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Local ace Danny Chia overcame some early nerves to fire a solid five-under-par 66 to trail first round leader Troy Matteson of the United States by three shots at the CIMB Classic on Thursday. Chia flew the Malaysian flag high as he shared seventh place with world number two Tiger Woods, Jbe Kruger, J.B. Holmes, Ricky Barnes and Greg Chalmers at the US$6.1 million event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and PGA Tour.
After finishing tied 13th in last year's edition and with many stars of the game assembled in the Malaysian capital, Chia's expectation and nerves got the better of him as he drove to the Mines Resort and Golf Club.
"When I was driving into the entrance, I could feel the pressure building up. The closer I'm to the clubhouse, I can feel my insides are jumping like a rabbit. But fortunately I managed to calm myself down the minute I tee off," said Chia, who is an Asian Tour regular.
Chia and playing partner Jeff Overton, who finished second here last year, fed off each other as the American fired a fabulous 64.
"I tried to beat him (Overton). I tried to chase him. But he made a great putt on No. 15 to make eagle," he said.
"I was pretty calm, so my confidence level was pretty level throughout the round. I wasn't really trying any silly shots, I just played what I had to do. That's it."
The Malaysian narrowly missed out on a dream second round pairing with 14-time Major champion Woods, ending up in the group behind the American superstar.
"Yeah, I always wanted to play with him. I've watched him hit the ball and I've played in a couple events that he has played in. Yeah, I would like to play with him and hopefully this week I can play good enough to play with him."
Part of Chia's motivation this week is that he does not want to just show up to pick up the last place cheque as the 48-man field will play all four rounds.
"I try to make myself more competitive with the PGA Tour players. I want to see where I stand among them. I don't want to just show up here and just play some golf and walk off without learning anything or without knowing where I stand," he said.
Malaysia's other representative Shaaban Hussin struggled with a shoulder injury as he returned a 74, highlighted by a chip-in eagle two on the 14th hole from 10 yards.
"I was five-over after the cross over. I ran over to the physiotherapist so they could have a look at my shoulder. I felt much better after that. I made a good comeback and I'm proud with that. I'll need to carry some of the momentum into the next three days," said Shaaban.
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