The 27-year-old Bradley, winner of the 2011 PGA Championship, wielded a hot putter to sink seven birdies, including five on his homeward stretch, for a two-day total of 13-under-par 131 in the US$7 million tournament sanctioned by the Asian Tour and PGA TOUR.
Overnight leader Ryan Moore of the United States battled to an even par 72 for outright second while Thai star Kiradech Aphibarnrat, the current Asian Tour Order of Merit leader, signed for a 69 to share third place with American Chris Stroud on 136.
A superb 65 hauled Australian Marc Leishman back into contention at tied fifth place on 137 alongside Spaniard Sergio Garcia, who grinded out a 71 at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club’s West course.
Bradley needed only 26 putts for the second straight day as he put himself in prime spot to land the top prize of US$1.26 million this week.
“Yeah, these last two rounds were really fun. Some of the best golf I’ve played in a long time. Obviously, I’m in a great spot here with two rounds to go,” said Bradley, who is ranked 15th in the world.
After a winless season on the PGA TOUR, Bradley put in the hours sharpening his short game which has yielded two impressive rounds in Malaysia. “I worked very hard in these last couple weeks, a lot of short game, a lot of chipping,” he said.
“I felt as in control of my golf ball today as maybe I’ve ever felt. So that is a really good sign on this golf course. When I’m hitting the ball like this and my putter kind of matches up, normally I’m going to be right in there contending.”
The only distraction for the likeable American was the fact that he hasn’t been able to watch the live broadcasts of the baseball World Series which his favourite team, Boston Red Sox is tied at 1-1 with the St Louis Cardinals.
“In the back of my mind, I’m wondering what’s going on,” said Bradley. “I know my mom at home was flipping back and forth watching. My girlfriend, Jillian, is a big Red Sox fan too and she was giving me updates as best as she could.”
After converting all his birdie putts in the opening round, Moore endured a frustrating day on the slick greens in his second round which needed 29 putts, four more than yesterday.
“It wasn’t the round I had yesterday, but it amazingly enough wasn’t too dissimilar. I actually controlled the ball really well. Obviously, just didn’t make any putts, but I still hit some pretty good shots overall,” said Moore, who is a two-time winner in the United States.
“I just didn’t get it to those eight to 12 footers. I seemed to be in that 15 to 20 foot range today and just wasn’t able to convert them.”
Stroud, seeking his first career victory, produced a bogey-free card to stay within striking reach of Bradley although he was disappointed to miss several birdie opportunities. “I left a few out there,” said the 32-year-old. “It’s a great test of golf. The greens are actually nice and firm. But Keegan’s setting a good pace out there. And I believe that’s where the numbers are going to be.”
Kiradech continued to shine against the stars from the PGA TOUR at the venue which he won the Malaysian Open in March for his second Asian Tour triumph. Playing alongside Phil Mickelson and title holder Nick Watney, who are on 141 and 144 respectively, the burly Thai birdied his opening three birdies before dropping a bogey on 14 and finishing up with a closing birdie.
“Every time I’m playing here, I feel like I’m home, I guess due to the weather and a lot of fans follow and shout for me. That gives me a lot of power to play in this country,” said the 24-year-old.
“In the first two rounds, I have started great. Yesterday on the front nine, I was five-under and today the way I started the first three holes, three birdies in a row made my game easier, made my golf easier. But on the back nine, I started thinking about maybe I can win here again and then missed a few birdie chances.”
Scores after round 2 of the 2013 CIMB Classic (a- denotes amateur):
131 – Keegan Bradley (USA) 65-66.
135 – Ryan Moore (USA) 63-72.
136 – Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA) 67-69, Chris Stroud (USA) 67-69.
137 – Sergio Garcia (ESP) 66-71, Marc Leishman (AUS) 72-65.
138 – Martin Laird (SCO) 68-70, Harris English (USA) 71-67, Chris Kirk (USA) 67-71, Gary Woodland (USA) 68-70, Stewart Cink (USA) 70-68, Hideki Matsuyama (JPN) 70-68.
139 – Bill Haas (USA) 72-67, Wade Ormsby (AUS) 70-69, K.J. Choi (KOR) 68-71, Graham DeLaet (CAN) 72-67, Shiv Kapur (IND) 69-70.
140 – Aaron Baddeley (AUS) 73-67, Josh Teater (USA) 74-66, Jerry Kelly (USA) 71-69, Jeff Overton (USA) 73-67, Kyle Stanley (USA) 73-67, Kevin Stadler (USA) 71-69, Nicholas Thompson (USA) 69-71.
141 – Charles Howell III (USA) 69-72, Phil Mickelson (USA) 71-70, Boo Weekley (USA) 67-74, Tim Clark (RSA) 72-69, Charley Hoffman (USA) 69-72, Billy Horschel (USA) 72-69, Rory Sabbatini (RSA) 67-74, Camilo Villegas (COL) 70-71.