Young Malaysian rookie Khavish Varadan continued his dream debut in the US$1million IRS Prima Malaysian Open today when he took a share of the halfway lead with Australian Kevin Yuan.

Varadan, who only turned professional last month, fired a six-under-par 65 for a tournament total of 13-under, while Yuan returned a 64 – at The Mines Resort and Golf Club, Kuala Lumpur.

American John Catlin is one shot further back following a 65 – in the Asian Tour’s season opener.

Remarkably, this event also marks the first time that 23-year-old Varadan has played in a professional event as a professional – discounting his appearance in last month’s Asian Tour Qualifying School.

He failed to earn his Tour card there, but his playing opportunities will certainly open up extensively should he become the first Malaysian to win this event on Sunday.

“It went according to plan today,” said Varadan, who rather disconcertingly bears a resemblance to Indian Arjun Atwal, who won this event here at The Mines in 2003.

“It wasn’t the easiest of rounds as the wind was swirling a little bit today. I was struggling with the numbers but was striking the ball really good.

“I stayed patient and I tried to birdie one in every three holes and I did exactly that. It’s great to be in contention and to win your National Open is like winning a Major.”

He was bogey-free with three birdies on each half.

Adding to what is an exciting and emerging story Varadan only recently returned to Malaysia having lived in the United States for nearly nine years. He opted not to complete the final year of his degree at the University of Alabama at Birmingham to try and make a name for himself in Asia, something that is going according to plan exceptional quickly.

Yuan, 26, is another young player looking to breakthrough into the big time, especially after an impressive 2023 when finished 31st on the Asian Tour Order of Merit, helped by a joint second place result in the International Series Vietnam, and a fifth place result in the International Series Thailand.

He said: “Just stuck to the game plan. Had a good round yesterday. Things obviously worked, just kept on trying to do the same things. A few things went my way, had a chip in for an eagle on the second – about 12 metres.

“My game has been a bit up and down to be honest. I had a pretty good off-season, I finished fourth in a local Aussie tour event, the Heritage Classic, but then I missed two cuts after that, so it’s been a bit up in the air. So, it’s good to see my form is coming back again. I am starting to piece it together.”

His was more a rollercoaster round compared with his co-leader. He made an eagle, seven birdies and two bogeys.

Just like Varadan he has ambitious plans for the season.

“A win would be sick this year, every tournament is so competitive,” he said.

“I did compete for a win a few times last year, which was a great experience to play in the final group, to be under the pump. I want to be in those positions more this year.

“My game has been a work in progress, in golf the results show so slowly. I have been working on the same things and aim to be as disciplined as I can.”

Lurking ominously heading into the weekend is four-time Asian Tour winner Catlin, whose game has been out of sorts of late but seems to be on the mend.

“Nice to go bogey free, just had one bogey yesterday,” said the American.

“It is always nice when you can keep bogeys off the scorecard. Made a 12-footer on the last to stay bogey free. It felt nice. I am just glad all the work that I am putting in is starting to pay off and I am starting to play better golf, starting to get back in the mix.

“I feel very comfortable out here. Four wins and a lot of good finishes. I lived here for five years. I feel comfortable on this grass, I am pretty good at reading grain, and I think that’s a big part of it out here.”

Korean Guntaek Koh (65), winner of last year’s Shinhan Donghae Open in Korea, Filipino Miguel Tabuena (65), and England’s Steve Lewton (66) are tied for fifth, on 11 under.

Malaysian Ervin Chang also helped make it a day to remember for Malaysia when he shot the best round of the day, and his career, a 62. Two eagles, six birdies and a bogey moved him to 10 under, along with four other players.

Overnight leaders Jazz Janewattananond from Thailand and Indian Veer Ahlawat were unable to repeat their stunning opening 62s. The former carded a 70 and is one of those on 10 under, while the latter fired a 71 and is a shot further back.

Malaysian number one Gavin Green surprisingly missed the cut, which was made at five under. He had opened with a 64 yesterday but crashed to a 76 today to end on two under.

The week marks the 55th staging of Malaysia’s National Open.

The event is part of The Open Qualifying Series and will see the leading three players, not otherwise exempt, qualify for The Open at Royal Troon Golf Club July 18-21.

Scores after round 2 of the IRS Prima Malaysian Open being played at The Mines Resort & Golf Club, a par-71, 6756 yards course. (am – denotes amateur):
129 – Kevin Yuan (AUS) 65-64, Khavish Varadan (MAS) 64-65.
130 – John Catlin (USA) 65-65.
131 – Guntaek Koh (KOR) 66-65, Miguel Tabuena (PHI) 66-65, Steve Lewton (ENG) 65-66.
132 – Yeongsu Kim (KOR) 69-63, Richard T. Lee (CAN) 63-69, Jazz Janewattananond (THA) 62-70, Ervin Chang (MAS) 70-62.
133 – Pattaraphol Khanthacha (THA) 69-64, Deyen Lawson (AUS) 66-67, Bio Kim (KOR) 68-65, Austen Truslow (USA) 66-67, Atiruj Winaicharoenchai (THA) 66-67, Veer Ahlawat (IND) 62-71.
134 – Douglas Klein (AUS) 71-63, Suradit Yongcharoenchai (THA) 68-66, Travis Smyth (AUS) 68-66, Sarit Suwannarut (THA) 67-67, S.S.P. Chawrasia (IND) 69-65, Yongjun Bae (KOR) 67-67, Andrew Dodt (AUS) 66-68, Sam Horsfield (ENG) 66-68, Jared Du Toit (CAN) 70-64, Stefano Mazzoli (ITA) 66-68, Yuvraj Singh Sandhu (IND) 70-64.
135 – Poosit Supupramai (THA) 69-66, Danthai Boonma (THA) 65-70, James Piot (USA) 67-68, Angelo Que (PHI) 67-68, Prom Meesawat (THA) 68-67, Naoki Sekito (JPN) 67-68, Manav Shah (USA) 67-68, Ben Campbell (NZL) 69-66, Chikkarangappa S. (IND) 69-66, Chang Wei-lun (TPE) 68-67, Hanmil Jung (KOR) 67-68, Maverick Antcliff (AUS) 67-68.
136 – Tatsunori Shogenji (JPN) 68-68, Chen Guxin (CHN) 69-67, Trevor Simsby (USA) 71-65, Poom Saksansin (THA) 68-68, Sanghyun Park (KOR) 67-69, Honey Baisoya (IND) 70-66, Siddikur Rahman (BAN) 69-67, Minkyu Kim (KOR) 69-67, Jeunghun Wang (KOR) 68-68, Jordan Zunic (AUS) 68-68.
137 – Seungtaek Lee (KOR) 69-68, Denwit Boriboonsub (THA) 71-66, Gunn Charoenkul (THA) 67-70, Taichi Kho (HKG) 71-66, Ratchanon Chantananuwat (am, THA) 70-67, Jack Thompson (AUS) 69-68, Charlie Lindh (SWE) 69-68, Taichi Nabetani (JPN) 69-68, Leunkwang Kim (MAS) 68-69, Sadom Kaewkanjana (THA) 69-68, Scott Hend (AUS) 67-70, Brendan Jones (AUS) 68-69, David Puig (ESP) 66-71, Phachara Khongwatmai (THA) 70-67, Ian Snyman (RSA) 68-69, Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA) 71-66, Jed Morgan (AUS) 68-69, Lee Chieh-po (TPE) 65-72, Sangmoon Bae (KOR) 70-67, Settee Prakongvech (THA) 70-67.
138 – Takumi Kanaya (JPN) 72-66, Kyongjun Moon (KOR) 68-70, Ben Leong (MAS) 68-70, Seungsu Han (USA) 70-68, Bjorn Hellgren (SWE) 67-71, Karandeep Kochhar (IND) 68-70, Nor Heikal Nor Hadi (MAS) 66-72.
139 – Matt Killen (ENG) 71-68, David Drysdale (SCO) 68-71, Taehee Lee (KOR) 68-71, Hung Chien-yao (TPE) 67-72, Rattanon Wannasrichan (THA) 73-66, Aaron Wilkin (AUS) 72-67, Nicholas Fung (MAS) 72-67, Wooyoung Cho (KOR) 68-71, Sam Brazel (AUS) 69-70, Galven Green (MAS) 72-67, Nitithorn Thippong (THA) 69-70, Mingyu Cho (KOR) 72-67, Marcus Fraser (AUS) 69-70, Ye Wocheng (CHN) 69-70, Varun Chopra (USA) 72-67.
140 – Amir Nazrin (MAS) 70-70, Ho Yu-cheng (TPE) 70-70, Charng-Tai Sudsom (THA) 71-69, Justin Quiban (PHI) 65-75, Zach Murray (AUS) 71-69, Ajeetesh Sandhu (IND) 68-72, Justin Warren (AUS) 70-70, Itthipat Buranatanyarat (THA) 72-68, Lion Park (KOR) 65-75, Paul San (MAS) 70-70, Kosuke Hamamoto (THA) 68-72, Berry Henson (USA) 70-70, Gavin Green (MAS) 64-76, Jose Toledo (GUA) 70-70.
141 – Rashid Khan (IND) 71-70, Shahriffuddin Ariffin (MAS) 72-69, Edven Ying (MAS) 72-69, William Harrold (ENG) 71-70, Daeng Rahman (MAS) 70-71, Ryosuke Kinoshita (JPN) 71-70, Natipong Srithong (THA) 72-69, Nateeshvar Anatha Ganesh (am, MAS) 71-70.
142 – Liu Yanwei (CHN) 72-70, Gaganjeet Bhullar (IND) 74-68, Carlos Pigem (ESP) 73-69, Pavit Tangkamolprasert (THA) 74-68, Malcolm Ting (MAS) 74-68, Shaifubari Muda (MAS) 69-73, Muhammad Danial Faidz (MAS) 69-73, David Meyers (RSA) 72-70, Chan Shih-chang (TPE) 70-72, Junggon Hwang (KOR) 72-70, Hariz Hezri (am, MAS) 73-69.
143 – Danny Chia (MAS) 73-70, Jeev Milkha Singh (IND) 72-71, Wilson Choo (MAS) 72-71, Mardan Mamat (SGP) 76-67, Anson Yeo (am, MAS) 69-74.
144 – Chonlatit Chuenboonngam (THA) 71-73, Chapchai Nirat (THA) 70-74, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit (THA) 71-73, Lachlan Barker (AUS) 75-69.
145 – R. Nachimuthu (MAS) 70-75, Sihwan Kim (USA) 72-73.
146 – Khor Kheng Hwai (MAS) 75-71.
147 – Chanmin Jung (KOR) 79-68.
148 – Zia Iqmal Rashid (am, MAS) 75-73.
149 – Suteepat Prateeptienchai (THA) 71-78.
150 – Lam Kong Loong (MAS) 74-76, Airil Rizman Zahari (MAS) 76-74.
151 – Miguel Carballo (ARG) 79-72.
152 – M. Sasidaran (MAS) 77-75.
153 – Ajmal Amin Fajri (am, MAS) 76-77.
154 – Adif Haikal (am, MAS) 78-76.
158 – Sukree Othman (MAS) 78-80.
165 – Chong Chee Ming (MAS) 84-81.

-5 (137) was the final cut, 69 players made the cut

Thaworn Wiratchant, Thailand – RT
Wade Ormsby, Australia – WD
Todd Sinnott, Australia – WD

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