Pre-tournament favourite Ervin Chang played a flawless round of four birdies without a blemish on his way to taking the first-round lead of the Toyota Tour Mirai Cup presented by UMW Toyota Motor at the Sarawak Golf Club here today.
The 24-year-old who started on the back nine, birdied the 7th, 11th, 12th and 17th holes to set up a two-stroke advantage over Lee Chong Li, Galven Green and veteran Khor Kheng Wai. Kenneth De Silva stood at solo fifth position after a roller coaster of a round, shooting six birdies against five bogeys for a one-under 71.
Only five players from a field of 68 broke par on a course that was set up perfectly with an average green speed of 11.5. The fast and firm greens proved to be the only defence on this course which first opened for play in 1985.
Ervin, the double gold medallist in the 2022 Vietnam Sea Games, is riding on a hot streak after his recent performances when he finished joint second in the Tun Ahmad Sarji Trophy and followed it up with consistent results in the recent Malaysian Swing of the MENA Tour in Desaru.
Ervin felt he left at least two – if not more – birdies out there on the course. “The par 5s are reachable, but I failed to birdie any of them and actually lipped out twice,” said Ervin. “Still, I’m happy with where my game is at and to shoot four-under in the first round is a good sign.”
Ervin thought the greens rolled smoothly which suited his game but added that with the hot weather and the fast, putting surfaces, anything can happen.
Both Galven and Khor were happy with their performances and felt they could have scored better. Overall, they were pleased with their game and thought the greens were in excellent condition.
Ryan Fernandez, who just turned pro a week ago, had a disastrous bogey-bogey-bogey back nine start in his first three holes and added two more, on the 3rd and 17th. But an eagle on the par four 7th raised his confidence for tomorrow’s second round. “I didn’t score any birdies today and hopefully this will change tomorrow.” The 23-year-old carded a three-over 75 and is tied on 14th position.
Another pre-tournament favourite Paul San shot an even-par 72 to lie in joint sixth, just four strokes behind the leader. He was reasonably happy with his game especially with his fighting spirit after four-putting his second hole. He recovered with birdies on the 5th and 9th and then coasted home without drama on the back nine.
Shahriffuddin Ariffin, whose last victory was the Selangor Masters on the Asian Development Tour in November, failed to get his game going. He mixed four birdies with two doubles and a bogey and ended up alone in ninth placing with a one-over 73. “My drives and short game let me down, otherwise I guess I managed my game well enough to still lie within contention,” said Shahriffuddin.
Round One Scores (Top 10 and Ties)
68 (-4) – Ervin Chang
70 (-2) – Galven Green, Lee Chong Li, Khor Kheng Wai
71 (-1) – Kenneth De Silva
72 (Even) – Paul San, Daeng Abdul Rahman, R. Nachimuthu
73 (+1) – Shahriffuddin Ariffin
74 (+2) – Danial Faidz, Nor Heikal Haidi, Azlan Fauzy, Adam Shafiq