Kuala Lumpur: Two-time European Tour winner Hennie Otto and Jbe Kruger continued the South African domination at the Maybank Malaysian Open, taking a share of the clubhouse lead before inclement weather disrupted play during the second round on Friday.
After their more illustrious Major winning compatriots Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen stole the limelight on day one, Otto and Kruger took full advantage of the marvelous scoring conditions in the morning, reeling in rounds of 64 and 65 respectively at the Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club for a two-day haul of nine-under 135.
Oosthuizen, who is looking to build on his runner-up finish at The Masters Tournament last Sunday, improved to eight-under for the tournament through 12 holes before play was abandoned for the day due to thunderstorms at 4.40pm. Seventy-five players will return at 7.45am on Saturday morning to resume their rounds.
Arriving in Kuala Lumpur on the back of two top-ten finishes at the Open de Andalucia Costa de Sol and Trophée Hassan II in March, Otto notched eight birdies including five on the back nine to sneak his way up the leaderboard.
“You’re always going to be happy after a 64 – well, I am anyway! I putted very well today and there were two crucial up and downs for pars that were vital because they really kept my momentum going, so those two pars were as important as the birdies,” said Otto
The in-form 35-year-old admitted that he was pleasantly surprised with his opening efforts despite missing out on a practice jaunt on the West Course tract. “I played the course blind yesterday because I was first reserved for the pro-am and was expecting to get into that and use it as my practice round but it didn’t happen. I walked the course on Wednesday to have an idea but it is obviously a lot different when you come to play it. It was a decent start and then today, I felt a lot more comfortable on the greens and made the putts which made the difference,” he added.
Current Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Kruger was delighted to move into contention after a splendid performance. “It is fun to be in contention. My game is a little bit better. I’ve been working on a lot of things and it seems to be coming together which is always a good sign,” said Kruger, who already has one co-sanctioned title to his name this year after winning the Avantha Masters in Delhi earlier in the year.
He noted that there was no secret to performance of the South Africans in the field other than good form. “I think all of us are coming into this tournament with a little bit of form. I spoke to Charl [Schwartzel] and he said he was struggling in the last couple of weeks just like myself, so I guess we are just coming back into form at the right time,” he added.
Moving into contention were 2010 PGA Championship winner Martin Kaymer and American David Lipsky, both notching matching 65s to move to seven-under-par alongside Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher, who is two-under for the day after 11 holes.
An aggressive game plan saw Kaymer push himself into contention and the German is confident of raking in the birdies over the weekend. “I played really well today and gave myself a lot of birdie chances. I had a good eagle chance on three and felt like I hit a lot of good putts but maybe just over-read the greens,” shared the 10-time European Tour winner.
“I will be a few shots behind after today, so I will approach tomorrow a bit more aggressively. I am playing well – it’s just a matter of time before I get the results onto the scorecard and get a win again. Sometimes patience is the most difficult thing in the game,” added Kaymer, who’s last victory came at the HSBC Champions in November last year.
Lipsky, who went from Asian Tour graduate to winner in a span of three events, produced the goods once again, chipping in from 75 yards for an eagle three on the third en-route to a solid 65. “I didn’t hit it really well but I got a lot of up-and-downs and I holed a few long putts. If I can get my ball striking going just a little bit and with the way I’m putting, I think I can go pretty low,” said the Handa Faldo Cambodian Classic winner.
The 23-year-old Los Angeles native admitted that it was a dream come true to play in co-sanctioned tournaments such as the Maybank Malaysian Open.
“You don’t always get the opportunity to play with these players. I played with Branden Grace and Simon Dyson, both premier players on the European Tour. It is great to also be competing against [Louis] Oosthuizen and [Charl] Schwartzel. It is everything I dreamt of as a little kid to be competing against the best in the world. I’m loving this opportunity.”
India’s Jyoti Randhawa (72) and Englishmen Danny Willett (69) were amongst a quintet on six-under 138 while overnight leader Schwartzel struggled in the scorching afternoon sun, managing three bogeys against a single birdie through 12 holes to sit alongside Jeev Milkha Singh (-2 through 11 holes) on five-under par.
Leading second round scores
-9 Hennie Otto (RSA) 71-64; Jbe Kruger (RSA) 70-65
-8 Louis Oosthuizen (RSA) 66-
-7 David Lipsky (USA) 70-67; Martin Kaymer (GER) 70-67; Stephen Gallacher 67-
-6 Jyoti Randhawa (IND) 66-72; Danny Willett (ENG) 69-69; Rafael Cabrera-Bello (ESP) 67- ; Ben Fox (USA) 70- ; Romain Wattel (FRA) 68-
-5 Simon Dyson (ENG) 69-70; Ricardo Gonzalez (ARG) 68-71; Charl Schwartzel (RSA) 64- ; Jeev Milkha Singh (IND) 65 –