Khor Kheng Hwai hopes to erase last year’s bitter memories of missing out on a CIMB Classic ticket by winning the SapuraKencana National Qualifier which begins on Monday.
Khor was pipped at the death by veteran Danny Chia at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club’s West course despite leading by four shots with five holes remaining in the final round to miss out on the opportunity to tee up at the US$7 million event sanctioned by the PGA TOUR and Asian Tour.
Nearly 100 Malaysians, including the likes of Chia, Gavin Green, Nicholas Fung, Arie Fauzi and Airil Rizman, will battle over three rounds at the SapuraKencana National Qualifier for a coveted spot in the CIMB Classic, which will be held from October 29 to November 1.
“I’m going to try to do the same as last year. I’ve played the golf course for so many years now and I hope to piece it together again. Last year was really close. I took a lot of positives from there and moved on,” said Khor.
“There was nothing much I could do (last year) and I didn’t fumble. Danny birdied the last two holes to force a play-off. I took it as a learning curve. Everyone in the field will be eyeing at the opportunity to play in a PGA TOUR in Malaysia and it’s our best chance to get in. I’m going to give it a shot again.”
Khor’s form has been patchy on the domestic circuit but feels he is starting to regain some form ahead of the SapuraKencana National Qualifier.
“I didn’t start the year too well and the game is not feeling too good. I’ve got no idea why I’ve had this sudden loss of form. Everything is not happening the way I want it to but I’m seeing some good signs of recovery. Hopefully returning to the KLGCC will give us a boost,” he said.
Chia will be hoping to make it a fourth appearance at the CIMB Classic by topping the field in the qualifier. The veteran, who is the first Malaysian to win on the Asian Tour, enjoyed a commendable tied 13th finish at the CIMB Classic in 2011.
“I always like to come back to KLGCC as it’s a challenging test and it’s going to be another good tournament to play in,” said Chia.
With his right arm having regained almost full strength after a lengthy recovery spell from a surgery, Chia is confident he can top the field once again and challenge the best players from the PGA TOUR and Asian Tour at the CIMB Classic.
“I’ve been doing a lot of physio work, trying to regain the strength that I lost in my right arm. When I played last week in a local event, I felt my distance was pretty much back to where it was previously. It’s been a long road back. I’ve been playing some good golf and I’m quite happy with how things are. I have to focus on the qualifier and hopefully I can win and qualify for the CIMB Classic again,” he said.
The 21-year-old Green is looking forward to his debut at the SapuraKencana National Qualifier. In four professional tournaments so far, he has made the halfway cut in two events.
“It’s been pretty hectic but I am enjoying it. I’m learning a lot as a professional and it’s very exciting. I am excited (with the opportunity to play in the SapuraKencana National Qualifier). It’s a great opportunity to try to qualify for the CIMB Classic.
“I like the layout of the West course and I feel it is a course which is a fair test to all players,” said Green.
The CIMB Classic will be the third event of the 2015 – 2016 FedExCup Season on the PGA TOUR. Offering full FedExCup points, the CIMB Classic will feature 78 players – 60 from the PGA TOUR, 10 from the Asian Tour and eight sponsor’s exemptions.
Out of the eight sponsor’s exemptions, CIMB Classic accords two spots for Malaysians. The second spot will be given to the highest ranked Malaysian golfer on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) as at October 19. If the winner of the SapuraKencana National Qualifier is also the leading Malaysian in the OWGR, the second spot will automatically go to the next best-ranked Malaysian on the OWGR.