27 July 2017

Battling Chia Retains One-Shot Lead at CIMB National Championship

Kuala Lumpur, July 27: Danny Chia maintained his overnight one-shot lead at the CIMB National Championship after scrambling to a one-over-par 73 in the third round on Thursday.

The 44-year-old Chia fought back from a mid-round wobble at TPC Kuala Lumpur where he dropped four shots on the 12th and 13th holes to stay in position to win the RM200,000 tournament which rewards the winner with a ticket to the prestigious CIMB Classic from October 12 to 15.

Rookie Amir Nazrin Jailani and Ben Leong shot a 72 and 71 respectively to share second place while defending champion Gavin Green stayed within striking distance following a 72 to share fourth place with Wilson Choo, who came home in 74.

Chasing a sixth appearance at the US$7 million CIMB Classic, which is the only PGA TOUR event staged in Southeast Asia, veteran Chia, who is a two-time Asian Tour champion, needed a crucial birdie on 17 to keep his nose ahead of the chasing pack with his three-day total of five-under-par 211.

Last year’s runner-up, Leong rued a cold putter as he snared three birdies against two bogeys to stay in the chase for the winner’s cheque of RM30,000 and a second appearance at the CIMB Classic while the 20-year-old Amir shot three birdies against as many bogeys to tie Leong on 212.

A 20-foot birdie conversion at the par five 18th hole pushed Green, 23, into a share of fourth place on 214, three behind Chia and with everything to play for on Friday.

Did you know:

·Danny Chia bogeyed his opening hole before making birdies on three, nine and 10 which saw him lead by four shots at that point. He dropped a triple bogey on 12 after finding water with his second shot and a bogey on 13. He then made a fourth birdie on 17 to retain his overnight lead.

·Chia holds the most appearance by a Malaysian golfer in the CIMB Classic where he featured in 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016. His best finish was tied 13th in 2011. He won the qualifying tournament, previously known as SapuraKencana National Classic, in 2012 and 2014.

·Ben Leong made his three birdies on the front nine at the first, fifth and seventh holes. He dropped bogeys on two and 12.

·Leong won the SapuraKencana National Classic in 2015 and subsequently finished tied 64th in his lone appearance to date at the CIMB Classic. He was defeated by Green in the first hole of a play-off in the qualifying tournament last year.

·Amir Nazrin made birdies on the first, 10th and 16th holes but gave away shots on the fourth, 12th and 17th holes in his even par round.

·Amir turned professional last December after representing Malaysia, highlighted by an appearance in the Southeast Asian Games in 2015. His best professional finish to date was tied third in the Port Dickson Championship in April.

·Gavin Green can still qualify for the CIMB Classic even if he fails to win the CIMB National Championship on Friday. Currently fourth on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, he needs to remain in the top-10 by October 9 to qualify for the tournament.

·The CIMB National Championship, which is sanctioned by the Professional Golf Association of Malaysia (PGAM), is also an official event on the PGM Tour.

·The CIMB Classic is the second tournament on the PGA TOUR’s 2017/18 schedule and is also sanctioned with the Asian Tour.

Player Quotes

Danny Chia

It got windy on the back nine and I made a triple on 12. That wasn’t very nice. But I managed to keep myself in the game. I just told myself after 14 that I needed one or two birdies coming home to make my bad day feel not so bad. Thankfully, I managed to birdie 17.

I need to work on my game a bit after this. I wasn’t striking the ball too good but finally, I started to putt much better, so it kind of evens up. I made a bad decision on 12. I was dead into the wind for the second shot, had 175 meters to the pin. I was thinking of hitting a five iron and asked my caddie who thought it was a six iron. I took his advice but when I was standing over the ball, I didn’t feel comfortable but I went ahead and hit it into the water. It was a bad decision which I made and it cost me the triple. It affected the way I hit the ball at the next hole which I bogeyed as well.

Hopefully I can keep putting like today but I need to hit it much better. I was all over the place with the driver. Looking at it, one over par today is a good score. Today was just an off day with the driver. However, I’m excited about tomorrow and I’ve not won for a while, so it’ll be nice to win this. Qualifying for the CIMB Classic will be a good bonus.

Amir Nazrin Jailani

Conditions were harder with the wind. The pins were also quite tough. Playing with Ben Leong, who is a top player, gave me some pressure but I dealt with it quite well. Struggled with my putter but I managed to put in a score. I’m really excited as it’s my first time playing in the qualifying. I’ll try my best tomorrow. My approach play has been solid this week and it’s helped put me in this position.

Playing with the top Malaysian golfers has been a good learning experience so far. You don’t see them making silly mistakes. I’ll just keep to the same game plan tomorrow, hit fairways and greens.

Winning tomorrow can open the door for me in my young career. To win this tournament as a rookie professional will open the way for me. Just hope I can do it tomorrow. I’m hitting it well and there’s some pressure, which I guess is normal. Hopefully I can handle that well. I’ve already played with Danny in the first two rounds, so I’ve got some experience.

Ben Leong

Considering the condition on the back nine which was windy, I played good. Didn’t putt as well as I wanted to but things happen for a reason. Hopefully it’ll be better tomorrow. On this course, a round of even par or one under is very good. It’s not as easy as you think. The course condition is great but it’s very tricky on the greens.

I don’t have a number in my mind as you don’t know how the weather will be tomorrow. I’m just glad I’m in with a chance which was the goal coming into the week. If you’re going to win, you’ll win no matter which group you’re playing in. I’m playing good enough to win, although I’m not putting that well.

Gavin Green

The whole week, I’ve hit it great and given myself a lot of looks. But I’m just missing every one of them. It’s unbelievable. My caddie and I were wondering when it would start dropping and thankfully, one dropped on the last hole to get me closer to the lead. Hopefully I can keep at it tomorrow and the putts will start to drop more. It was quite a long birdie putt on 18, a solid 20 feet. When you don’t expect it, it goes in.

I’m within striking distance which is a good. For me if I keep giving myself chances, it’s all I can ask for. You can’t force a score. I’m hitting it good, so just keep at it. See what happens tomorrow.  

It’s unbelievable that I’ve not holed any putts except for the last. It’s very frustrating but me and my caddie Nick (Pugh) just laugh it off as we’re still making pars. But when you have a chance from 10 feet, it’s either on line or sniffing the hole. Just need a little break to hole them. I’m putting it quite good, the roll is quite nice. Just need a break somewhere, somehow.

Leading third round scores

211: Danny Chia 68-70-73

212: Ben Leong 65-76-71, Amir Nazrin Jailani 69-71-72,

214: Gavin Green 72-70-72, Wilson Choo 69-71-74

215: Sukree Othman 70-69-76

216: Rashid Ismail 74-20-72

Danny Chia tees off during the third round of the CIMB National Championship. He shot a one-over-par 73 to retain his overnight one-shot lead.