MELBOURNE, Nov 22 (Reuters) - Having become the first Malaysian to win the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit last year, the hard-working Gavin Green is keen to notch another first for his home nation at the World Cup of Golf in Melbourne this week.
On a blustery, chilly morning, 24-year-old Green and Ben Leong were the surprise package of Thursday’s opening round at Metropolitan Golf Club, playing the Southeast Asian nation into a tie for second, a stroke behind co-leaders Australia, South Korea and England.
The first group out, The Malaysian duo battled through the wind with aplomb, combining for a nine-under 63 in the opening four-balls, their round given a boost by eagles at the seventh and ninth holes on the Sandbelt course.
Only two Asian nations have won the 28-team event in its 58 previous editions, with Japan claiming it twice (1957 and 2002), and Taiwan once at nearby Royal Melbourne in 1972.
Hoisting the $7 million tournament’s whopping trophy with Leong would represent a dream finish after a slightly frustrating year for Green, who laboured through his first full season on the European Tour.
Green finished 84th in the Race to Dubai and was disappointed to miss out on a top-60 spot that would have booked his berth at last week’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship.
“It was a big step coming from Asia but it’s not like I haven’t played any European events before,” the tall Malaysian told Reuters at Metropolitan’s clubhouse on Thursday.
“It was a good year. Not really satisfied with everything but it’s okay, I’ll take it. I would like to make it to Dubai but I was a little far behind.
“I do put a lot of pressure on myself definitely, because my expectations are high. There are some things I have to work on, but it is what it is.”
A self-described golf “obsessive”, Green slogged through 30 events on the European Tour, dragging his father Gary to many of them as his caddie.
Golf has long been a family affair for Green, who dedicated his maiden Asian Tour win at the Mercuries Taiwan Masters in October last year to his late grandfather, who died two weeks prior to the event.
Green plans to have a six-week break at the end of the year before launching himself into a second European campaign, but he sounded like he was dreading the idea of putting his feet up.
A scar between his nose and upper lip from an accident as a 14-year-old is a permanent reminder of Green’s single-mindedness.
His nose was almost torn from his face when he slammed into a sliding glass door while playing with a childhood friend.
He was rushed for emergency surgery but all he was worried about when recovering at hospital was whether he would miss a trip to play a tournament in the United States.
“I was never really worried about (my nose),” Green said with a smile. “I didn’t really care just so long as I could play. It’s crazy, I know.” (Editing by John O’Brien)