BEN Leong appeared to be heading for a disastrous opening round in his second CIMB Classic start following a three-over after three holes.
But the 32-year-old bounced back superbly to post a commendable four-under 68 to be placed joint 20th at the TPC Kuala Lumpur’s West Course yesterday.
It marked the second-best start ever by a local golfer in the tournament’s history.
In the 2012 edition, then at the Mines Resort and Golf Club, Danny Chia powered to a 66 to share the seventh spot with Tiger Woods. Danny, however, failed to build on the decent start and eventually settled for 43rd place.
Ben – a one-time Asian Tour winner – began the round on the back foot, dropping three shots in the first three holes.
He bogeyed the par-five 10th and fumbled again on the par-four 12th with a double bogey.
Undeterred, Ben picked himself up by mixing eight birdies against one bogey in the next 15 holes to join the likes of multiple Major winner Ernie Els of South Africa and American Kevin Na, the joint runner-up in 2015 in a six-way tie for 20th.
“It is very, very satisfying,” said Ben of his remarkable comeback.
“There’s a saying that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
“So I’m proud of myself with the way I hung in there.”
Ben said the fact that the CIMB Classic is a no-cut event helps him to stay composed.
“There’s no cut this week, so I don’t really have to be really, really aggressive,” he said.
“As I didn’t get off to a great start, I just told myself we have a few more days to go, so just take my time and stay patient.”
Ben, however, refused to get carried away and intend to keep it simple over the next three days.
“I’ll just play it safe. Put it on the fairway, put it on the green and try to make the putt,” he said.
“Getting in, playing this week is already a bonus. I don’t really have expectations. We’ll see what happens.”
Meanwhile, playing alongside red-hot leader Bronson Burgoon who shot a nine-under 63, failed to inspire Kim Leun Kwang to a good start.
Debutant Leun Kwang signed for a four-over 76 to tie for 75th spot.
To the 23-year-old credit, he was able to rebound from a dismal opening nine holes which saw him turn in five-over 41 after bogeying four times and double bogeyed once.
Leun Kwang claimed back two strokes with birdies on the third and fifth, but could not avoid dropping another shot on the ninth (last hole of the day).
“It was disappointing, but it’s over now. What I can do now is to look forward to tomorrow,” said Leun Kwang, who earned his dream start in the tournament by winning the CIMB National Championship two weeks ago.
“It’s nice to make a couple of birdies coming back, I’d certainly hope to play better in the next rounds.
“I was hitting it quite well, just need the putts to drop.
“I still get to play in the same flight with Bronson, and I hope to learn as much as I can from him.
“The way he shot the 63 was the easiest I have ever seen.
“He’s simply amazing, just consistent from tee to green.”