Malaysian Danny Chia was shaking with excitement when he saw his name at the top of the leaderbaord in his national Open as he moved into the clubhouse lead at Kota Permai Golf and Country Club.
Taking full advantage of his sponsor’s invitation, Chia took the lead in the Maybank Malaysian at 12 under par 132 after a round of 67. He leads Søren Kjeldsen by a stroke after the Dane eagled the seventh, his 16th, to move to 11 under par on his way to a 68. Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell is a further stroke adrift at ten under par after also posting a 68.
Overnight leader Nick Dougherty was also on 12 under par through ten holes when play was suspended due to electrical storms in Kuala Lumpur.
“I’m shaking!” declared Chia. “It’s always been one of my dreams to win the Maybank Malaysian Open. Every year it gets tougher and tougher as it is now jointly sanctioned. But it’s made me more excited to see my name on the leaderboard.”
No Malaysian has ever won their national Open, P. Gunasegaren coming the closest in 1994 at Royal Selangor GC when he lost a play-off to Swede Joakim Haeggman. And since the event became jointly sanctioned with The European Tour and Asian Tour in 1999, the highest finish by a home player was joint 28th in 2005 by Chia at Suajana G&CC.
Now the 35 year old, who was attached to the club for two years from 2000, has two rounds ahead of him as he attempts to turn his dreams into reality.
His local knowledge of the course could prove an advantage. “It’s helped a bit,” he admitted. “The course hasn’t changed. Most of the holes, I know what club to hit, but the greens have changed a bit with some new grass on them and they are a bit grainy and tricky to putt on.”
Kjeldsen shot an impressive opening seven under par 65 and continued in much the same vein for nine holes of his second round. His momentum slowed coming in but he stayed patient and was rewarded with an eagle on the seventh to move within a stroke of Chia’s lead.
“Yesterday I played so well and didn’t put a foot wrong and the first nine today it was going the same way,” he said. “You know it is never going to last and at some stage you are going to struggle a little. I made an incredibly bad bogey on the first after a good drive and after that hit it close and couldn’t make a putt. I hung in there and got my reward with the eagle on the seventh. It was a nice feeling.”
McDowell set out with a target to at least get to Dougherty’s ten under par score before the Englishman set out for his second round and he achieved that with a birdie four on the last for a 68. He looked as if he would comfortable move ahead when he birdied three of the first five holes but thereafter he “played with the handbrake on” with 12 successive pars. Finally he got to ten under par after pitching to four feet on the final green.