Fredrik Jacobson (Getty Images)
Australia’s Robert Allenby claimed the first-round lead at the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic in Malaysia, almost 20 years after his maiden professional victory in the same country.
The 40 year old produced a stunning eight under par 63 at the Mines Resort and Golf Club to lead by one shot from playing partner Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela, with Sweden’s Fredrik Jacobson carding a 65 to sit third.
Allenby, a four-time winner on the US PGA Tour, continued to show his liking for the Mines Resort with eight birdies, including three in a row from the 15th. In last year’s inaugural CIMB Asia Pacific Classic he closed with a 64 for equal fifth place.
“I’m obviously very happy with the way I played. I made a lot of nice putts and hit the ball really well all day. I had just one wayward tee shot, at the last but I made a good par save,” said Allenby, who recorded his first pro win at the 1992 Perak Masters in Malaysia.
With his last win being the 2009 Australian Masters, Allenby is keen to return to the winner’s enclosure, which would also give him a timely boost as he will compete in the Presidents Cup as a captain’s pick on his home course, the Royal Melbourne, next month.
“I’ve been playing well for a while, but I just haven’t really put the scores on the board. I’ve been making a lot of birdies, but a few others have been slipping in there. So to have a bogey-free round and to shoot eight under around here is a great score,” he said.
“I like the course. It sets up really well for me. There are holes where you can drive the ball long and straight, but there are also a lot of holes where you have to have good iron play. My iron play was very solid today. I think more importantly is I made a lot of good putts as well.
“That’s probably been the part (of my game) that has been letting me down of late. I’ve been working hard on it, and I’m starting to make some putts and hope that’s where it is for the rest of the tournament.”
Vegas, who won earlier in the year on the US PGA Tour in his rookie season, stayed in touch with Allenby with a magnificent finish where he birdied his last four holes.
“I had a really good round. Hopefully we can keep that going for the next three days and hold the trophy on Sunday,” said the Venezuelan.
Jacobson, who won his first US PGA Tour title this year at the Travelers Championship and is a former champion of the UBS Hong Kong Open, holed a bunker shot for eagle at the short par four 15th hole.
“I hit a perfect bunker shot. That was a bit of a nice one to get. It was 25 yards, with the bunker a little left of the green. If I could have upped-and-downed it from there I would have been really happy. But I got a good look at it,” said the Swede.