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Thursday, 14 April 2011
Alexander Noren  (Getty Images)
Alexander Noren (Getty Images)

Sweden's Alex Noren fired an eight under par 64 to open a two shot advantage after the first round of the Maybank Malaysian Open.

The 28 year old carded nine birdies with a single bogey at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club to lead Italian teenager Matteo Manassero.

And just four days after his Masters Tournament disappointment there was a strong showing from Rory McIlroy, who carded a three under par 69 to put himself right in contention.

Noren began his round at the tenth and reeled off a hattrick of birdies, and further gains at the 16th and 17th saw him turn in 34.

And while most of the field found the going tougher on the front nine, the former Omega European Masters winner picked up four more birdies - having strengthened his game during a two-week break.

"I was really nervous going into this round. I don't know why. I'm normally nervous after a little break," he said.

"I had two weeks off and I worked a lot harder on my game these two weeks than before. I really felt coming in that you only play one round and it didn't feel the same.

"I started off holing a nice putt on ten, 11 and 12 and thought what's going on. I had bogey on 14 and then I managed to putt well.

"My putter was great today. After that my driver was steady then it was all about getting it close enough. I felt lucky at times when they kept rolling in but you have to have that sometimes. I holed a lot from six over seven metres."

Manassero also got off to a flyer with a run of four consecutive birdies from the 15th.

That allowed the teenage star - who turns 18 next Tuesday - race to an outward 31 after teeing off at the tenth.

There were further gains at the third and fifth and a bogey at the sixth on the way in for the Castello Masters Costa Azahar winner.

"It was a good round of golf," he said. "I played well - six under is a good way to start. It gives you a lot of confidence and that's what I need. I holed a few nice 20 footers and was unlucky with my putts on six and seven which lipped out.

"I'm happy I had not many mistakes. I missed just one shot and recovered well on others. I like the grainy greens - I feel like I can hit every putt solid and it gives me confidence putting."

Manassero admitted victory on Sunday would be the perfect present ahead of his 18th.

"It would be a nice way to celebrate my birthday and end a good year," said the former British Amateur Champion. "It will be good to get to major age! I'm going home so there will be some celebrations there. Not much as I'm not into parties but there needs to be some celebrations as it is 18."

India's Jeev Milkha Singh, Australian Darren Beck and Scotland's Stephen Gallacher share third place on five under, while McIlroy's three under effort was notable so soon after Sunday night's disappointment.

Having led for 63 holes at Augusta National, the 21 year old came unstuck on the back nine as Charl Schwartzel claimed the Green Jacket.

"It's completely different. It's the first round of a tournament. What happened last week is completely behind me now," said the Northern Irishman after a four birdie, one bogey effort.

"There are more people upset about that round than I am. It's one bad round. I'll live and I'm getting on with it.

"I'm happy to be here and shoot a good round. I'm happy I got a decent night's sleep. I was in the gym at 7am this morning and got the blood pumping. - it felt good. For not seeing the course I felt I did well."

As for Schwartzel, the South African understandably found the going tough early on as he dropped three shots on his outward nine, but two birdies on the way in saw him post a respectable 73, while World Number One Martin Kaymer opened with a two under 70.

Four groups were unable to finish their rounds because of a storm, with Chile’s Felipe Aguilar best placed of those on the course at four under with one to play.

They will resume at 0830 local time, with second round tee times unaffected.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1MANASSERO, MatteoITA18-16
2BOURDY, GrégoryFRA18-15
3MCILROY, RoryNIR18-14
T4CABRERA-BELLO, RafaESP18-13
T4NOREN, AlexanderSWE18-13
6AGUILAR, FelipeCHI18-12
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