Davies fast out of his blocks

A sparkling 65 gave Challenge Tour graduate Rhys Davies a share of the first round lead at the Maybank Malaysian Open.

Challenge Tour graduate Rhys Davies sparkled on the opening day at the Maybank Malaysian Open when he took a share of a one-shot first-round lead with Spain’s Ignacio Garrido.
The 24-year-old Davies, still buzzing after matching his career-high finish on the European Tour by claiming sixth in Abu Dhabi at the start of the year, blazed a flawless seven-under-par 65 at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club.
A lightning storm forced a suspension of play at 6.40pm and although thirty players will have to return on Friday morning to complete their opening rounds, none are likely to make any changes to the upper end of the leaderboard.
A hot and admittedly sometimes lucky putter helped 1997 Ryder Cup winner Garrido share the clubhouse lead over in-form Asian number one Thongchai Jaidee and South Korea’s Kim Dae-hyun after the Spaniard dropped just one shot in energy-sapping humidity.
“I have had two weeks off since India (European Tour Avantha Masters) so you don’t know how you are going to come back after that. I had a decent showing in the Middle East before India and I think that was important for me,” said Davies.
“I had a couple of good scores in Abu Dhabi and I fed off that. That is the key for me, when I start to make some birdies I want to take advantage of the fact I am playing well in that moment and really push on and make as many as possible.”
And Davies, who finished 35th at the Avantha Masters, certainly made his fair share of birdies during his first round with five gains on the scoring-friendly front nine which included a hat-trick of birdies sparked by a putt from off the green at the par-five fifth.
He started the tougher back nine with a sixth birdie of the day, but did have to wait until the 17th for his next to join Garrido in a share of the clubhouse lead which remained unchallenged.
“I didn’t actually have the best warm-up so I wasn’t striking the ball as well as I would have liked so I tried not to think about it. I think the fact that I made a few birdies early on was important for me and I just pushed on from there,” added Davies.
“I hit a few good shots early on and had birdie chances on six of the first seven holes and managed to make most of them so that was great.”
Davies actually cut his teeth on the Asian Tour in 2008 with three top-10 finishes and, after claiming second at the Thailand Open last year, posted two wins on the Challenge Tour to finish fourth on the Order of Merit and to earn his card despite playing the fewest events of the top 20.
“Playing a lot in Asia before has helped a little bit. It is really hot and very demanding, but you just have to tell yourself that it is the same for everyone,” he said.
“Even the local players are finding it tough. It is something everyone has got to deal with and it’s not as though I dread it, I feel fairly comfortable.”
WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship quarter-finalist Thongchai wobbled down the stretch with a pair of late bogeys to share second alongside Kim, who picked up five shots over his final five holes.
KJ Choi dropped his only shot of the day at the last to card a five-under-par 67 alongside Spain’s Alejandro Canizares, Dane Mark Haastrup and England’s Mark Foster with all of the top eight having started in the morning.
Of the afternoon starters, only a resurgent Thomas Bjorn, fresh from top-15 finishes in his last two events, made an impact on the leaderboard to join a large contingent rounding out the top 10 at four under, although 30 players will have to complete their first rounds tomorrow after a thunderstorm brought a premature end to play.