Zurie leads National Qualifier by one

Zurie Harun ©ArepKulal/TCH
Zurie Harun ©ArepKulal/TCH

Kuala Lumpur: Zurie Harun took advantage of a fast start to lead in the opening round of the RM150,000 SapuraKencana National Qualifier with an even-par 72 on Monday.

He leads by one shot from R. Nachimuthu and Rashid Ismail, who is playing in his first event in two months, at the challenging Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.

Nicholas Fung, Kemarol Baharin, Lim Eng Seng, Shaaban Hussin and Akhmal Tarmizee shot matching 74s for tied fourth position at the three-day qualifier which rewards the winner with a spot in the CIMB Classic, sanctioned by the Asian Tour and PGA Tour in October.

An in-form Iain Steel, who won an Asian Development Tour (ADT) event in Terengganu on Saturday, stayed in the mix with a 75. He is tied for ninth spot with S. Murthy, M. Sasidaran and Rizal Amin.

Zurie was hot off the blocks when he birdied three of his opening four holes to turn in three-under-par 33. He dropped three bogeys on the back but is still in position to qualify for the US$7 million CIMB Classic which will be headlined by five-time Major winner Phil Mickelson of the United States.

“I’m lucky with my score. Every part of my game clicked and I managed to take advantage of the fast start. It wasn’t an easy day out there. The pins were placed on very tricky locations so I’m happy that I managed to return with an even-par score,” said Zurie.

Starting from the 10th tee, Rashid, who is still recovering from an injured tendon in his right hip, could have taken the outright lead but slipped back with a double bogey on the last hole.

“I didn’t play much golf in the past few months so I’m happy with my score. I’ve been nursing my injury in the last two months by doing a lot of physiotherapy and that has helped. But I did feel a bit of pain today,” said the 40-year-old Rashid.

“I had to make some adjustments to my swing because of the injury and I’m hitting it shorter than what I used to. Luckily, you need to be straight on the West course and not just blast it from the tees,” he added.

Nachimuthu, who is aiming to make his first appearance at the CIMB Classic, battled to a 73 after struggling with a cold putter.

“The course wasn’t easy. Overall I’ll still take my score. I’ve been hitting it really good but my putting has really let me down. If I putt well then I’ll have a strong chance to win this qualifier,” said Nachimuthu.

The CIMB Classic will be played from October 24 to 27 and will offer FedExCup points for the first time since its inauguration in 2010.

Leading first round scores
72 – Zurie Harun
73 – Md Rashid Ismail, R. Nachimuthu
74 – Kemarol Baharin, Lim Eng Seng, Mohd Shaaban Hussin, Nicholas Fung, Akhmal Tarmizee Nazari
75 – S. Murthy, M. Sasidaran, Rizal Amin, Iain Steel
76 – Mohd Amli Mohayideen, Rahizam Ramli, Wilson Choo, Abd Samat Abu, Kenneth De Silva, Lam Kong Loong