Big guns and veterans fire Malaysia to victory

Big guns and veterans fire Malaysia to victory
WE DID IT: Rashid Ismail (centre, facing camera) is congratulated by his teammates after sinking the putt that won Malaysia the Prudential Causeway Trophy.

Tears welled in his eyes as he stood on the 16th hole of Laguna National's Classic Course, embracing his teammates.

Plagued by a swollen tendon in his back, Rashid Ismail almost did not make it for yesterday's final round of the Prudential Causeway Trophy, but the 41-year-old proved that old heads can prevail even if the flesh is weak.

At the 16th, he sank a clutch putt to render the remainder of his match with Singapore's Choo Tze Huang academic, and nudged the Malaysians across the line with a score of 12½ -11½.

Like Rashid, Malaysia's big guns and veterans came good on the third and final day of the Ryder Cup-style competition, as Singapore's own big names wilted.

M Murugiah, Mardan Mamat, Lam Chih Bing and Poh Eng Wah all fell early in the day, seeing the leaderboard painted Malaysian blue.

And, despite a rally in the later matches, with Lam Zhiqun, Marc Kawasoe and Koh Dengshan putting some red on the board, Malaysia's old heads proved too resolute.

"Our veterans held the fort, for sure. We planned to try and get the upper hand early on, but I was surprised at a couple of matches, and how many we were up," said Malaysia captain Chong Chee Ming, pointing to the performances of S Sivachandran, Danny Chia, Iain Steel and Nicholas Fung.

"Then we just had to depend on Rashid, and what he did was amazing," said Chong, adding that getting a yardage book on the notoriously tricky Classic Course was also key to the Malaysian victory.

While he was proud of his team's late fightback that would eventually proved futile, Singapore captain Mohd Said acknowledged that his key players did not deliver.

"Our big boys didn't come out today... but I can't say that I'm disappointed, because they tried their best, and sometimes that's how the game goes," he said, putting the losses down to poor form and fatigue.

A bitterly disappointed Lam Chih Bing put his hand up for his part in the defeat that saw Singapore fail to defend the trophy they won last year.

"We tried to front-load our team, sending the strong players out early, and we knew that the Malaysians would be doing the same, but we didn't play well," he said.

STRUGGLING

"Personally, I've been struggling the last two days and I couldn't really make anything work at all. They got a lot of points on the board early and that hurt us for sure," added the 37-year-old.

Malaysia captain Chong was doused in beer after the trophy presentation that saw players from both sides in light-hearted conversation, but still the 41-year-old never let the trophy out of his sight.

"This is very important win for us, it will open doors for us (in Malaysia)," he said.

But it was evident that the Causeway Trophy win was extra sweet.

"Today is a special one," said Rashid, a one-time Malaysia No. 1.

"We did this as a team: We ate together, stressed together and," he said, pointing to the Malaysian flag on his sleeve, "this is for national pride".

Malaysia also won the junior version of the Cup, played earlier in the week at the same course, with a score of 7-5.

shamiro@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on June 23, 2014.
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