Aphibarnrat stays on top, Schwartzel close in Malaysia

By
Updated: March 22, 2013

Play was suspended again at the
stormy Maybank Malaysian Open on Friday, but not before Kiradech Aphibarnrat
birdied his final hole to retain a 1-stroke advantage.

Charl Schwartzel completed the final seven holes of his suspended opening
round Friday morning and moved within two strokes of the overnight leader
Aphibarnrat. The 2011 Masters champion then carded a second-round 4-under 68
at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club and jumped into a tie for the top spot
with Ashun Wu, who also shot 68.

“It’s been a very long day but through it all I thought I played pretty well,”
said Schwartzel. “At least I’ve given myself a chance; I’m playing
consistently and if I had been a bit sharper today I maybe could have
separated myself from the field, but I know I’m playing well and I’m feeling
good.”

With Schwartzel and Wu in the clubhouse at 9-under, Aphibarnrat began his
second round two shots back and parred his first hole before lightning forced
a stop in the action. When play resumed, the Asian Tour regular carded birdies
at Nos. 3, 4 and 9 to reach 10-under shortly before the round was suspended
due to darkness.

Edoardo Molinari is 8-under through five holes, while Scott Jamieson (72), Lee
Slattery (70) and Wen-Chong Liang (68) are in the clubhouse at 6-under. Three-
time European Tour winner Gregory Bourdy and Alexander Noren are 6-under
through three holes and five holes, respectively.

Three-time major winner Padraig Harrington is 4-under through six holes, while
world No. 3 Luke Donald is even through seven. Coming off a tie for fourth at
the PGA Tour’s Tampa Bay Championship, Donald, the field’s top-ranked player,
is looking to bounce back from an opening-round 74.

One of 78 players to complete their opening round on Friday, Schwartzel
wrapped up his 67 with a chip-in birdie on the last, then threatened to run
away from the pack with a sparkling round-two start.

Starting on the 10th tee, Schwartzel opened with back-to-back birdies and
turned the trick again at Nos. 17 and 18 to reach 9-under. Further gains at
the third and fifth had the South African at minus-11, but as fatigue set in,
bogeys followed at Nos. 6 and 7, allowing Wu to pull even with a 12-foot
birdie putt on his last.

“I can’t be too hard on myself because it’s extraordinarily hot out there,”
added Schwartzel. “I lost a bit of concentration towards the end and made bad
decisions on the sixth and seventh — poor club selections. I was in the
middle of the fairway both times and made bogey. I hit a very poor shot on the
seventh.”

In addition to his birdie roll on the ninth, Wu added gains on the third,
fourth, 10th and 12th. His only misstep came in the form of a bogey at the
par-4 sixth.

“I’m very happy today and my putting is good,” said Wu, who is playing on a
sponsor’s invitation. “I read the lines very well and that made me relax out
there … I’ve been in a good form lately and I hope to maintain that.”

NOTES: The second round will resume Saturday at 7:45 a.m. (local time) …
Aphibarnrat is seeking his first European Tour victory … Schwartzel won the
Alfred Dunhill Championship earlier this season and has four top-10 finishes
in six events worldwide this year … Donald is playing in this event for the
first time … The Asian Tour and the European Tour co-sanction this event
… Last year, Louis Oosthuizen posted rounds of 66-68-69-68 to cruise to
victory just one week after his playoff loss to Bubba Watson at the Masters.
Oosthuizen is not on hand to defend his title.