In-form Leong seeks home success at the Sabah Masters | Asian Tour

In-form Leong seeks home success at the Sabah Masters

Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, November 19: Malaysia’s Ben Leong will be banking on his home comfort when he tees off for the inaugural Sabah Masters, which gets underway at the Sutera Harbour Golf and Country Club starting Thursday.

The 33-year-old Sabahan, who enjoyed a tied-sixth place finish in Thailand a fortnight ago, hopes to capitalise on his recent fine form and put up a strong performance on home soil at the US$300,000 full-field Asian Tour event.

Ben Leong of Malaysia with his caddy Lam Yu-shuen (left) and his father N.C. Leong (right)

Placed 56th on the latest Order of Merit, Leong will also be aiming for a good showing to boost his ranking on the money list, where he needs to stay inside top-60 to retain his playing rights on the region’s premier Tour for the 2020 season.

Leong, the only Malaysian to win an Asian Tour event on home soil, will spearhead the local challenge along with big-hitting Amir Nazrin, Daeng Rahman and Shahriffuddin Ariffin at the event supported by the Tourism Malaysia with an aim to boost tourism in Sabah.

The Asian Tour last visited Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah state, when it held the 2008 Qualifying School in multiple locations in December 2007. Leong topped the class in front of his home supporters that year for his second straight Qualifying School win.

Korea’s Yikeun Chang and newly minted winner Joohyung Kim will also feature in the 2019 Sabah Masters alongside Indonesia’s Rory Hie, Thailand’s Danthai Boonma and Pavit Tangkamolprasert, all proven champions on the Asian Tour.

Ben Leong of Malaysia

Did you know?

  • Ben Leong is a one-time winner on the Asian Tour. He remains as the only Malaysian player to win an Asian Tour event on home soil when he triumphed at the 2008 Worldwide Holdings Selangor Masters.
  • Sitting in 460th place on the latest Official World Golf Ranking, Leong is also the second highest-ranked Malaysian in the world following Gavin Green (240th).
  • Leong is a two-time winner on the Asian Development Tour (ADT).
  • Leong endured a slow start to the season, having missed four cuts in his first five starts, but has since regained his fine form by making seven straight cuts since the Sarawak Championship in August. He marked his first top-10 finish his season with a tied-sixth place result at the Thailand Open a fortnight ago.
  • Last November, Leong also represented Malaysia alongside Gavin Green in the ISPS HANDA Melbourne World Cup of Golf. The duo enjoyed a dream start after signing for an opening nine-under-par 63 to trail by one shot in the first round’s fourball format.
  • Yikeun Chang claimed his Asian Tour breakthrough at the Yeangder Tournament Players Championship in Chinese Taipei two months ago.
  • Prior to his breakthrough victory, Chang has enjoyed runner-up finishes at the 2017 Yeangder Heritage tournament in Chinese Taipei, the 2018 GS Caltex Maekyung Open and the 2019 Bank BRI Indonesia Open.
  • Chang won twice on his domestic circuit in 2017, including his National Open, which earned him a coveted spot at The Open at Royal Birkdale, where he made his Major debut that year.
  • He topped the Asian Tour Qualifying School in 2016 in his second attempt. He missed the mark in his first attempt in 2014.
  • Itthipat Buranatanyarat won his third ADT title at the season-opening Boonchu Ruangkit Championship in January this year. He sits in third place on the ADT Order of Merit.
  • Ittiphat recorded his best result on the Asian Tour when he came in tied-sixth at the Sarawak Championship in August.
  • Itthipat turned professional in 2014 and earned his 2019 Asian Tour card after finishing third at the Qualifying School last December.
  • Itthipat fired an eight-under-par 64 to grab the opening round lead by two shots at the Panasonic Open India last week. He settled for an eventual tied-14th place finish in the 54-hole event.
  • The 26-year-old Itthipat was recently crowned the 2019 Order of Merit champion on the All Thailand Golf Tour.
  • Amir Nazrin joined the play-for-pay ranks in 2017 when he was 20 years old.
  • He has been plying his trade mostly on the ADT where he has notched several top-10 finishes. Amir, who averaged 320 yards off the tee, is also a multiple winner on his domestic circuit.
Yikeun Chang of Korea

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