Golfer Leong copes well on Day One

Ben Leong

Malaysia’s Ben Leong has always been a fighter.

After suffering a disc prolapse in 2012 which caused him to miss half the season, the Sabahan was not at his best and a couple of other injuries looked to have curtailed his career.

But he has fought back and is now the second highest ranked Malaysian in the world at 360, behind Gavin Kyle Green who is at 188.

At the US$7 million CIMB Classic today, Leong showed heart and guts by fighting back from a poor start to close out a round of four-under 68 to trail first-round leader Bronson Burgoon by five shots.

He is tied for 20th place.

The 32-year-old began his round on the back nine with a bogey and double bogey in the opening three holes before sinking four birdies to turn on 35.

In the front nine, he sunk another four birdies against a lone bogey on the par-four 7th.

“There’s a saying that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. So I’m proud of the way I hung in there,” said Leong, who will become a father for the first time in April.

“I played well but just had some poor management and missed a birdie putt on the 11th.

“I hit a poor drive on 12 and should have just stayed really, really patient, just lay it up, trust my wedge game, but I went for it and I hit into the water and made double there.

“But as I said, I came back strongly after that.”

The Sabahan is a last-minute entry as Green, who qualified as the highest ranked Malaysian, is skipping the PGA Tour event to concentrate on the European Tour.

This is Leong’s second time in the richest golf tournament in Malaysia.

Asked about his game plan for tomorrow, he said: “It really depends on the pin as well. If I have a short iron in, I’ll definitely go for the pin. If I have 7 or 8 iron or even 6 iron, I’ll just play it safe, just put it on the green.

“That is the game plan, keep it simple, put it on the fairway put it on the green and try to make the putt.”

Another Malaysian, Jeremiah Kim Leun Kwang, had a poor day, shooting four-over 76 to be tied for 75th.

Meanwhile, Burgoon, who is making his debut, registered a remarkable 63 to take a one-shot lead over Austin Cook while Taiwan’s C.T. Pan, Scott Piercy and Billy Horschel, the 2014 FedEx Cup champion, were a further shot back in tied third place.

World No 4 Justin Thomas, a two-time CIMB Classic champion, shot a 66 to tie in sixth place with eight other players including Nick Watney, who won the event in 2012, Major champion Louis Oosthuizen, Byeonghun An of Korea and Ryder Cup winner Paul Casey.

Nine-time Asian Tour winner Gaganjeet Bhullar of India and Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand, the 2013 Asian Tour number one, shared 26th place after shooting matching 69s.

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