Green Primed For Title Defence At CIMB National Championship
Kuala Lumpur, July 24: Title holder Gavin Green is aiming for a successful defence at this week’s CIMB National Championship to seal a quick return to the prestigious CIMB Classic, the only PGA TOUR tournament staged in Southeast Asia later this year.
The 23-year-old Green won last year’s qualifying event, known formerly as the SapuraKencana National Classic, after defeating Ben Leong in the first hole of a sudden-death play-off at TPC Kuala Lumpur.
The winner of the CIMB National Championship, which tees off on Tuesday, will earn a winner’s cheque of RM30,000 and a prized spot in the CIMB Classic, scheduled from October 12 to 15, 2017.
Although the highly talented Malaysian can also qualify for the US$7 million CIMB Classic by remaining in the top-10 of the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit – he is currently fourth - as of October 9, he is keen to hold on to his title against the best in the country.
Green’s main challengers will include a resurgent Leong, veteran Danny Chia and Nicholas Fung, who broke through for his maiden Asian Tour victory at the Queen’s Cup in Thailand last month. Chia, 44, is chasing for a sixth appearance at the CIMB Classic while straight-shooting Fung is aiming for a third appearance after featuring in 2013 and 2014.
Sanctioned by the Professional Golf Association of Malaysia (PGAM), the CIMB National Championship is now an official event on the PGM Tour and will count towards the PGM Tour’s Order of Merit, which is the leading professional tour in Malaysia.
Did you know:
· The CIMB National Championship will be played over four rounds. The previous SapuraKencana National Classic, which was the qualifying event for the CIMB Classic, was staged over three rounds.
· The CIMB Classic will be the second tournament on the 2017/18 PGA TOUR schedule, offering full FedExCup points. The event is also sanctioned by the Asian Tour.
· Gavin Green has posted two runner-up finishes in India and Chinese Taipei this season and has another top-10 finish in Thailand.
· Green, who is a TPC KL club ambassador, won the qualifying tournament last year in a play-off where he defeated Leong at the first extra hole. Both players tied on four-under-par 212. He subsequently finished joint 69th in the CIMB Classic.
· Ranked 13th on the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit, Nicholas Fung will be chasing for a third appearance at the CIMB Classic. Fung claimed his first Asian Tour victory at the Queens’ Cup, beating a top field which included Thaworn Wiratchant, Juvic Pagunsan and Scott Hend.
· Danny Chia won the qualifying tournament for the CIMB Classic in 2012 and 2014. He holds the record as the best Malaysian finisher at the CIMB Classic following a tied 13th finish at the 2011 edition.
· Currently ranked 39th on the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit, Chia posted his first top-10 of the season after contending at the Queen’s Cup last month.
· Apart from this week’s winner, the highest ranked Malaysian golfer on the Official World Golf Ranking as of October 2, 2017 will also earn an exemption into the CIMB Classic.
Winning here last year was really good. It’s going to be a big challenge as the top Malaysians are all here. Although I can potentially qualify for the CIMB Classic through the Asian Tour Order of Merit, I still intend to go low and use this also as preparation for next week’s TAKE Solutions Masters (in India).
I’m still going to try to win this week and the good thing is I’m very comfortable on this course as it’s my home course. I feel like I’m a different player now from last year. From a swing perspective and from the way I manage things on the golf course, it’s much better. The experience of being in or around the lead on the Asian Tour this year has also helped a lot.
It was fun playing in the CIMB Classic last year but there was also a lot of pressure. When I get into the event again, the expectations won’t be too overwhelming and I’ll be able to control that better. I was trying to push it last year but we just learn from it. Playing on the PGA TOUR, it’s certainly different.
After competing on the Asian Tour this year, you notice the courses are set up differently from the Asian Development Tour events and I’ve found a comfort level being around the guys and competing against them. Making the cuts consistently have also added a lot to my game.
Here at TPC KL, the main thing is to not short-side yourself. You need to find fairways as coming out from the rough, it’s a lot harder to control your ball on the greens which are firming up. If you want to stop the ball quicker here, you’ve just got to hit the fairway.
Everyone here is fighting for that one spot into the CIMB Classic, so it won’t be easy. However, I’m coming into the week with a positive mindset after winning the Queen’s Cup last month. I will try to go out there and enjoy my golf this week.
My confidence is at a different level now. Winning my first Asian Tour tournament is so important as I’m only the fourth Malaysian golfer to manage a win. Although my record at TPC KL is not very good, I think I’m a better golfer to handle the golf course. I’ve got a lot of confidence and I’m getting more distances with my clubs which have been a problem for me here in the past due to its length.
Every player dreams of playing in a PGA TOUR event and it’s not easy for Malaysians to get into them. That’s why it’s so important for us to try to take this opportunity this week to get ourselves onto that stage.
This event is probably my only way of trying to qualify for the CIMB Classic. TPC KL is one of my favourite golf courses and I fancy my chances here this week. The key is hitting good irons and managing yourself on the greens which can be tricky. I’m just going to try to give myself opportunities for birdies.
My ball striking is pretty good right now. I figured out my driving problems recently and played well in Samui (Queen’s Cup). I also drove the ball well in my last local event which adds to my confidence. My problem started when I got too technical with my golf swing but in Samui I went back to my reliance on feel and didn’t get too concern about the mechanics. I’m trying to keep things simple and it’s turning out to be pretty good.
Playing in the CIMB Classic has been one of my career highlights. The experience of competing against the world’s best golfers has been a confidence booster and I hope to qualify for the tournament again.