Chia Takes Charge with Strong Finish at CIMB National Championship
Kuala Lumpur, July 26: Veteran Danny Chia brilliantly birdied four of his last five holes for a two-under-par 70 to snatch a one-shot halfway lead at the CIMB National Championship at TPC Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday.
The 44-year-old Chia, who is a two-time Asian Tour winner, overcame an outward 38 with his strong finish to put himself in prime position to win the RM200,000 event which rewards the winner with a spot in the prestigious CIMB Classic, the only PGA TOUR event staged in Southeast Asia, in October.
Mohd Sukree Othman carded the day’s best of 69 to trail in second place while Wilson Choo and rookie professional Amir Nazrin Jailani are a further shot back following identical rounds of 71s. The three players are chasing a first appearance in the US$7 million CIMB Classic at TPC KL from October 12 to 15.
Ben Leong, who held an overnight three-shot lead, had a day to forget as he struggled to a 76 which included one double bogey and two bogeys. He will enter the last two rounds three shots behind Chia while a battling 70 saw defending champion Gavin Green move into a share of sixth place, four behind the new leader.
Chia, who has appeared in the CIMB Classic on five occasions, holds the halfway lead with his two-day total of six-under-par 138. He is aiming to win the qualifying event for a third time following his success in 2012 and 2014. The CIMB National Championship 2017 winner will also earn RM30,000.
Did you know:
· Danny Chia turned in two-over-par with bogeys on 15 and 16 before making birdies on five, seven, eight and nine. His best shot of the day was on the par five fifth hole with a hybrid from 230 meters which found the green in two for an easy birdie. He then birdied the seventh, eighth and nine holes from eight feet, eight feet and three feet.
· 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.
· Bidding for a first appearance in the CIMB Classic, Mohd Sukree shot five birdies and two bogeys. His birdies where on the first, eight, ninth, 17th and 18th holes, with the longest putt being on the ninth green from 15 feet.
· Sukree holds six career wins on the PGM Tour, with his last victory coming in 2016. His best finish this year was a second place in Perlis. He also won the PGA Championship of Malaysia in 2015.
· Wilson Choo made five birdies on the first, second, fourth, 16th and 17th holes and bogeyed the seventh and eighth holes. He lost his ball on the 18th hole after a wayward drive which led to a closing double bogey and cost him a share of the halfway lead.
· Amir Nazrin made two birdies against one bogey to stay in contention in his debut at the CIMB National Championship. The 20-year-old turned professional last December.
· Ben Leong did not make a single birdie in his second round. He won the SapuraKencana National Classic, previously the qualifying tournament, 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.
· The CIMB National Championship, which is sanctioned by the Professional Golf Association of Malaysia (PGAM), is also an official event on the PGM Tour.
Danny Chia Second Round 70 (-2), 138 (-6)
It was almost the same as yesterday, just missing a few putts. I can’t seem to read the lines this week. I missed a few on the lip and at other times I’m seeing the opposite lines. They are really subtle changes, left inside becomes right inside lines. I also hit a lot of good shots and wasn’t rewarded for them. Hit some good shots on the par fives but had some bad bounces. However, I’m still very happy as in my last five holes, I made four birdies to sign for a 70.
On my fifth hole, I blocked my drive way right onto the next fairway but fortunately I had a line to the green and I took the chance by hitting a good hybrid onto the green and two putted for the birdie. Parred the next hole after missing another birdie putt from eight feet but I managed to read the lines correctly in the last three holes, holing some eight footers on seven and eight and then hitting it really close on nine.
It was really frustrating at the start of the day and it affected my game. I just told myself to stay patient. You can’t control what the leaders will shoot and you just want to save as many shots as you can when you are not playing well.
The birdie on five certainly lifted my spirits, especially when it was a bad drive and I got a break with a clear line to the green. It was probably the best shot of the day where I hit a hybrid from about 230 meters and with water to negotiate as well. I committed to the shot and my game picked up from there.
Mohd Sukree Othman, Second Round 69 (-3), Total 139 (-5)
It was kind of on-off for me today. On some greens, I made some good putts but I missed a few short putts as well, including one three putt. Hit it close on the first hole to two feet and then made a seven footer for birdie on the eighth hole. I then holed a 15-footer for birdie on nine. Hit it close to one foot on 17 and then closed out the round with a six-foot birdie on 18.
I’m happy with my position going into the last two rounds. It’s an important week as the winner gets into the CIMB Classic. I’ve tried to qualify previously but I haven’t come as close as this week. I’ll keep trying hard. With this tournament being played over four days, I’ll have a better chance. I think I’ll need to aim for some low rounds over the next two days to give myself a chance.
I’ve watched the CIMB Classic at TPC KL in the past although I wasn’t in the field. You can really see the standard of play on the PGA TOUR is different but I’m certainly hoping to get a chance to play in the event this year.
Ben Leong, Second Round 76 (+4), Total 141 (-3)
I didn’t have any birdies on the card today. Didn’t hit it that great, just a tough day. The wind was a bit more swirly. I guess that’s golf. Try to learn from this and two more days to go. I’ll try to find something positive for the next two days.
I am just going to focus on my own game and not get too worried about the other scores. Try to hit it to where I want to hit it and make some putts. Maybe there were some lapses in concentration as well today. I made some good par putts but I missed some too. It was just tough round for me.
Gavin Green, Second Round 70 (-2), Total 142 (-2)
I think I hit it pretty much the same as yesterday but some putts did drop for me today. I had some hiccups coming in, had a bad lie on 14 and chunked it into the water for double bogey and on 16, I hit a one iron pin high right but chunked it into the bunker and didn’t hit good to make bogey. Those were the two shots which I left out there. Just unfortunate with the lie and I wasn’t committed with the shot on 16.
I’m four back but four shots here can swing really quickly. I still have a score in mind, what I have to shoot I think to do it. I hope the wind picks up a bit more as you can tell when the winds are up, the scores are not low. I like to play in the wind and tough weather. The game plan is good, just need to execute it and hope for the putting to come along.
Leading second round scores
138: Danny Chia 68-70
139: Mohd Sukree Othman 70-69
140: Amir Nazrin Jailani 69-71, Wilson Choo 69-71
141: Ben Leong 65-76
142: Mohd Zur’ie Harun 68-74, Gavin Green 72-70,
Danny Chia tees off during the second round of the CIMB National Championship where he ended the day as the halfway leader.