Jbe Kruger (Getty Images)
The South African domination continued on day two of the Maybank Malaysian Open as Hennie Otto and Jbe’ Kruger moved into a share of the lead before play was suspended.
While playing partners and best friends Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters Champion, and Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open Champion and runner-up last week at Augusta National, stole the headlines on day one, two of their less celebrated compatriots moved to nine under par to lead at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club before the threat of lightning brought play to halt.
Otto reeled off eight birdies to match Schwartzel’s opening 64 and set the clubhouse target, and a short while later Kruger joined him at the top of the leaderboard following a seven under par 65.
“I think all of us (South Africans) are coming into this tournament with a little bit of form coming back,” said Kruger, who claimed his maiden title earlier this year when he won the Avantha Masters in India, an event also co-sanctioned with the Asian Tour like this week. “I spoke to Charl and he said he was struggling in the last couple of weeks. I was struggling as well so I guess we are just coming back into form.”
Otto missed out on a practice round after thinking he would be playing in the pro-am on Wednesday, only to remain on the reserve bench, so his only sighting of the course prior to yesterday’s opening round was a walk round the course.
“I played the course blind yesterday because I was first reserve for the pro-am and was expecting to get into that and use it as my practice round but it didn’t happen,” he explained. “I walked the course on Wednesday so had an idea but it is obviously a lot different when you come to play it. I had never been here before so it was a decent start and then today I felt a lot more comfortable on the greens and made the putts which is the difference.
“I have been playing well recently and we are taking small steps and gradually getting there. Most of the work that I have been doing is really on the mental side as opposed to the technical side of things and I am sticking with and trying to build on that momentum.”
Former World Number One and another of the Major Champions in the field, Martin Kaymer, is also right in the mix at seven under par alongside American David Lipsky after the pair both shot 67.
“I played really well today and gave myself a lot of birdie chances,” said the 2010 US PGA Champion. “I had a good eagle chance on three and felt like a hit a lot of good putts but maybe just over-read the greens. But I am seven under for the tournament now which is good and I feel good about the game and if I can make a few more putts I feel I can really get into the tournament.
“I will be a few shots behind after today so I will approach tomorrow a bit more aggressively. I am playing well – it is just a matter of time before I get a win again and get the results onto the scorecard. Sometimes patience is the most difficult thing in this game. “
Of the afternoon starters, Oosthuizen was yet to show any signs of fatigue as he moved into solo third on eight under par.
After his valiant play-off defeat to Bubba Watson on Sunday, followed by a 30-hour journey from Augusta National, the 29 year old picked up two birdies and no dropped shots over his first 12 holes.
That left him just one behind compatriots Kruger and Otto, although the news was not so good for Schwartzel, who played the same stretch in three over par to drop four behind.
Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher was also going well, playing the back nine in a two under 34 to join Kaymer and Lipsky on seven under.