Khor shines to book IJO start

National qualfier winner Khor Kheng Hwai flanked by Jeremiah Kim (left) and R. Nachimuthu (right) ©IMG

Johor Bahru: Khor Kheng Hwai earned his fourth start at the Iskandar Johor Open after winning the national qualifier on Monday with a brilliant round of five-under 67.

Twenty-seven professionals from across Malaysia turned up to compete in the one-day shootout at Horizon Hills Golf & Country Club for three valuable spots on offer at the US$2million Asian Tour season-finale.

Coming out on top after the 18-hole of stroke-play contest was Kheng Hwai, who was delighted with his low-scoring effort which sealed his berth at the sxith edition of the prestigious event.

“Great, I feel awesome. To shoot 67 on any given day is fantastic. My form has been building over the last two months so I am delighted,” said Khor. “I putted really well. I have changed my mindset recently and it seems to be helping. I just play each hole and forget about what’s happened previously.”

Kheng Hwai has previously played in IJO in 2008, 2009 and 2010 but missed out on a place last year. Looking ahead to the 2012 edition he said, “I know the course fairly well so I am going to build on my experience and use my memories of past years. Putting well and keeping the ball in play will be key for me,” shared the 27-year-old.

Reigning Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM) Merit champion R.Nachimuthu came in second with a round of 71. He qualified for last year’s event but missed the cut and feels that he is more prepared this year on the back of his victories on the burgeoning domestic tour.

“I am currently second in the Malaysian Order of Merit with one event to go. I have played a few Asian Development Tour events and a lot of local events, so I have been playing quite well coming into this.

“Maybe I can do well at the Iskandar Johor Open and get a country exemption on the Asian Tour next year and not have to compete in Qualifying School. That will be my goal,” he said.

The final berth had to be decided on a play-off after former nationals Jeremiah Kim and Azman Basharuddin finished level on even-par 72. The duo returned to the 10th with rookie professional Jeremiah birdieing from 25 feet to seal his spot.

“I am very happy, really delighted that I have made it through qualifying today”, added the 18-year-old, who will be making his debut at the Iskandar Johor Open.

“I have been playing many local events over the past few weeks, so I am going to get some rest and then get myself prepared, working on my iron shots ahead of the tournament. I made some good putts today but left quite a few short so I am going to work on that too,” added Jeremiah, who could have finished sole second had he not dropped a double bogey on the last.

The trio now have a fortnight to practice and prepare before turning out on the fairways alongside some of the best players in Asia. The event from December 13-16 will feature a star-studded line-up including the likes of Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els, Michael Campbell and Thongchai Jaidee.