New Zealand’s Michael Campbell soared on eagle’s wings as he grabbed a two-shot clubhouse lead at the US$910,000 Carlsberg Malaysian Open after shooting a five-under-par 67 at Saujana Golf and Country Club today.
The Kiwi star, with six international victories under his belt in the past 18 months, holed out an "unbelievable" second eagle two in two days en route to an impressive round which included five birdies and two bogeys. Campbell has a two-day total of eight-under-par 136.
A lesser-known Kiwi, Elliot Boult bolted up the leaderboard with a polished six-under-par 66 to trail Campbell, hours before a lightning storm suspended play in the late afternoon for the second straight day. Irish Ryder Cup star Padraig Harrington, fourth and second at the previous two Carlsberg Malaysian Opens, was also six-under for the tournament through 14 holes.
US Masters champion Vijay Singh stood at five-under after negotiating 16 holes in one-under-par. Singh’s playing partner Kang Wook-soon of Korea, Taiwanese veteran Wang Ter-chang (through 15 holes), Dane Soren Hansen (through 12 holes) and overnight leader Maarten Lafeber of Holland (through 15 holes) are also at five-under for the event, which is co-sanctioned by the European and Asian PGA Davidoff Tours for the third year.
Singapore’s Mardan Mamat and Korean Charlie Wi, who won at Saujana in the 1997 Kuala Lumpur Open, are four-under 140 after rounds of matching 70s to spearhead the Asian PGA’s challenge.
Campbell is enjoying a rich vein of form sparked by a memorable victory at the Johnnie Walker Classic in Taiwan in November, 1999 where he stopped Tiger Woods’s streak of four straight wins. Two weeks ago, Campbell retained his title at the European Tour-sanctioned Vines Classic in Perth.
"Unbelievable!" said Campbell, who turns 32 a week from today. "Holing two shots within 24 hours is unheard of, I think. It’s one of those days or couple of days when it went right. It was 93 yards this time. I didn’t see it going in the hole but apparently, it spun back from about six foot," added the world number 16.
Campbell battled the severe greens at Saujana’s Cobra Course and humidity in his round. Starting at the 10th, he picked up two strokes at the 11th and 13th when wedge shots left him with tap-in birdies. He gave one back at the tricky par three 16th.
But at the turn, he turned the magic on. A three-quarter sandwedge on the first hole flew straight at the pin. He didn’t see the ball spinning back into the hole on the slightly elevated green, but the rapturous roar confirmed a second eagle after a similar effort in the first round at the fourth hole. Putts of eight feet at the fourth and fifth holes and another from 10 feet at the seventh made up for a second dropped shot on sixth when he drove into the bushes.
"To be honest, I didn’t play that well. There is still a lot of room for improvement. I had a few wayward tee shots and the weather is demanding. You feel yourself dripping and dripping and dripping. The Asian players have an advantage, I think. But I felt strong at the end and I was thinking of running up to the green for my second shot.
"I won’t do the Haka this time. Last time I did it before the start of the Presidents Cup, we got trounced. But I’m here to win golf tournaments," said Campbell.
The towering Singh had four birdies against three bogeys before play was halted. "You can’t do anything about it (rain suspension). It has happened so many times before (here), it’s just the wrong time to finish as I had two holes to go. I couldn’t get up and down today but I’m still playing very good. I missed every putt I looked at and it was a lot grainier on the greens in the afternoon. I’m a little disappointed but hopefully, I can make two birdies to finish (off my second round) and come back fresh," said Singh, who is a local favourite here as he spent numerous years in Malaysia as a rookie professional.
Kang was in devastating form, outshining his illustrious playing partner Singh with five birdies to move into contention. The Korean ace recently won an unprecedented seventh Davidoff Tour title, topping the US$700,000 mark in career earnings along the way.
"I hit my irons very good and gave myself a birdie chance at every hole. I was playing as well as in the Thailand Masters (which he won two weeks ago). It is disappointing that it started to rain as I was playing very well," said Kang, who has two Asian PGA Order of Merit crowns.
Twenty two matches will resume their second rounds tomorrow at 8am.
Leading second round scores
136: Michael Campbell (Nzl) 69-67
138: Elliot Boult (Nzl) 72-66
139: Desvondes Botes (Rsa) 72-67
140: Mardan Mamat (Sin) 70-70, Charlie Wi (Kor) 70-70
141: Carl Pettersson (Swe) 72-69, Felix Casas (Phi) 72-69, Ignacio Garrido (Esp) 72- 69, Gerald Rosales (Phi) 72-69, Anders Hansen (Den) 70-71, Robert Coles (Eng) 68- 73
142: Clay Devers (Usa) 75-67, Mikael Lundberg (Swe) 72-70, Robert Huxtable (Usa) 71-71
143: Hsieh Yu-Shu (Twn) 76-67, Jose Manuel Lara (Esp) 75-68, S. Murthy (Mas) 72-71
144: Alex Cejka (Ger) 75-69, Fredrik Andersson (Swe) 74-70, John Daly (Usa) 72-72, Thomas Levet (Fra) 72-72, Anthony Kang (Kor) 71-73, Des Terblanche (Rsa) 69- 75
145: Frankie Minoza (Phi) 77-68, Chawalit Plaphol (Tha) 74-71, John Bickerton (Eng) 74-71, Hong Chia-Yuh (Twn) 74-71, Peter Mitchell (Eng) 71-74, Tobias Dier (Ger) 71-74, Costantino Rocca (Ita) 69-76