JGTO).

“I’m going to treat this like any other event. Just normal, I know it’s easier said than done, but you know, that’s the mindset for this week. We have a good representation of Malaysian golfers this week with 47 of us in total. A big shout out to the Malaysia Golf Association for being so supportive,” noted Leong.

“Tee shots are important to set up birdie chances out there. It’s tough coming out from the rough and the fairways are not small and they are not big. They are just in between sizes so being on the short grass is definitely an added bonus.

Danny Chia ©Ahmad Fadali|Asian Tour

Chia, a two-time Asian Tour winner, found an opportunity to give back to the game when he hosted a junior event, which was held in conjunction with the Bandar Malaysia Open, on the same venue last
week. The 47-year-old enjoyed a tied-25th place finish when the event was last staged in 2015.

It’s great to finally play our own National Open again. I was surprised when I heard about the return of this event. It’s a great news for Malaysian golf and all the local professionals. I have had a lot of good memories playing in the Malaysian Open, especially on this course.

“I remembered I was tied for the lead after two rounds here. It’s nice to be back here. The course’s looking fantastic. It’s possibly one of the best around this area. The greens are fast. They did a really good job.”

Fung, whose best finish at the Malaysian Open remains a tied-47th place result in 2014, believes he has the game to contend in his National Open. He got his season off to a disappointing start with two missed cuts in three events but will be looking to turn the corner with a fine showing this week.

“I have been playing well and hitting the ball good. I just think it’s not coming at the right time and that’s why results are not showing. I did some work with my coach Steven and did some club fitting as well. Checked with my team and it seems like all is good and we’re ready to go,” shared Fung.

“I’ve been missing the cut by a few shots. I think it’s my poor judgement with my second shots. Otherwise, all else feels good. We have a strong field this week but the local players have advantage because we get to practise here before the tournament week.”

India’s Rahil Gangjee and Scott Vincent of Zimbabwe, who is still chasing for an Asian Tour breakthrough, will feature in the talented 156-man field from 23 countries, which consists of over 50 Asian Tour champions and four Order of Merit winners.

The Malaysian Open boasts an illustrious list of past winners which includes India’s Anirban Lahiri and Arjun Atwal, Thai stars Thongchai Jaidee and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, as well as Korea’s Noh Seung-yul, who have gone on to lift the coveted Asian Tour Order of Merit crowns following their victories in the storied event.