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Luke Donald struggles in Malaysia while Padraig Harrington keeps in contention

Updated: Thursday, 21 Mar 2013 10:15 | Comments

Padraig Harrington is four shots off the lead
Padraig Harrington is four shots off the lead

World number three Luke Donald today insisted jet-lag was not a factor after finding himself nine shots off the lead in the opening round of the Maybank Malaysian Open.

Donald only arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday after finishing fourth in the defence of his Tampa Bay Championship at the weekend, a result which had him looking forward with optimism to the US Masters next month.

The 35-year-old was adamant the 12-hour time difference would not be a problem, but was nevertheless far from his best in compiling a two-over 74 in sweltering conditions, which saw two players retire ill before play was abandoned for the day in the late afternoon due to thunderstorms.

Tournament officials will now hope to get the event back on track over the next two days, with an early finish planned for Sunday to allow the country's prime minister to attend the prize-giving ceremony before heading to the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Starting from the 10th, Donald dropped three shots in a row from the 11th and, after chipping in for birdie from short of the first green, ran up a double-bogey six on the second after pitching into a greenside bunker.

The former world number one then missed good birdie chances on the next two holes before holing from six feet on the fifth, while a closing birdie from similar range on the ninth at least boosted his hopes of making the halfway cut on his tournament debut.

"Today the game was quite tough for me," Donald told European Tour Radio. "It's one of those courses where if you are a little bit off it can get you.

"I did not play the hard holes very well and when I did have opportunities I couldn't take them on the greens.

"It was one of those frustrating rounds where I got very little momentum. It was a nice birdie on the last, so hopefully I can use that as a little bit of a kickstart for tomorrow's round.

"I got off to a slow start, three over after four, and was just hanging on after that. There's a lot of trouble out there and I found too much of it.

"I gave it my all on every shot and there's a low one out there. This course can produce some low scores and hopefully I can have mine tomorrow, that's what I need to get back into the mix for this tournament.

"I slept pretty well the last two nights and felt pretty good, it was just a case of not being quite on today."

Donald found himself nine shots off the clubhouse lead held by Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat, whose 65 continued the excellent form of last week when he was fourth in the Avantha Masters.

Italy's Edoardo Molinari, Denmark's Anders Hansen and France's Gregory Bourdy were a shot behind after rounds of 66, while Scotland's Scott Jamieson was six under through 10 holes and pre-tournament favourite Charl Schwartzel four under after 11 before play was suspended.

Peter Lawrie is four under with Padraig Harrington a shot furtherb back.

Molinari, who changed coach in December after missing three months following wrist surgery, has not made a halfway cut in five events this season, but carded eight birdies and two bogeys in his round.

"It was a good round of golf finally," said Molinari, who is now coached by Sean Foley, who works with Tiger Woods and Justin Rose among others.

"Sean is making big changes but I needed them because the way I played last year especially I didn't like it.

"I like what Sean says, I have a lot more knowledge about what I'm doing on the course and as soon as I miss a shot I know how to fix it.

"Sean speaks a lot of sense about golf and right now he is definitely the most knowledgeable coach in golf."

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