England’s Nick Dougherty birdied the last in the gathering gloom to move into a share of the lead with Malaysia’s Danny Chia on 12 under par 132 in the Maybank Malaysian Open.
Play was suspended for over two hours as a lightning storm swept through Kota Permai Golf and Country Club, but Dougherty just managed to finish his round before darkness brought the second day’s play to an end.
Dane Søren Kjeldsen lies a shot back at 11 under par 133 with Ulsterman Graeme McDowell and defending champion, Peter Hedblom, of Sweden in the clubhouse just two back on ten under par.
Following the fireworks of his first round 62, it would have been easy for Dougherty to fall backwards but despite the putts refusing to drop, he managed to a two under par 70 to join Chia in the clubhouse lead.
“I played pretty well to be honest,” said the 25 year old. “I didn’t make anything all day. It is ironic really as I didn’t play much different to yesterday. Putted well but didn’t make them so it was frustrating in that respect. But it is still all right to shoot two under par and will be there or thereabouts after the guys finish tomorrow morning. I am not too disappointed and quite pleased with the way I responded to such an exciting round yesterday. It is easy to stall and I felt I kept going forward.
“That birdie leaves a sweet taste in your mouth going to bed tonight. It was nice to finish as I didn’t really want to come back first thing tomorrow morning just to play one hole and then sit around all day waiting for my tee time. So very pleased we managed to get that last hole in as we didn’t think we would and even more pleased to have birdied it.”
Chia, taking advantage of his sponsor’s invitation, set the target of 12 under par after an excellent five under par 67 and was shaking with excitement when he saw his name at the top of the leaderbaord in his national Open.
“I’m shaking!” declared Chia. “It’s always been one of my dreams to win the Maybank Malaysian Open. Every year it gets tougher and tougher as it is now jointly sanctioned. But it’s made me more excited to see my name on the leaderboard.”
No Malaysian has ever won their national Open, P. Gunasegaren coming the closest in 1994 at Royal Selangor GC when he lost a play-off to Swede Joakim Haeggman. And since the event became jointly sanctioned with The European Tour and Asian Tour in 1999, the highest finish by a home player was joint 28th in 2005 by Chia at Suajana G&CC.
Now the 35 year old, who was attached to the club for two years from 2000, has two rounds ahead of him as he attempts to turn his dreams into reality.
His local knowledge of the course could prove an advantage. “It’s helped a bit,” he admitted. “The course hasn’t changed. Most of the holes, I know what club to hit, but the greens have changed a bit with some new grass on them and they are a bit grainy and tricky to putt on.”
Hedblom fondness for Malaysia continued and he is very much in the hunt to successfully defend the title he won at Saujana last year after a round of 68 which mixed an eagle, birdies and bogeys.
“It’s going to be fun,” smiled the Swede. “It’s fun to be up there and having a chance to win again.”
Kjeldsen shot an impressive opening seven under par 65 and continued in much the same vein for nine holes of his second round. His momentum slowed coming in but he stayed patient and was rewarded with an eagle on the seventh to move within a stroke of the lead.
“Yesterday I played so well and didn’t put a foot wrong and the first nine today it was going the same way,” he said. “You know it is never going to last and at some stage you are going to struggle a little. I made an incredibly bad bogey on the first after a good drive and after that hit it close and couldn’t make a putt. I hung in there and got my reward with the eagle on the seventh. It was a nice feeling.”
McDowell set out with a target to at least get to Dougherty’s ten under par score before the Englishman set out for his second round and he achieved that with a birdie four on the last for a 68. He looked as if he would comfortable move ahead when he birdied three of the first five holes but thereafter he “played with the handbrake on” with 12 successive pars. Finally he got to ten under par after pitching to four feet on the final green.
Play will resume at 7.45 with 49 players set to return to the course to complete their second rounds.