Thursday, 21 March 2019
Nacho Elvira  (Getty Images)
Nacho Elvira (Getty Images)

Spaniard Nacho Elvira and former champion Marcus Fraser were tied at the top of the Maybank Championship leaderboard at the end of the first round after making the most of favourable scoring conditions early on day one.

Australian Fraser, who won this co-sanctioned event in 2016, and Elvira each carded eight birdies and a single bogey on Thursday morning to finish the day on seven under par.

And with scoring proving much more tricky in the afternoon, none of the later starters were able to catch the co-leaders.

It had looked as though their efforts may be eclipsed when Angelo Que notched nine birdies in his opening 11 holes but the Filipino made back to back double bogeys at the 15th and 16th to fall from the top of the pile.

Que finished his round with a birdie at the 18th, though, to join Thailand's Jazz Janewattananond and Austrian Matthias Schwab in a tie for third, a single shot behind the leaders on six under.

Belgian Thomas Pieters was another stroke further back after his opening 67, one ahead of the large group containing four time Major Champion Ernie Els and afternoon starters Prom Meesawat, Zach Murray and home favourite Nicholas Fung.

Beginning his opening round at the tenth tee, Elvira made a lightning quick start, reeling off a hat-trick of birdies at the 11th, 12th and 13th before surrendering his only bogey of the day at the 14th.

But the four time European Challenge Tour winner bounced back with birdies at the long 18th and first holes before making another on the third.

He almost holed his tee shot at the short fourth and then rolled in from six feet on the fifth green for his third birdie in a row.

After signing for a 65, Elvira said: "To be honest seven under is always good. With my record here not being too great, 65 is very good.

"My caddie told me today that I hit 12 fairways. I have been hitting my irons well and putting great, I just needed to put the ball in play. 

"I wasn't able to do that the first few weeks (of the season) but I think I managed to do that in Qatar and also today. 

"I'm happy with the way things are going, happy to be turning around my golf game a little bit. We'll see where that gets me." 

Fraser, also starting from the tenth, birdied the 11th and 13th before dropping a shot at the 14th.

He got it back at the next, though, before closing his front nine with another birdie on the 18th.

After taking advantage of the two par fives on his back nine - the first and the fifth - Fraser curled in his 20 foot putt at the short seventh to get to six under.

And he made another birdie on the eighth to head into the clubhouse on seven under.

Fraser said: "It's been a good day. I played steady all day and putted really well. 

"I've been playing well having a hit at home but I haven't played a whole lot of competitive golf. It was nice to go out and play well in a great tournament."

European Ryder Cup Captain Padraig Harrington, back in action following a wrist injury, produced a battling 70 in his first competitive round of the season.

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