Robert Allenby shot a superb eight-under-par 63 to grab pole position after the first round of the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic, Malaysia.
The Australian veteran chalked up eight birdies in a flawless round at The Mines Resort & Golf Club to lead by one shot from flamboyant Venezuelan Jhonattan Vegas. A stroke further behind was Swede Fredrik Jacobson, while three Americans – Cameron Tringale, Jimmy Walker and Bo Van Pelt carded 66s to lie three shots off the pace.
Allenby has not won a title since the 2009 Australian Masters and is keen to return to winning ways here, which would also be a timely boost as he is a captain’s pick for the International team in next month’s Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne.
“I’ve been playing well for a while but I just haven’t really put the scores on the board. I’ve been making a lot of birdies but a few others have been slipping in there. So to have a bogey-free round and to shoot eight-under here is a great score,” said the 40-year-old Allenby, who has won four times on the PGA TOUR.
“I like the course. It sets up really well for me. There are holes where you can drive the ball long and straight, but there are also a lot of holes where you have to have good iron play,” added the Australian, who has fond memories of Malaysia as he won his first professional title in the 1992 Perak Masters.
The long-hitting Vegas finished strongly with birdies on his last four holes to stay on Allenby’s coat-tails.
“I hit the ball beautifully today and kept hitting the fairways and the greens. I made some good putts and finished with four birdies in a row, which was a nice way to end the round,” said Vegas
The best-placed Asian players were Thai icon Thongchai Jaidee and Bangladeshi Siddikur in 12th spot on three-under-par 68. Defending champion Ben Crane kept himself in contention with an opening 69.
Malaysia’s Danny Chia had a nightmarish start with a double bogey and triple bogey on Holes 4 and 5 respectively, but did well to recover for an even par 71 to lie in joint 33rd spot. The other Malaysian in the field, Shaaban Hussin, carded a one-over-par 72.
The CIMB Asia Pacific Classic, Malaysia features a 48-player field comprising 30 from the PGA TOUR, 10 from the Asian Tour and eight sponsor’s exemptions. There is no halfway cut and the winner will pocket a tidy US$1.3 million from the US$6.1 million total purse.
Leading Rd 1 Scores: 63 – Robert Allenby (AUS), 64 – Jhonattan Vegas (VEN), 65 – Fredrik Jacobson (SWE), 66 – Cameron Tringale (USA), Jimmy Walker (USA), Bo Van Pelt (USA), 67 – Scott Stallings (USA), Stewart Cink (USA), Jeff Overton (USA), Mark Wilson (USA), John Senden (AUS)