September 22, Kuala Lumpur: A battling Gavin Green booked a spot in the CIMB Classic after defeating title holder Ben Leong with a birdie on the first play-off hole at the SapuraKencana National Classic on Thursday.
The duo closed on matching one-under-par 71s to finish regulation play on four-under-par 212 before returning to the 18th hole where Green emerged victorious to earn his debut at the CIMB Classic next month.
Leong settled for second after missing a close range birdie on the 54th hole while Khor Kheng Hwai finished a further shot back in third place following a final round 72 at the TPC Kuala Lumpur West Course.
Green got off to a fine start when he holed three birdies in his opening 10 holes but slipped back with bogeys on holes 13, 15 and 16. He trailed the fast charging Leong by one heading into the penultimate hole but pulled off a gutsy 15-foot birdie to draw level.
The 22-year-old Green was delighted to add another feather in his cap after a stunning season where won two titles on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) and represented Malaysia in the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro last month.
“I was a bit nervous coming down the stretch but the birdie on 17 was huge,” said the big-hitting Green. “The whole week I missed so many putts so I’m thankful I made that birdie on that hole and in the play-off.”
“Honestly, I’m surprised that Ben missed the birdie on the last. I guess even professionals get nervous. After he missed, I told myself that I have another chance in the play-off and I did my best to win it.”
“Playing in the CIMB Classic will be a huge achievement for me this year. It has been a good year so far and this will be another positive in my career. I can’t wait to play in my first PGA TOUR event on home soil,” said Green, who won RM22,000.
Leong hit a super chip into the par-five 18th hole in regulation play but was disappointed to miss the short birdie putt for the outright victory.
“Obviously I was nervous. I read it left but pulled it. I’m disappointed but this is all part of the process. Good for Gavin, he was cool and composed under pressure and played good golf today,” said Leong.
Ahmad Zakiruddin Mohamed, the Senior Vice President of Operations SapuraKencana Petroleum Berhad said:
“We are happy to see that yet another SapuraKencana National Classic, for the fourth year running, has ended successfully and would like to congratulate Gavin Green who has shown tremendous skill to win and claim the coveted spot at the CIMB Classic. We wish him all the best at the CIMB Classic 2016 and look forward to seeing him represent Malaysia’s golfing fraternity at this prestigious tournament,” said Ahmad Zakiruddin Mohamed, Senior Vice President of Operations, SapuraKencana Petroleum Berhad.
“Over the past three days, the competition among Malaysia’s top golfers at this event has been fierce and exciting. This tournament has proven to be one of the most anticipated golfing events in Malaysia, and the increase in the level of participation and interest year after year is testimony to that fact. We will continue to foster the development of golf in Malaysia through the SapuraKencana National Classic and hope to thereby inspire more local players to excel at the sport,” he added.
As the FedExCup Playoffs wrap up this weekend at the TOUR Championship, three of the top five players in the standings heading into the final event have committed to play at this year’s CIMB Classic; Patrick Reed (2nd), Adam Scott (3rd) and Paul Casey (5th). All three are guaranteed the FedExCup this week if they can secure victory at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia.
The CIMB Classic 2016, now in its seventh year, will feature a 78-player elite field, comprising 60 from the PGA TOUR, 10 from the Asian Tour and eight sponsor’s exemptions.
The CIMB Classic, which is also co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour and Professional Golf Association of Malaysia is part of the PGA TOUR’s season-long FedExCup competition. Malaysia will have two representatives – the winner of the SapuraKencana National Classic and the highest ranked Malaysian golfer in the OWGR as at 11 October 2016.
SapuraKencana National Qualifier has changed its name to SapuraKencana National Classic this year as part of its elevated stature. For the first time ever, the SapuraKencana National Classic will also count towards the Professional Golf of Malaysia (“PGM”) Tour’s Order of Merit, which is the leading professional tour in Malaysia.
The CIMB Classic will return to TPC Kuala Lumpur (formerly known as Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club) from 20-23 October as the second event of the 2016 - 2017 PGA TOUR season. Offering full FedExCup points, the CIMB Classic will feature 78 players - 60 coming from the PGA TOUR, 10 from Asian Tour and eight sponsor’s exemptions, and will carry a total purse of USD7 million.