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Indian stalwart Rahil Gangjee takes pole position on opening day of PKNS Selangor Masters

EXPERIENCED Indian campaigner Rahil Gangjee shrugged off competitive rust to grab the first round clubhouse lead at the USD175,000 PKNS Selangor Masters, carding an excellent four-under-par 66 at Kelab Golf Seri Selangor.

The 45-year-old Gangjee traded seven birdies, including a pair on his last two holes, against three bogeys to take pole position in the jointly sanctioned Asian Development Tour (ADT) and Toyota Tour event, one shot ahead of Malaysia’s Amir Nazrin and Thailand’s Runchanapong Youprayong who carded 67s.

Due to a weather delay from 4pm to 5.30pm, 33 golfers were unable to complete their opening rounds and will return to the course at 7.30am tomorrow to resume play. The second round will commence not earlier than 8am.

Gangjee had to endure a seven-week layoff due to a muscular chest injury and only made his competitive return at the ADT’s Nam A Bank Vietnam Masters last week, missing the halfway cut. The golfer from Kolkata was pleased with how he negotiated the tough Seri Selangor layout, which is playing to par-70 this week.

“I’m feeling very tired right now, but I'm happy! I haven't been playing much, as I had an injury to my intercostal muscle and had to just sit around for a month and a bit. And when I got back to it, there was no speed, no strength... basically just not up to the mark. Last week was a struggle for me to walk around, but this week seems a little bit better,” said the two-time Asian Tour winner.

“I've played this golf course before and they're good memories, so I kind of know where to miss it and what the putts do. All in all, it was a good day,” added Gangjee, whose best finish at this event was joint 29th back in 2009 when it was on the Asian Tour schedule.

Amir, who is a Seri Selangor ambassador, made full use of his local knowledge to chalk up three birdies in a flawless opening 67. The 26-year-old finished joint seventh in this event two years ago, but withdrew due to injury following the first round of the last edition. He has been struggling with the same wrist injury in recent months.

“I used to play passively, but that's not the case today. I'm playing aggressively. I'll attack the holes that I can really go for, but I also remind myself to be cautious since this course can be punishing,” said Amir.

“The highlight of my round was the back-to-back birdies on the second and third holes. A shoutout to my caddie – I listened to him about not laying up on the 10th hole, resulting in a birdie. I missed a couple more by a whisker, lipping out on the 16th and 17th holes, but I'll take this three-under-par and hopefully keep the momentum going until the final day,” added the golfer from Johor, who won the Boonchu Ruangkit Championship in early 2023 to become the first Malaysian to triumph on the All-Thailand Golf Tour.

Runchanapong finished joint second last year and continued his love affair with the Seri Selangor course with a solid opening round, making four birdies against one dropped shot. “I'm happy with a 67. Obviously, the course is playing pretty difficult with firm greens and the wet conditions, so three-under-par is really a good score,” said the 23-year-old.

Another Seri Selangor ambassador, Syahiran Syakir, also enjoyed a great start with a round of 68. “My driving and iron shots were working well today. I'm going to stick to the same plan for tomorrow, try to hit as many fairways and greens as I can and make some putts.,” said the 24-year-old from Kedah.

It was a good day for young Malaysian professionals, with Marcus Lim and Casper Loh also signing in 68s.

Making his first start as a professional, Lim admitted he was a little nervous. “I'm not going to lie ... I was feeling a little nervous for some reason. I missed a short putt on the first hole to make bogey, but as soon as I missed it, I was like, all right, game on. Bounced back with birdies on the next couple of holes, so it was good. All in all, a pretty solid round and I'm happy with the way I played today,” said Lim, who turned 22 on June 11.

The 24-year-old Loh, who birdied three of his last seven holes, noted: “I started the round hitting the ball pretty well, but just didn't make any putts on the first nine. On the back nine, I hit the greens and gave myself good chances, which I capitalized on,” said Loh, who turned professional last year.

Thailand’s Panuphol Pittayarat and the American duo of Dodge Kemmer and Michael Herrera were also in joint fourth place after signing in 68s.

Defending champion Ho Yu-Cheng of Chinese Taipei stayed in the hunt with an opening even-par 70, while current Asian Development Tour Order of Merit leader Ahmad Baig of Pakistan was one-under-par after 15 holes.

The field of 144 players includes 59 Malaysians with 40 from the domestic Toyota Tour, and the rest qualifying through the ADT or playing by invitation. The top Malaysian this week will take home a RM10,000 bonus in addition to the regular prize money

This is the 11th edition of the PKNS Selangor Masters, which is promoted by PKNS Golf Management Services, a subsidiary of the Selangor State Development Corporation (PKNS). PKNS has been the title sponsor of the event since 2022. Since the tournament’s inception in 2007, it has seen two local winners with Ben Leong triumphing in the second edition and Shahriffuddin Ariffin emerging victorious in 2022.

With its hefty prize fund of USD175,000, the PKNS Selangor Masters will have a strong bearing on the top 10 players on the final 2024 ADT Order of Merit who will earn coveted Asian Tour cards for the following season.