Matteo on fire, Charl ice cold

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A 6-under 66 has hoisted Italian teenager Matteo Manassero into the early lead at Maybank Malaysian Open.

A sizzling six under par 66 has hoisted Italian teenager Matteo Manassero into the early clubhouse lead in the first round of the 50th Maybank Malaysian Open.

This on day when he newly-crowned Charl Schwartzel was struggling to rekindle his game in the shadow of his final-round brilliance at Augusta National on Sunday when he shot a best-ever final day 66 and was only able to post a one-over-par 73.

A run of four consecutive birdies from the 15th helped Manassero, who only turns 18 next Tuesday, race to a 31 on the second nine after teeing off at the tenth.

“I made a good putt on 15 and three short ones from four foot,” he told the media afterwards. “They got me going from one under to five under straight away.”

There were further gains at the third and fifth and a bogey at the sixth on his way in on the second nine as the Castello Masters Costa Azahar winner opened up a one shot clubhouse lead.

“It was a good round of golf,” he added. “I played well – six under is a great way to start.

It gives you a lot of confidence and that’s what I need. I holed a few nice 20 footers and was unlucky with my putts on six and seven which lipped out.

“But I’m happy I made only a few mistakes. I missed just one shot and I like the grainy greens – I feel like I can hit every putt solid and that gives me confidence putting.”

Manassero closest pursers when the early starter finished his round were his playing partner Jeev Milkha Singh and Australian Darren Beck.

Three-time European Tour winner Singh also started on the back nine and after turning three under par made birdies at the fifth, sixth and ninth as against one dropped shot at the seventh.

That left the Indian alongside Beck, one-shot off the lead at 67.

Beck, who has yet to record a top ten finish on The European Tour, mixed six birdies with a bogey.

Singh admitted the presence of 17 year old Manassero playing so well made him up his own game.

Welshman Jamie Donaldson sat alone in fourth place on four under par with one to play, with Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen among those one further back.

In the meantime, Charl Schwartzel’s high-pressure, final-day exertions have clearly taken its toll on South Africa’s third Green Jacket winner.

The South African had three bogeys in an outward 39 before fighting back with two birdies and no dropped shots for a respectable one over par 73.

“I didn’t sleep much. It’s difficult, 12 hours of change. I’m just feeling like I don’t know where I am” he said.

“I’m really struggling to focus, my golf swing is tight. My body’s not responding right now.

“It would have been nice to be here a day earlier to prepare a little bit better. But I didn’t put myself completely out of it today.

“I made two-under-par on the back nine, which is moving in the right direction.

“If I can get out and go and hit some balls and come out tomorrow and shoot a good score, I can still challenge for the title.”

World Number One Martin Kaymer was one under after four holes, while Rory McIlroy, who led for 63 holes in Georgia before famously imploding, immediately banished that disappointment with two early birdies to be two under through four.

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