ON a day when lightning caused play at the Bandar Malaysia Open at the Kota Permai Golf and Country Club to be suspended, Wafiyuddin Abdul Manaf was the hotshot among the Malaysian challengers.
Wafiyuddin fired a four-under 68 in the first round to finish joint-13th. His closest Malaysian rival was Nicholas Fung on three-under and joint 20th.
However, Wafiyuddin, 28, trailed clubhouse leader Andrew Dodt of Australia by five strokes. Dodt sizzled with a nine-under 63 while in second spot was Japanese Naoki Sekito with a seven-under 65.
Lightning forced play to be abandoned with 17 flights yet to go.
“Getting to play and practise on this course last week helped me a lot,” said Wafiyuddin.
“I feel really comfortable out there. If I could hit a few more greens in regulation, I think I could go a few shots lower.
“My putting was the key but I’m not really happy with my iron-play.
“Overall, I’m very pleased with the way I played because I don’t get to play here often as I’m from Kedah.
“I’m happy to get off to a good start in my National Open and it’s a good boost in confidence for me because I haven’t played in any tournament for about three months already.”
Wafiyuddin, who last played in the Malaysia Open in 2013 as an amateur, said: “I’m glad the national championship is back as it gives us locals a chance to play on the Asian Tour.”
Forty seven Malaysians are playing in the Malaysia Open, with 15 of them languishing at the bottom and anchored by Fadzlan Faruk on a massive 10-over 72.
Sekito said: “It was good to finish with three birdies but I made a bogey on the fifth where I three-putted and I told myself to make at least one more birdie coming in.
“I managed to birdie the seventh hole and rode on the momentum from there. I am so happy.”
Amazingly, he only missed one green yesterday.
“I think hitting the greens was key to my 65. I hit my irons quite close to the pins and made some good putts. I remember playing in a junior event on this course when I was 17. I played really well back then, but lost in a play-off.”
At that time the Japanese could not speak English. “No English then, and that was before I went to Australia. I only remembered playing on this course when I came back here this week. Good vibes for me because I played well although I didn’t win at that time,” quipped Sekito.