Kuala Lumpur: Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat retained his one-shot overnight lead after completion of the rain-delayed opening round of the Maybank Malaysian Open on Friday
Struggling with a thyroid condition, the long-hitting Aphibarnat clearly did not have the energy to unleash his infamous booming drives at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club but some great putting saw him card eight birdies against a sole bogey to lead Dane Anders Hansen, Edoardo Molinari of Italy and Frenchman Gregory Bourdy.
Scott Jamieson of Scotland was among 78 players who returned early on Friday to complete their opening rounds after Thursday’s washout and the Scotsman traded a birdie and bogey apiece on his remaining eight holes to take a share of second alongside the trio.
Malaysian veteran S. Murthy raised local cheers with a flawless 67 – an effort matched by Frenchman Victor Dubuisson – ahead of a pack of players in a share for eighth including star attraction Charl Schwartzel, who an eagle, four birdies and solitary bogey to show.
Three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington made a good start with a three under par 69 while Luke Donald, the top-ranked player in the field this week could only manage a 74 despite chipping in for birdie at the first.
The burly Thai, nicknamed the Asia’s John Daly acknowledged that he needs to preserve his energy level if he is to keep his hopes of winning a second Asian Tour title alive.
“I did not force myself or any of my golf shots. I didn’t set myself any goals for this week. I didn’t tell myself that I should finish in the top-five or win this event. I want to take things shot by shot. When you don’t have power or energy, you can’t force yourself,” said the 23-year-old who is enjoying a sensational season so far.
He finished third at the Asian Tour’s season-opening Zaykabar Myanmar Open and qualified for his maiden appearance at The Open Championship by winning the International Final Qualifying – Asia in Thailand earlier this month and came into this week on the back of fourth placing at last week’s Avantha Masters.
Molinari, a two-time European Tour winner, shot his best score since March last year after working with a new coach Sean Foley, who also trains Tiger Woods. “It was a good round of golf…finally. I was able to make a lot of putts but missed a short one on eight and a few other chances. I’ve been struggling for a while so it was good to have a good first round,” said Molinari.
“He (Foley) is making big changes. I need big changes because I didn’t like the way I was playing last year. I felt it wasn’t right. I felt it was time to change. I like what he says and I have a lot more knowledge on what I’m doing on the golf course. As soon as I missed a shot on the course then I know how to fix it,” he added.
Frenchman Bourdy, winner of the 2009 Hong Kong Open, renewed his love affair with Asia with a round that included seven birdies. It gave him a chance to go one better than his runner-up finish at the 2011 Maybank Malaysian Open.
“It’s very hot. I can’t say I love it but I don’t mind it. I feel good when it is warm and I usually play well when it’s like this, so I hope it continues. I like the course a lot. It’s maybe one of the best we play all season and it’s in great shape again this year. I hope my game stays like this until Sunday,” said a delighted Bourdy.
Former world number one Donald struggled to get any momentum going in his round but remained upbeat. “I made a slow start – three over through four – and I was just hanging on after that. There’s a lot of trouble out there and I found too much of it. Golf is hard sometimes and not always going to go your way. I gave it my all but the result wasn’t very good,” said the Englishman.
“There’s a low round out there though, and tomorrow hopefully I can shoot a low one. I’m going to need one to get back in the mix for this tournament,” he added.
Leading first round scores
65 – Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA)
66 – Anders Hansen (DEN), Edoardo Molinari(ITA), Gregory Bourdy (FRA), Scott Jamieson (SCO)
67 – S. Murthy (MAS), Victor Dubuisson (FRA), Wu Ashun (CHN), Charl Schwartzel (RSA)
68 – Lee Sung (KOR), Adilson Da Silva (BRA), Fredrik Andersson Hed (SWE), Prom Meesawat (THA), Peter Lawrie (IRL), Lee Slattery (IRL)