Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Getty Images)
Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat birdied his last hole of the day to snatch a late lead on day two of the Maybank Malaysian Open.
Further storm delays meant only half the field were able to complete their second rounds – Charl Schwartzel and Ashun Wu setting the clubhouse target at nine under par with matching rounds of 68.
However, overnight leader Aphibarnrat turned in a three under par 33 to reach ten under before darkness brought play to a close for the day.
Schwartzel had threatened to break clear of the field during his second round, but a touch of fatigue led to two late bogeys.
Three behind Aphibarnrat overnight, the South African’s first task was to complete the last seven holes of his opening round.
Schwartzel, who won back-to-back tournaments in December last year by a combined total of 23 shots, was four under par after 11 holes of his first round when thunderstorms forced play to be abandoned for the day.
Among 78 players who resumed play this morning at 7.45am local time, Schwartzel completed an opening 67 in style, chipping in for a birdie on the 18th.
That left the 2011 Masters Tournament champion two shots off the clubhouse lead held by Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat, but it did not take him long to wipe out that deficit when the second round got under way.
Starting from the tenth, Schwartzel birdied the first two, holed a 15 footer on the 17th and pitched to four feet at the next to turn in 32.
A chip to five feet from the bunker set up a regulation birdie at the long third, before an approach to eight feet at the fifth.
But a loose approach leaked right at the next, and after being bunkered at the seventh the 28 year old could only fire 15 feet past the flag and missed return putt.
That gave him a halfway total of nine under par and a share of the clubhouse lead with Ashun Wu, who had five birdies and just one bogey.
“I can’t be too hard on myself because it’s extraordinarily hot out there,” said Schwartzel. “I lost a bit of concentration towards the end and made bad decisions on the sixth and seventh – poor club selections. I was in the middle of the fairway both times and made bogey. I hit a very poor shot on the seventh.
“It’s been a very long day but through it all I thought I played pretty well. At least I’ve given myself a chance; I’m playing consistently and if I had been a bit sharper today I maybe could have separated myself from the field, but I know I’m playing well and I’m feeling good.”
Wu, who drew level with Schwartzel when he rolled in a 12 foot birdie putt at the ninth, his last, said: “I’m very happy today and my putting is good. I read the lines very well and that made me relax out there.
“I think it’s important to play with a strategy in mind this week and choosing of the right clubs to use will matter as well. I’ve been in a good form lately and I hope to maintain that.
“It’s great that I have the opportunity to play in this co-sanctioned event this week. It’s going to be very competitive because we’ve got all the top players from the Asian Tour and European Tour in the field.”
Italy’s Edoardo Molinari birdied two of his first five holes to move into solo fourth on eight under.