Aphibarnrat stays on top, Schwartzel close in Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Sports Network) - 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.
03/22 10:12:27 ET