PETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s Nicholas Fung fired a six-under 66 to share the first round lead with Wolmer Murillo of Venezuela in the PGM-Maybank Johor Masters at the Johor Country Club.
The 22-year-old Nicholas shot seven birdies against a lone bogey on his last hole to put himself in contention for his first title on the Asian Development Tour (ADT), which is the feeder circuit to the established Asian Tour.
Newcomer Murillo also enjoyed a strong start, carding eight birdies against two dropped shots to share the first day’s honours with Nicholas.
American James Bowen, who is leading the ADT Order of Merit, and Malaysian veteran Rashid Ismail are tied for third following rounds of 67 while Taiwan’s Hsieh Tung-shu and England’s Grant Jackson are another shot further back in the RM200,000 tournament co-sanctioned by the Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM) Tour.
Nicholas, who earned his Asian Tour card from Qualifying School in January, opted to play in the Maybank Johor Masters this week after missing three straight cuts in Malaysia, Thailand and India on the main Tour over the past three weeks.
And he’s delighted to see his decision pay off with a solid start in Johor.
“I wanted to play in Malaysia to rebuild my confidence after missing three straight cuts. I hit it good today and made some putts. The irons were working well,” he said.
The highlight of his round came at the par-four 12th hole where he missed the green and his ball ended on the fringe of the jungle without a sight to the flag.
However, Nicholas amazingly chipped in for birdie.
He was, however, disappointed to bogey the demanding 18th hole, which would have given him the outright lead.
“I got lucky on 12 as I couldn’t see the pin from where I was. Somehow, I managed to chip the ball into the hole for birdie ... it was a bonus as I was staring at a bogey. The 18th is a very tough hole and I didn’t hit a very good chip and just missed the putt.”
Title holder Luke Bleumink of Australia started his defence with a solid 69, which included four birdies.
Leading first round scores 66: Wolmer Murillo (Ven), Nicholas Fung (Mas); 67: James Bowen (US), Rashid Ismail (Mas); 68: Hsieh Tung-shu (Tpe), Grant Jackson (Eng); 69: Hendre Izak Celliers (Rsa), Akhmal Tarmizee (Mas), Darren Tan (Aus), Jakraphan Premsirigorn (Tha), Luke Bleumink (Aus), Mitsuhiko Hashizume (Jpn), Iain Steel (Mas), Spencer Shishido (US).