Rising star Paul San carded a solid opening round of three-under-par 69 to lead the Tun Ahmad Sarji Trophy, the opening event of the 2023 Toyota Tour.
San carded five birdies against two bogeys at Saujana Golf & Country Club’s Bunga Raya Course and will take a one-shot lead into the second round of the 72-hole event. The 26-year-old showed astute course management to offset a swing which he described as “a little off”.
“It’s nice to still be able to shoot under-par when I’m not hitting the ball the best. I felt like I managed my game really well and missed it in the right spots,” said San.
“There’s still a lot of golf to play, so I’ll just try to hang in there and make the best decisions at the right times. The golf course is brutal, the greens are running around 10 and got even faster in the afternoon, and the pins were tough, so you have to play it smart and be very patient,” he added.
In joint second place after firing 70s are Malaysian legend Danny Chia, along with seasoned campaigners Khor Kheng Hwai and Nazri Zain.
Chia, who was second in the inaugural event last year, played through the pain of a pulled back to stay well in contention.“I was scrambling the whole day but luckily I putted really well. I pulled my back during the practice round and am still recovering, so I’m happy with the score today,” he said.“I hope my back gets better, but I’ll probably not go at my full speed tomorrow and not force it too much. I like the golf course, doesn’t matter if I win or not. I think the greens are better than last year, they were running really smooth today,” added the 50-year-old, who is the only Malaysian to win twice on the Asian Tour.
Khor is looking for his fourth win on the local tour and first since 2017. The 39-year-old was hot on the greens and holed some crucial putts.
“I drove the ball well but my irons were not really great. I managed to hole some good putts to save par, so I’m pretty happy with the round and finishing two-under.
“I think I have a good chance to win if I keep my composure. I’ve been striking the ball pretty decent the last couple of months. There are still three rounds to go, so hopefully I have at least one really low round,” said Khor.
Nazri, also aged 39, is chasing his first professional win. “I had a good start and was making some good club selections today to keep the ball on the fairway.
“The golf course is playing really tough, so I will stick to my game plan of fairways and greens. I will try my best to play well the next three rounds,” said the golfer from Kelantan.
Only two other golfers broke par for the day, veteran Sukree Othman and young talent Amir Nazrin, who both shot 71s.Only two other golfers broke par for the day, veteran Sukree Othman and young talent Amir Nazrin, who both shot 71s.
Pan’s 73 placed her on top among the ladies by two shots from amateur Charlayne Chong.
“It was an up-and-down round for me. I was just not hitting my irons well enough to put it on the greens, but I managed to get around. I chipped well and made some good putts to save par.
“I’ll go to the range early tomorrow and see how I’m hitting my irons. If they are good, then I’ll be more aggressive,” noted Pan, who won twice on the PGM Tour last year.
Rookie professional Jocelyn Chee lies third after shooting 76, two strokes ahead of the vastly experienced Ainil Johani Bakar (78).
The men are competing for RM200,000 in prize money with RM35,000 going to the winner, while the ladies purse is RM30,000 with the champion taking home RM10,000.
The Tun Ahmad Sarji Trophy will be followed by eight more closed tournaments including stops in Sarawak and Sabah. The 2023 season will culminate in the RM350,000 Toyota Championship at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club on November 14-17, which will be a co-sanctioned event with the Asian Development Tour (ADT).
LEADING ROUND 1 SCORES
69 (-3) – PAUL SAN
70 (-2) – DANNY CHIA, NAZRI ZAIN, KHOR KHENG HWAI
71 (-1) – SUKREE OTHMAN, AMIR NAZRIN
72 (E) – R. NACHIMUTHU
73 (+1) – JONATHAN WONG, DAENG ABDUL RAHMAN, SYAHIRAN SYAKIR, TONY LAM, UMAR KHUSHAIRI
73 (+1) – ARETHA PAN
75 (+3) – CHARLAYNE CHONG (A)
76 (+4) – JOCELYN CHEE
78 (+6) – AINIL JOHANI BAKAR
81 (+9) – NUR BATRISYIA BALQIS (A)
For live scores, click on this link: https://lite.mygolf2u.com/leaderboard/1625