Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat will take a one-shot lead over 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel when the third and final round of the Maybank Malaysian Open resumes tomorrow at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club (KLGCC).
Organisers had no choice but to cut short the US$2.75 million event to 54 holes after thunderstorms disrupted play for the third successive day, with Kiradech holding the lead on 11-under-par through two holes.
Schwartzel, playing in the last group with Kiradech, trails by one while a group of seven players including China’s Wu Ashun, three-time Major champion Padraig Harrington of Ireland and Ryder Cup stars Edoardo Molinari and Anders Hansen, are a further shot back on nine-under.
Big-hitting Kiradech, dubbed ‘Asia’s John Daly’, is determined to close out the Maybank Malaysian Open after coming close three years ago when he entered the final round as the co-leader only to finish joint third.
“I’ve learned a lot from that. I’ve grown up in three years and I have learned a lot on how to play under pressure and how to play when you need to win. I think I have more experience and I hope it will help me tomorrow,” said the 23-year-old former world amateur champion.
Kiradech completed his second round in the morning with a 68 which gave him a two-shot lead. He birdied the first hole of the third round but bogeyed the second before play was called off at 4.02pm when the heavens opened up.
With just 16 holes separating him from a second Asian Tour title and his first on the European Tour, the burly Thai, who has been suffering from the effects a lingering thyroid problem, knows he holds an advantage.
“You can say I have more chance to win now that it’s 54 holes. It’s a good chance for me to win my first co-sanctioned title. I still have to do my best and it’ll be tough work tomorrow. Charl is a good player. He’s a top player and he can catch up. I will just do my best. If I can keep playing like how I have been doing in the first two days, I will have a chance,” said Kiradech, who finished fourth in last week’s Avantha Masters in India and also qualified for the British Open last month.
Schwartzel, who won the Thailand Golf Championship in December and has eight European Tour titles under his belt, birdied his opening hole of the third round to signal his intent of winning his first Maybank Malaysian Open title. He will also be keen to keep the title in South African hands following last year’s triumph by close friend Louis Oosthuizen.
27-year-old Wu, bidding to become the third Chinese to win a co-sanctioned tournament after Zhang Lian-wei and Liang Wen-chong, parred his first two holes of the third round to stay two shots back of Kiradech.
“I think I still have a good chance. I’m in the championship group and the leaderboard is very tight. It is three rounds now so anything can happen. I have to go back and sleep! Hopefully I get enough rest and play well,” said Wu, who became the first Chinese player to win in Japan last season.
India’s Jeev Milkha Singh made a charge up the leaderboard by playing his 11 holes in five-under-par and moving up to eight-under for the championship.
The third and final round resumes tomorrow at 9.45am. The last time the Maybank Malaysian Open was reduced into a three-round affair was in 2006, also at KLGCC.
-11: Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA) (through 2 holes)
-10: Charl Schwartzel (RSA) (2 holes)
-9: Anders Hansen (DEN) (8 holes), Edoardo Molinari (ITA) (5 holes), Padraig Harrington (IRL) (4 holes), Victor Dubuisson (4 holes), Gregory Bourdy (FRA) (3 holes), Wu Ashun (CHN) (2 holes)
-8: Jeev Milkha Singh(IND) (11 holes), Peter Lawrie (IRL) (6 holes), Jean Gonnet (FRA) (10 holes), Alastair Forsyth (SCO) (8 holes), Rafa Cabrera-bello (ESP) (7 holes), Tommy Fleetwood (ENG) (3 holes)