Kuala Lumpur, April 16: Rory McIlroy moved two shots clear of the chasing pack at the weather-hit Maybank Malaysian Open on Saturday as the Northern Irishman braced ahead for a marathon last day.
McIlroy holed an eight foot birdie putt on the ninth green in near darkness at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club to move to 12-under for the championship before play was suspended at 7.12pm local time following a lengthy suspension earlier in the day due to inclement weather.
Frenchman Gregory Bourdy charged into contention by negotiating 14 holes of his third round in six under to lie in joint second place on 10-under in the US$2.5 million showpiece, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary and sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour.
Italian whiz kid Matteo Manassero was three under through nine holes to stay in the hunt along with joint overnight leader Alexander Noren of Sweden, who endured a topsy turvy day as he played eight holes in one over.
World number one Martin Kaymer of Germany proved that the cream always rises to the top when he toured his 15 holes in six under, moving ominously to nine under for the tournament.
A superb effort by Korean Hwang In-choon also saw him surge as the leading Asian Tour contender in the title frame, shooting seven birdies in 15 holes to lie four shots back.
The third round will resume at 7.40am on Sunday before the commencement of the final round which will see the likes of McIlroy having to play a total of 27 holes. There will be no re-draw for the final round.
McIlroy, chasing his third career victory, parred his opening eight holes before finally rolling in his first birdie on the ninth hole in near darkness. The mop-haired world number nine maintained his firm grip of the Maybank Malaysian Open, a week after
agonizingly losing the Masters Tournament which he had led for 63 holes.
“It’s a solid start. I could have been two or three shots better off but it’s obviously nice to hole that putt right at the end on the ninth and finish on a positive note. I’ve still got the lead but it is going to be a long day tomorrow,” said McIlroy, who killed some time at the club’s tenpin bowling alley while waiting for his third round tee time of 4.45pm local time.
Bourdy, whose two top-20s this season did not single him out as an early contender,
made his move in brilliant style. He shot seven birdies through 10 holes but dropped a crucial bogey on the 13th hole which saw him slip behind McIlroy.
“Made just one mistake on the tee shot on nine. Everything was good – my putting and driver, which was longer and straighter. I didn’t make many birdies during the first few months but I have some confidence now after winning in a tournament in France last week,” said the 28-year-old Bourdy, who has three wins including the 2009 UBS Hong Kong Open.
It could yet be an 18th birthday to remember for Manassero, who celebrates his birthday next Tuesday. The 2010 European Tour rookie of the year is playing in his first Maybank Malaysian Open and continued to impress with birdies on the first, third and fifth holes.
After knocking tenpins down with the likes of McIlroy and Masters champion Charl Schwartzel of South Africa during the weather delays, the 26-year-old Kaymer, the reigning PGA Championship winner, was equally accurate with his putting.
The German rolled in six birdies and will go into the last day just three shots behind the leader.
Leading third round scores
-12: Rory McIlroy (Nir) thru 9 holes
-10: Gregory Bourdy (Fra) thru 14 holes, Matteo Manassero (Ita) thru 9 holes, Alexander Noren (Swe) thru 8 holes
-9: Martin Kaymer (Ger) thru 15 holes, Felipe Aguilar (Chi) thru 13
-8: Hwang Inn-choon (Kor) thru 15 holes, Simon Dyson (Eng) thru 9 holes
-7: Michael Cambell (Nzl) thru 12 holes, Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Esp) thru 10 holes, Brett Rumford (Aus) thru 9 holes, Stephen Galacher (Sco) thru 9 holes, Danny Lee (Nzl) thru 10 holes.
Photo - Asian Tour
Asian Tour GolfGreedy.com