Allenby in front in Malaysia

Robert Allenby held a narrow lead on a US-dominated leaderboard after round one of the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic.

Australia’s Robert Allenby held a narrow lead on an American-dominated leaderboard after the first round of the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic.

Some 20 years after his maiden professional victory in Malaysia, the 40-year-old Allenby posted a blistering 8-under 63 at the Mines Resort and Golf Club to edge one shot clear of his big-hitting playing partner, Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela.

Sweden’s Fredrik Jacobson, also a US PGA Tour member like the two men above him, carded a 65 to secure sole possession of third place on a leaderboard that had US PGA Tour members filling the next 12 places

Asia’s best performers were Thai star Thongchai Jaidee and Bangladeshi trailblazer Siddikur, who returned rounds of 68s to be tied for 12th in an event being co-sanctioned by both the Asian Tour and US PGA Tours.

Allenby, a four-time winner on the PGA Tour, continued to show his liking for the Mines Resort course with eight birdies on the card, including three on the trot from the 15th hole.

In last year’s inaugural CIMB Asia Pacific Classic, Malaysia, Allenby closed the week with a 64 for equal fifth place.

“I’m obviously very happy with the way I played. I made a lot of nice putts and hit the ball really well all day. I had just one wayward tee shot, at the last but I made a good par save,” said Allenby, who recorded his first pro win at the 1992 Perak Masters in Malaysia.

With his last win being the 2009 Australian Masters, Allenby is keen to return to the winner’s enclosure in Malaysia, which would also give him a timely boost as at the Presidents Cup as a captain’s pick on his home course, the Royal Melbourne, next month.

“I’ve been playing well for a while, but I just haven’t really put the scores on the board. I’ve been making a lot of birdies, but a few others (bogies) have been slipping in, so to have a bogey-free round and to shoot eight-under around here is a great score,” he said.

“I like the course. It sets up really well for me. There are holes where you can drive the ball long and straight, but there are also a lot of holes where you have to have good iron play.

“My iron play was very solid today. I think more importantly is I made a lot of good putts as well. That’s probably been the part (of my game) that has been letting me down of late. I’ve been working hard on it, and I’m starting to make some putts and hope that’s where it stays for the rest of the tournament.”

Vegas, who won earlier in the year in his rookie season on the PGA Tour, stayed in touch with Allenby, though, with a magnificent finish in which he birdied his last four holes.

“had a really good round. Hopefully we can keep that going for the next three days and I can hold the trophy on Sunday,” said the smiling Venezuelan.

“I hit the ball beautifully. I kept hitting on the fairways and the greens, made some good putts and finished with four birdies in a row which was a nice way to end the round.

“Winning earlier in the year was like a dream come true. I feel like I’m starting to play well again like how I did then, which is nice.”

Jacobson, who won his first PGA Tour title this year at the Travelers Championship and is a former champion of the Hong Kong Open, soared on eagle’s wings when he holed a bunker shot at the short par four 15th hole.

“I hit a perfect bunker shot. That was a bit of a nice one to get. It was 25 yards, with the bunker a little left of the green.” said the Swede.

63 Robert Allenby (Aus).
64 Jhonattan Vegas (Ven).
65 Fredrik Jacobson (Swe).
66 Cameron Tringale (USA), Jimmy Walker (USA), Bo Van Pelt (USA).
67 Scott Stallings (USA), Stewart Cink (USA), Jeff Overton (USA), Mark Wilson (USA), John Senden (Aus).