Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia, September 10: England’s Grant Jackson regained some of his best form to seize the first round lead with a six-under-par 66 at the PGM MNRB Sarawak Championship on Wednesday.
The 32-year-old Jackson birdied four of his closing five holes at the Sarawak Golf Club to edge ahead by one shot from Thailand’s Tirawat Kaewsiribandit, who was equally impressive with a round that included six birdies and one bogey in the RM250,000 (approximately US$80,000) Asian Development Tour event.
Shaaban Hussin struck a 68 to emerge as the leading Malaysian performer to lie alongside Australia’s Michael Moore, England’s Shaun Malone and Pasamet Pogamnerd of Thailand, two off the lead.
Jackson, who finished fifth on the ADT Order of Merit after winning once last season, was delighted with his effort especially when he has just recovered from an illness.
“I played nice and solid. On my front nine, which is the back nine of the course, I left a few putts out there but coming in, I read the lines better and started to make some putts. I just stayed patient and started holing putts,” said Jackson.
“Conditions were great on the course … it is as good as it has been this year. Some of the pins were tricky and I left a few above the hole and had some downhill putts to deal with. Hopefully I’ll continue to play good over the next few days.”
Currently 13th on the Order of Merit, Jackson is determined to play his way into the top-five to earn an Asian Tour card for next season. His hopes took a knock in the Philippines several weeks ago when he fell ill and he then missed the halfway cut in Sabah last week.
“I’ve dropped down rankings after being ill over the last couple of weeks. I had some kind of virus when I was in the Philippines and couldn’t eat for four days there and I still tried to play which wasn’t the right thing to do. When I got back to Thailand, I was put on drip for two days in a hospital but I’m starting to feel better now.
“I’m hoping to shoot some reasonable scores and get back up on the rankings. We’ve got a long way to go in the season,” said Jackson.
Shaaban, who enjoyed two recent top-10s on the ADT, thanked his putter for putting him in contention for a first ADT victory.
“I hit the ball well and putted really good. I missed a few greens but managed to get up and down on several occasions to save par. I’m satisfied with the score. I hope to keep it going as the greens here are tricky,” said Shaaban.
“The golf course was playing difficult because there was a bit of a breeze but I managed to keep the ball in play and the putter helped me out when I missed some shots.”
Singapore’s Koh Deng Shan, Malaysia’s Khor Kheng Hwai, Thailand’s Pavit Tangkamolprasert, currently ranked third on the Order of Merit, and Ireland’s Niall Turner are amongst those who carded 69s to stay within touching distance of Jackson.
Second-ranked Brett Munson of the United States, the highest ranked player in the field this week, carded a 72.
Since its inauguration in 2010, the ADT has grown from five events in the first year to a record 20 tournaments in 2014. All ADT events also receive Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) points which is a boost for the game in the region.
Leading first round scores:
66: Grant JACKSON (ENG)
67: Tirawat KAEWSIRIBANDIT(THA)
68: Michael MOORE (AUS), Pasamet POGAMNERD (THA), Shaun MALONE (ENG), Shaaban HUSSIN (MAS)
69: Nakarintra RATANAKUL (THA), KHOR Kheng Hwai (MAS), KOH Deng Shan (SIN), R. Nachimuthu (MAS), Nicholas PUA (MAS), John PANG (MAS), Niall TURNER (IRL) Pavit TANGKAMOLPRASERT (THA), Sukree OTHMAN (MAS), Kenneth DE SILVA (MAS)