Charl Schwartzel admitted to feeding off friend Louis Oosthuizen’s terrific form as he set the pace on day one of the Maybank Malaysian Open.
The South African pair defied a hugely stressful week at The Masters Tournament and the jetlag from a 30-hour journey from Augusta National to Kuala Lumpur to light up the first round, with Schwartzel’s eight under par 64 giving him a one shot lead.
If that was impressive, coming as it did just four days after presenting Bubba Watson with the Green Jacket, then Oosthuizen’s 66 so soon after suffering play-off heartache at a Major Championship almost defied belief.
“Louis and I got off to a good fast start at the beginning and it is always nice when there are a couple of you in the group playing well and pulling each other a long a bit,” said Schwartzel, who turned in 33 after three birdies and a bogey on the back nine before striking his approach to the first to within three feet.
That sparked a run of five gains in seven holes for a brilliant inward 31 as Schwartzel looks for his first victory since becoming a Major Champion 12 months ago.
“Louis is playing so well right that it is impressive to watch and helped me on,” he added.
“I felt surprisingly good today. I got a good night’s sleep and woke up this morning before the alarm. The tiredness seems to catch me more in the afternoon than the morning so it felt pretty good. I’ll go back this afternoon and get some rest.
“Hopefully we can do the same again tomorrow. It is a long way to go and there are a lot of birdie opportunities out there but if I can keep playing the way I did today then I should have a chance on Sunday.”
Oosthuizen holed a ten footer at the seventh for the last of his six birdies, and while there was no albatross like the one he produced at the par five second during the final round of The Masters, there was an eagle three at the third after a long iron approach found the green.
“It was a long haul getting here,” said the 2010 Open Champion. “I think me and Charl knew the first round, concentration levels won’t be great, but we did well.
“I knew the swing was still good. It was just adapting to the weather and the green speed, but I putted beautifully again today and hope to keep it going for the week.
“I feel like I’m swinging well. I think a lot of times, we’re used to a lot of travel and we adapt quickly. We knew there was always going to be one tough round which is normally the first one and luckily for us, it was early in the morning. We can have a nice rest now.
“We played well. Charl played really well, he could have shot ten or 11 under if he wanted to. It is great to see him play well, it was nice playing together when you’re playing well.”
Oosthuizen’s 66 left him tied for third with American Jason Knutzon and India’s Jyoti Randhawa – whose compatriot Jeev Milkha Singh took second with a 65.
Like Schwartzel and Oosthuizen, Singh also started on the back nine and began his day with an eagle at the long tenth.
The 40 year old bogeyed the next, but had six unanswered birdies after that including a 15 footer at the 18th.
“I’m really happy,” said the three-time European Tour winner. “I had a great start to the round. I hit a three wood to 20 feet and holed that for eagle - that gives you a good push and a jump start.
“I had a lot of birdie chances. I hit a lot of greens and my shots were close to the flags - I made a lot of putts too. I would take a round like that on this golf course any day.”
Knutzon produced some sublime approach shots, and only required tap-ins for birdies at the 17th and 18th.
“It was one of those days where I kept hitting it straight and hit a lot of wedges close, especially on the back nine,” he said. “It seems like I had a lot of three footers for birdies and it adds up quick. It wasn’t as though I was holing a bunch of 20 footers. It was good stuff.”
Defending champion Matteo Manassero and World Number Seven Martin Kaymer both shot two under par rounds of 70 to stay within touching distance of the leaders.