Ben Leong in a file photo. He had a nervy start but finished with a regulation 72 to end as one of the best Malaysian finishers.
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian golfer Ben Leong is in a position to make the weekend play of the Maybank Malaysian Open for the first time since he turned pro in 2006.
Ben, who has been on a long lay-off to recover from a back injury, overcame a jittery start to finish with a regulation 72 to share the limelight with Khor Kheng Hwai and Nicholas Fung as the best Malaysian finishers.
The Sabah-born golfer was happy to put up a decent display after staying out of the limelight for a while.
Ben is a former Asian Tour winner, having clinched the Selangor Masters in 2008. But he has always struggled to make the cut in the Malaysian Open in his years as a playing pro.
“I’ve not been in this sort of professional environment for quite a while. I’m pleased and am looking forward to tomorrow,” said Ben.
“My last Asian Tour event was the Queen’s Cup in Thailand in 2012. I started playing on the local circuits and some Asian Development Tour events since last December.
“To be honest, I was feeling nervous. It was tough.
“I’m proud of myself because I handled it well. I guess I need a few more rounds like this to feel comfortable again,” added Ben, who is looking forward to the crucial second round on Friday.
Kheng Hwai had a great start when he birdied the third and eagled the fifth hole. But he dropped three shots on the back nine to stay on regulation par.
“I tried to make birdies after that but I was unlucky with some putts. It felt good to be playing well because I haven’t been playing good in the last few weeks,” said Kheng Hwai.
“I was gaining some confidence after shooting a three-under early in the round ... so, hopefully, I can stick to the same game plan tomorrow.
“I want to go out and enjoy my game on a big stage. I need to keep myself composed.
“Sometimes I get ahead of myself when I hit my tee shots to the middle of the fairway. I still make stupid mistakes.”