Nacho Elvira and former champion Marcus Fraser lead the way at the end of the first day of the Maybank Championship, following a remarkable morning of scoring at Saujana Golf and County Club.
Australian Fraser, who won the first staging of the tournament in 2016 to seal his third European Tour title, and four-time Challenge Tour winner Elvira of Spain each carded eight birdies and a single bogey on Thursday to get to seven under par.
It had looked as though their efforts would be eclipsed when Angelo Que took full advantage of the newly rebuilt greens at the Kuala Lumpur venue to make nine birdies and no bogeys in his opening 11 holes, but the Filipino made back to back double bogeys at the 15th and 16th holes to fall from the top of the leaderboard.
Que finished his round with a birdie at the 18th to join Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond and Austrian Matthias Schwab in a tie for third, a single shot behind the leaders on six under par.
Belgian Thomas Pieters is another stroke back after his opening round of 67, one ahead of eight players at four under par, including four-time Major Champion Ernie Els, and his fellow South Africans Dean Burmester and Brandon Stone.
There is then a group of 11 players at three under par, while European Ryder Cup Captain Padraig Harrington made a steady return to action after four months out with a wrist injury, shooting a first round 70 to sit alongside 14 other players at two under par.
“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.
“It’s been a good day. Played steady all day and putted really well. The new greens here, well they’ve done a great job. Unfortunately they lost them last year. Unbelievable to be able to turn them around in 12 months. They’ve done a great job. The greens last year, by no fault of their own, they were diseased and they lost them. Now they have rebuilt them and they are fantastic.
“If we don’t get any rain, maybe, but we’re in Malaysia, in the practice round the course was firm and bouncy and they have small undulating greens. With that combination you would think the scoring wouldn’t be as good. But it’s a great surface to putt on, not too much grain in the greens.”
“To be honest seven under is always good. With my record here not being too great, 65 is very good. It’s tough, it’s really humid. It’s not as hot in the morning but it’s really humid so it’s tough to stay hydrated.
“My caddie told me today that I hit 12 fairways. I have been hitting my irons good 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 the way things are going, happy to be turning around my golf game a little bit. We’ll see where that gets me.”
“I thought I was dreaming when I got to nine under after 11 holes. But these things happen especially when you play well. You try not to think too much and get ahead of yourself by ignoring it and keep playing. But it sorts of plays on your mind too.
“I got unlucky on 15 where I hit the fairway but didn’t have a shot at the green. I got an unlucky lie and didn’t make up and down. It was the same story on the next hole.
“These things happen but lucky I still managed to make 10 birdies today. So, six-under is always a good score. I started off with a birdie and ended off with a birdie. So that’s nice.”
“I actually really enjoyed my day. I wish I was like that every day. Four months off, I was buzzing out there, really enjoying the battle of getting it done. I struggled so badly off the tee, so it was an interesting contest for me.
“There is substantial difference between playing a practice round and playing with a card in your hand. I really struggled with my swing but I haven’t forgotten how to play golf. I managed my way around the golf course. I worked hard for the score. Overall 70 is a well worked score.”
Round one scores
65 N Elvira (Esp), M Fraser (Aus),
66 M Schwab (Aut), A Que (Phi), J Janewattananond (Tha),
67 T Pieters (Bel),
68 B Stone (RSA), G Bhullar (Ind), P Meesawat (Tha), Z Murray (Aus), E Els (RSA), D Burmester (RSA), P Saksansin (Tha), N Fung (Mas),
69 D Masrin (Ina), S Chawrasia (Ind), R Gouveia (Por), L Herbert (Aus), B Hebert (Fra), A Pavan (Ita), J Suri (USA), T Pilkadaris (Aus), S Hend (Aus), C Bezuidenhout (RSA), M Kawamura (Jpn),
70 S Rahman (Ban), R McEvoy (Eng), T Detry (Bel), P Harrington (Irl), V Madappa (Ind), S Vincent (Zim), P Peterson (USA), K Kitayama (USA), O Fisher (Eng), J Campillo (Esp), M Kinhult (Swe), N Colsaerts (Bel), T Smyth (Aus), S Park (Kor), S Kim (USA),
71 Y Miyazato (Jpn), A Quiros (Esp), C Paisley (Eng), C Wood (Eng), K Horne (RSA), S Sharma (Ind), A Wu (Chn), R Fox (Nzl), E Van Rooyen (RSA), S Norris (RSA), M Choi (Kor), R Roussel (Fra), D Boonma (Tha), M Kieffer (Ger), R Karlsson (Swe), R Ishikawa (Jpn), J Dantorp (Swe), L De Jager (RSA), J Higginbottom (Aus), G Migliozzi (Ita), B Wiesberger (Aut), S Ariffin (Mas),
72 P Khongwatmai (Tha), Y Chang (Kor), D Chia (Mas), A Rai (Eng), G Coetzee (RSA), T Jaidee (Tha), R Jacquelin (Fra), K Broberg (Swe), A Chesters (Eng), D Lipsky (USA), A Sandhu (Ind), J Veerman (USA), A Sullivan (Eng), M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra), P Tangkamolprasert (Tha), F Zanotti (Par), A Da Silva (Bra), R Fisher (Eng), L Slattery (Eng),
73 S Yongcharoenchai (Tha), M Kokocinski (Swe), T Bjørn (Den), R Rock (Eng), A Otaegui (Esp), A Atwal (Ind), M Korhonen (Fin), M Lee (Aus), K De Silva (Mas), D Kataoka (Jpn), D Law (Sco), S Mizuno (Hkg), R Paratore (Ita), W Lin (Tpe), J Todd (USA), E Molinari (Ita), J Scrivener (Aus), T Pulkkanen (Fin), K Joshi (Ind), W Lu (Tpe), J Wang (Kor), A Björk (Swe), M Pavon (Fra),
74 J Smith (Eng), J Catlin (USA), B Henson (USA), M Shin (USA), S Brazel (Aus), J Yap (Sin), R Nachimuthu (Mas), D Howell (Eng), D Nisbet (Aus), B Leong (Mas), H Ryu (Kor), M Southgate (Eng), Y Inamori (Jpn), R Wannasrichan (Tha), J Kruyswijk (RSA), C Nirat (Tha), S Gallacher (Sco), J Kruger (RSA), G Green (Mas),
75 C S (Ind), R Wattel (Fra), J Poh (Sin), S Brown (Eng), M Jiménez (Esp), B Campbell (Nzl), W Ormsby (Aus), Y Aung (Mmr), P Marksaeng (Tha), J Norris (Aus), S Kjeldsen (Den), W Choo (Mas), P Pittayarat (Tha),
76 R Gangjee (Ind), D Fichardt (RSA), S Othman (Mas), A Irawan (Mas),
77 N Srithong (Tha), S Kapur (Ind), H Tanihara (Jpn), N Bertasio (Ita),
78 L Kim (Mas),
79 P Larrazábal (Esp), M Tabuena (Phi),
80 S Chan (Tpe), R Lee (Can), A Arnaus (Esp), A Nazrin (Mas),
81 K Baharin (Mas), Y Ikeda (Jpn), J McLeod (Aus), T Kaewsiribandit (Tha),
** T Sinnott (Aus),