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Schwartzel moves into share of lead

Updated: Friday, 22 Mar 2013 12:42 | Comments

Padraig Harrington has been frustrated with the weather delay
Padraig Harrington has been frustrated with the weather delay

Pre-tournament favourite Charl Schwartzel already has one eye on a Monday finish after claiming a share of the clubhouse lead in the weather-delayed Maybank Malaysian Open.

Schwartzel, who won back-to-back tournaments in December last year by a combined total of 23 shots, carded a second round of 68 to finish alongside China's Ashun Wu on nine under par in Kuala Lumpur.

But after the former Masters champion signed his card, a two-and-a-half-hour delay due to the threat of lightning meant that half the field were unable to complete their second rounds on schedule.

And with thunderstorms an almost daily occurrence at this time of year, plans for an early finish on Sunday to allow the country's prime minister to attend the prize-giving ceremony before going on to the Malaysian Grand Prix at nearby Sepang already look in jeopardy.

The second round will resume at 7:45am local time on Saturday, with the third round beginning not before 1:15pm.

Schwartzel, looking to become the seventh South African winner on the European Tour in 2013, was four under par after 11 holes of his first round when a thunderstorm forced play to be abandoned for the day on Thursday.

He was among 76 players who resumed play this morning at 7:45am local time and completed an opening 67 in style, chipping in for a birdie on the 18th.

That left him two shots off the clubhouse lead held by Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat, but it did not take him long to wipe out that deficit when the second round got under way.

Starting from the 10th, Schwartzel birdied his first two holes and picked up two more shots on the 17th and 18th to be out in 32, while further birdies followed on the third and fifth.

At that stage he enjoyed a three-shot lead and looked capable of another runaway victory, but bogeys at the sixth and seventh meant he had to settle for a 68 and nine-under-par halfway total of 135.

"I suppose I can't be too hard on myself," said Schwartzel, who played 25 holes in the sweltering heat today which contributed to playing partner Chris Wood withdrawing through illness.

"It's really extraordinarily hot out there and it was a bit of lack of concentration on the end. I made a bad decision on six with club selection and then hit a very poor shot on seven (into a greenside bunker).

"It was a long day out there but overall I feel I played pretty well and am at least giving myself a chance. I am playing consistently.

"If I was a bit sharper I could have really separated myself but the game is good and shows me if I keep doing that, hopefully by Sunday, or whenever we finish, I will be on top."

Aphibarnrat moved into the outright lead on 10 under with a front nine of 33 before play was halted due to darkness, while world number three Luke Donald, who needed a major improvement on his opening 74 to make the cut, was two under through seven to get back to level par for the tournament.

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