Friday, February 13, 2009

Danny soars on Eagles

Kuala Lumpur, February 13: Local hero Danny Chia soared on eagle's wings to race into a three-shot halfway lead at the US$2 million Maybank Malaysian Open on Friday.

The 36-year-old, who is hoping to become the first Malaysian to win the event, conquered the Saujana Golf and Country Club's Palm course by firing two spectacular eagles on his inward nine en route to a seven-under-par 65.

Chia's two-day total of 13-under-par 131 was well clear of Sweden's Alexander Noren who carded a 71 while overnight leader Noh Seung-yul of Korea, who opened with a 62, struggled to a 73 to lie four back in third place.

A topsy-turvy 71 left Chinese star Liang Wen-chong well positioned in a share of fourth place alongside Australian Adam Blyth and English pair Nick Dougherty and Simon Griffiths on 136.

World number 11 Anthony Kim of the United States produced a flawless 65 to make the halfway cut right on the 143 mark, a day after opening with a disastrous 78.

But the limelight truly belonged to Chia. Four other birdies against a lone bogey in the co-sanctioned Asian Tour and European Tour event gave him a sense of déjà vu as he was also the joint second round leader at last year's event.

"I played really good. I am very happy," said Chia, whose lone Tour victory dates back to the 2002 Taiwan Open. "I kept telling myself to be calm out there. My biggest fear is to not get too emotional."

He delighted his army of fans with two sensational strikes. He produced a monster drive at the par four fourth 303-yard hole that landed a foot of the flag and then holed out a wedge from 90 yards at the par five seventh hole on his inward nine.

"The wedge shot was probably my best this year. That was nice," said Chia, who tossed his club into the air after the ball disappeared into the ground. "I used a three wood on four yesterday. But I was pumped up (after turning in 32) and I took a chance with my driver which gave me a lift."

No Malaysian has won the event in its 48-year history and Chia harbours dreams of becoming the first player to do so. With last year's memories still lingering in his mind where he stumbled in the third round, Chia is determined to get the job done this time.

"I am going to be nervous and I would be lying if I told you otherwise. I'll be taking a few deep breaths and walking a bit slower in between shots," he said.

Noren, chasing his first career victory, felt he left a few shots out on the course. "I probably hit the ball better than I did yesterday," said the Swede. "(But) I putted as badly today as I did well yesterday. You can't have 22 putts one day and then 36 the next."

Noh, playing with Noren, also endured a frustrating day on the greens to slip out of the lead. "I didn't putt very well. I missed a few chances but my troubles were mainly due to my poor tee shots. I was hitting it left and right with the driver and three wood and found myself under the trees quite often. You can't find the flags from there," said the 17-year-old, last season's Asian Tour Rookie of the Year.

Liang, the Asian Tour's number one in 2007, is looking to improve on his joint eighth finish at the Malaysian Open achieved four years ago at Saujana after a battling round which included five birdies against four bogeys. "I found it quite hot playing in the afternoon and struggled with my concentration. Anything can happen on this course. We saw a 10-under yesterday. Tomorrow will be an important day," said Liang.

Ryder Cup star Kim fought back brilliantly with a seven-birdie, including one on his final hole, round to survive the cut. "I was pretty embarrassed with how I scored yesterday and not making a birdie. I played some good golf and fortunately on the back nine, some of those putts went in," he said.
A total of 74 players qualified for the weekend rounds after the cut was made at 143. England's Simon Dyson produced the tournament's first hole in one at the fifth hole en route to a 66 for a share of eighth position.

Leading second round scores
131: Danny Chia (Mas) 66-65
134: Alexander Noren (Swe) 63-71
135: Noh Seung-yul (Kor) 62-73
136: Simon Griffiths (Eng) 70-66, Nick Dougherty (Eng) 70-66, Adam Blyth (Aus) 66-70, Liang Wen-chong (PRC) 65-71
137: Simon Dyson (Eng) 71-66, Jean-Francois Lucquin (Fra) 65-72
138: Scott Barr (Aus) 71-67, Phillip Archer (Eng) 69-69, Gareth Maybin (NIR) 69-69
139: Mars Pucay (Phi) 69-70, Prom Meesawat (Tha) 70-69, Shiv Kapur (Ind) 70-69, Prayad Marksaeng (Tha) 69-70, Oliver Fisher (Eng) 69-70, Stephen Leaney (Aus) 70-69, Marcus Fraser (Aus) 72-67

Danny & Airil keep flag flying

Kuala Lumpur, February 12: Malaysia's Danny Chia (pic) and compatriot Airil Rizman kept the local cheers alive in the opening round at the Maybank Malaysian Open on Thursday.
Chia, who is a former winner on the Asian Tour, posted seven birdies against a lone bogey for a six-under-par 66 to lie in a tie for fifth place and was a stroke ahead of compatriot Airil who carded a 67 at the Saujana Golf and Country Club.
Chia, 36, ended the round four strokes behind Korean young gun Noh Seung-yul who fired a blistering 62 for the opening round lead in the Asian Tour and European Tour sanctioned event. Alexander Noren of Sweden was in second place after a 63 while China's Liang Wen-chong was among those in a tie for third place after a 65.
With a new driver in the bag, Chia, who was one under after nine holes, enjoyed a blistering run on the back nine by nailing five birdies.
"I putted well and I was lucky in a few holes. I missed a putt on the fifth hole which cost me a bogey but everything turned around from there and I was putting well again," said the Kuala Lumpur-based golfer, who will be adopting a mixed approach in the second round.
"I can take advantage of the par fives. But for holes like number seven, I can use a driver but the fairway is very narrow. If my ball is not in a good position off the tee, I will be cautious and will choose to lay it up and not go for the green.
"I would like to be aggressive all the time but when it comes to this golf course, I will have to tell myself to be a bit more conservative at some holes," he added.
Airil, who won the 2007 Pakistan Open on the Asian Tour, is relishing his outing at the Maybank Malaysian Open after posting a solid 67 in the US$2.2 million tournament.
"I'm very pleased. I made a lot of putts today which was the difference. I saved a lot of shots too. But my putting has been the key.
"Everything was perfect today. Good weather and the rough is not too long," said Airil.
The other Malaysian golfers in action today include Shaaban Hussin who carded a 71 in joint 41st place, Lim Eng Seng (69th) who was even par for the day and amateur Fung Nicholas who shot a 73 in tied 87th spot.
Ben Leong, who won the Worldwide Selangor Masters last year, was in the mix in 102nd position after a 74 alongside amateur Akhmal Tarmizee while Asian Tour's Iain Steel recorded a 76 to lie in 129th place.