Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia, January 8: Malaysian number one Danny Chia and countryman and young pretender to his throne Nicholas Fung, compete in this week’s Sabah Masters along with a host of big name players.
The US$75,000 tournament, which tees-off tomorrow at Sutera Harbour Golf & Country Club, is the final event of the 2012/2013 season on the ASEAN PGA Tour.
Mardan Mamat and Choo Tze Huang from Singapore, Thailand’s Wisut Artjanawat, the defending champion, and Annop Tangkamolprasert are playing along with Filipinos Antonio Lascuna and Jay Bayron, plus Indonesia’s Rory Hie.
Competitors will be hoping to begin the year on a winning note although Chia has already made a perfect start by winning the PGM I&P Kinrara Classic at the weekend on the Malaysian local circuit.
“It was great to win especially as I had not been playing that well,” said Chia.
“I was having problems with my approach shots. I was missing a lot of greens but that has now improved. I have not played here in Sabah for about six years so I am looking forward to it and hope I can get a winning streak going.”
Chia is no stranger to success on the ASEAN PGA Tour. In 2008, he showed his class by recording a wire-to-wire victory in the Mercedes-Benz Masters Thailand – which was the season-ending Tour Championship on the ASEAN PGA Tour. The trophy sits nicely alongside the one he claimed in The International Championship in Jakarta in 2007. That was the very first event staged on the circuit. Chia created history in 2010 by becoming the first Malaysian to play all four rounds at the Open Championship at St. Andrews. He also played in the Open in 2005 and 2008. It promises to be a special week for Fung who was born in Kota Kinabalu and is on the threshold of winning the ASEAN PGA Tour Order of Merit.
He triumphed in the Palembang Musi Championship last year and currently leads the Merit list with earnings of US$29,933.
Annop, who is third on the Merit list, is the only player who can catch him but is US$9,523 behind. He needs to claim the US$12,918 first place cheque and hopes Fung has a very poor week.
Fung seldom has a bad tournament and is favourite to finish as the Tour’s number one player. He was also second in this event when Wisut won in 2011.
“My friend’s here often wind me up that I should win. There is a bit of pressure,” said Fung.
“I am not playing that well at the moment as I am hitting it left and right. I think it is to do with my rotation and I am sure I can work it out on the range.”
The 22-year-old has claimed two ASEAN PGA titles since turning professional in 2010. He was also been in fine form on the PGM Tour last year. He won the money list after tasting victory twice and finishing runner-up on five occasions.
He started playing golf at Sabah Golf & Country Club, where Fijian Vijay Singh was based during his formative years. Fung picked up the game at the age of nine and in three years he was a scratch golfer.
The Sabah Masters has a storied history with some great names having won the title including Thailand’s Thaworn Wiratchant in 1996. Home town hero Fung would dearly love to add his name to the trophy while also being crowed Merit list champion.
This will mark the third occasion Sutera Harbour has hosted the tournament as it was also staged at the impressive venue in 1999 when American Robert Huxtable triumphed.