Open hero Chia faces stiff local test in Malaysia

Danny Chia of Malaysia

Mercedes-Benz Masters Malaysia

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Danny Chia made headlines last month for becoming the first Malaysian to play all four rounds in the Open Championship at St. Andrews.

Now, he’s back in his home country seeking to capture this week’s Mercedes-Benz Masters Malaysia at Kota Permai Golf and Country Club. A victory would give him his third title on the Mercedes-Benz Tour.

Chia leads a strong local contingent that includes countrymen S. Sivachandran, Airil Rizman and rising star Nicholas Fung.

Since returning from his memorable performance at St. Andrews (finishing T-55), Chia has been nursing a bad back. But he’s eager to kick-start what he hopes will be a solid second-half of the season.

“I have been having a lot of treatment,” Chia said. “There has been a problem with one of my disks, and it has really been quite painful. It started when I was at the Open, but I have actually had the problem for a while. I am really eager to get going this week though and put the problem behind me.”

The 37-year-old won the International Championship in Jakarta in 2007; he also triumphed in the Mercedes-Benz Masters Thailand the following year.

“Certainly the excitement of that week playing in the Open will live with me for a long time, but now my feet are back on the ground,” he said.

Chia, who was joint eighth in last year’s Masters Malaysia, already has won on home soil this year, claiming the PGA of Malaysia Golf Classic.

Sivachandran also should be a top contender as he has enjoyed a fine season in Malaysia.

Last month, the 31-year-old from Kedah bested the field by 12 shots to claim the Negeri Sembilan Masters Invitational and to become its first Malaysian winner. He also captured the PGAM-KRPM Golf Classic title earlier this year.

“Hopefully, I can capitalize on my form and win a Mercedes-Benz Tour event for the first time,” said Sivachandran, who lead after the first round last year before finishing equal sixth.

Other key players in the field include Filipino Juvic Pagunsan, currently second on the Order of Merit list and winner of the Masters Thailand in June. Countrymen Jay Bayron, who is third on the Order of Merit, and Antonio Lascuna will join him.

Lascuna lost in a playoff at last year’s Masters Malaysia to Chinese Taipei’s Lu Chien-soon, who is now playing on the U.S. Champions Tour.

Filipino Mars Pucay, Singapore’s Mardan Mamat and Thais Pariya Junhasavasdikul and Thanyakon Khrongpha, who claimed this year’s Kariza Indonesia Championship, also are among the marquee names in the field.

The US $60,000 tournament is the eighth event in this year’s 10-event Mercedes-Benz Tour.

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