Kuala Lumpur, April 14: South African Louis Oosthuizen underlined his star credentials by seizing the halfway lead at the Maybank Malaysian Open on Saturday, a week after a disappointing Masters Tournament play-off loss and travelling halfway around the world.
Oosthuizen, nicknamed after the animated character “Shrek” because of his gap teeth, returned to the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club in the morning to complete his six holes of the second round with two more birdies for a four-under-par 68.
Countrymen Jbe Kruger, leader of the Asian Tour’s Order of Merit, and Hennie Otto trail Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion, by one with Scotland’s Stephen Gallagher in the US$2.5 million tournament sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour.
Oosthuizen travelled for nearly 30 hours from Augusta to Kuala Lumpur where he spent “every second” reflecting on his play-off defeat to American left-hander Bubba Watson in the year’s opening Major. The 29-year-old South African, who entered Masters folklore with an albatross on the second hole during the final round, has shown no ill effects of jetlag to shoot up the leaderboard in the Maybank Malaysian Open.
Two birdies on 14 and 15 put him in the driver’s seat but Oosthuizen knows there is plenty of golf yet with 16 players being five shots off the lead with 36 holes remaining.
“I felt comfortable as I had a good night’s rest and I felt good this morning at the range and hit a few good shots,” said Oosthuizen, who leads on 10-under-par 134.
Meanwhile, Shaaban Hussin overcame his nerves to emerge as the sole Malaysian to survive the halfway cut. The slender Shaaban, who is a Maybank ambassador, completed his remaining nine holes of the second round in level par 72 to lie in tied 38th place on two-under-par 142.
He is the only player from a contingent of 22 Malaysians who will play the final two rounds at KLGCC. “I felt a bit shaky when I started this morning. The pressure piled on me when the crowd started shouting that I’m the only Malaysian who has a chance of making the cut. That didn’t help with the nerves! My caddy told me to ignore them and that calmed me down a bit,” said Shaaban.
Malaysia’s leading player Danny Chia, who shot a 73 on Friday, and teenage amateur Low Khai Jei were the next best local players on 146, missing the halfway cut by two shots.
Shaaban resumed his second round from the 10th fairway where he carded one birdie against three bogeys, the last being a missed two-foot par putt on the 18th hole. He was disappointed with his finish especially when he was two under for the round before thunderstorms halted his gallant run.
“It would have been better if the round did not stop yesterday. I had the momentum going and just couldn’t find my rhythm today. You can’t do anything with the weather delays. I’m disappointed, I won’t deny that,” he said.
“I played it very safe because I really wanted to make the cut. I think that worked against me. Now that I’ve made the cut, I’ll definitely go all out for birdies,” added Shaaban, who finished tied 13th in last week’s ISPS Handa Singapore Classic.
Leading Second Round Scores
134 – Louis OOSTHUIZEN (RSA) 66-68.
135 – Hennie OTTO (RSA) 71-64, Jbe KRUGER (RSA) 70-65, Stephen GALLACHER (SCO) 67-68.
136 – Romain WATTEL (FRA) 68-68.
137 – David LIPSKY (USA) 70-67, Martin KAYMER (GER) 70-67.
138 – Jyoti RANDHAWA (IND) 66-72, Danny WILLETT (ENG) 69-69, Jeev Milkha SINGH (IND) 65-73, Ben FOX (USA) 70-68, Rhys DAVIES (WAL) 70-68.
139 – Simon DYSON (ENG) 69-70, Ricardo GONZALEZ (ARG) 68-71, Rafael CABRERA-BELLO (ESP) 67-72, Charl SCHWARTZEL (RSA) 64-75.