Bernd Wiesberger became the first man to sink nine consecutive birdies on the Asian Tour and European Tour as he seized a one-shot halfway lead at the Maybank Championship on Friday.
The towering Austrian got hot from the seventh hole to 15th hole at the Saujana Golf and Country Club to shoot a spectacular nine-under-par 63 for a 12-under-par 132 aggregate in the US$3 million co-sanctioned tournament.
Masters Tournament champion Danny Willet (main pix) of England, who at 15th in the world is the highest ranked player in the field, surged into contention with a 67 to trail Wiesberger heading into the weekend rounds.
Asia’s challenge was carried by Indian prospect Shubhankar Sharma and Korean star K.T. Kim, who both shot 68s to share fifth place, four shots off the pace.
A further stroke back and bunched on 138 include the likes of 2015 Asian Tour Order of Merit champion Anirban Lahiri of India (68), countryman Shiv Kapur (67) and Hong Kong Open champion Sam Brazel of Australia (71).
The 31-year-old Wiesberger, who has won in Indonesia and Korea previously, finished runner-up in his last visit to Malaysia two years ago and his career equaling low round has set him up for fourth European Tour title.
Interesting Facts for the Day
- Wiesberger became the first man to shoot nine consecutive birdies on the Asian Tour and European Tour. Craig Spence and Prayad Marksaeng held the previous mark of eight straight birdies shot in 2003 and 2001 respectively. Wiesberger’s feat, which included a total of 11 birdies against two bogeys, will not be considered an official record due to the preferred lie ruling being in effect.
- Wiesberger missed two greens and needed only 26 putts in his round of 63, which equaled his career low 18-hole score.
- Wiesberger has three European Tour victories in his career, one of which is co-sanctioned with the Asian Tour. He also won the 2013 Indonesian Masters on the Asian Tour. He was also part of Team Europe which won the EurAsia Cup against Asia last year.
- Wiesberger started his year with a T4, T37 and T32 finish in the Middle East. He concluded last season with four top-five finishes in seven starts. He also had a tied seventh during the run of form and is currently ranked 38thin the world.
- Willett has five European Tour victories. He won twice last season, including his first Major title at the Masters Tournament.
- In 36 holes, Willett has dropped only one bogey at the par five eighth hole in the second round. He has made 12 birdies throughout two days.
- David Lipsky, who is tied third, made nine one-putts in his round, four to save par to keep the bogeys off his card of 67.
- Lipsky has two Asian Tour victories and won the Order of Merit title in 2015. He won the Qualifying School in 2012 to earn his card in Asia.
- Kim has won 13 times on the Japan Golf Tour, including three times last season, and twice on the Asian Tour. A former double Asian Games gold medalist, he finished tied third at the Myanmar Open two weeks ago.
- Sharma has posted finishes of T11, T9 and T4 in his last three Asian Tour tournaments. His best finish on the Asian Tour was third place at the 2016 Bangladesh Open. He turned pro in 2013 and has won four times on the Indian circuit.
- A total of 70 players made the weekend cut set at 142, including Malaysians Gavin Green (T19, 139), amateur Daeng Abdul Rahman (T29, 140), Danny Chia (T42, 141), Ben Leong (T42, 141), Arie Irawan (T51, 142) and Nicholas Fung (T51, 142).
- Reigning Asian Tour number one Scott Hend made the cut after a fine 66 for a 140 total. He tweeted on Thursday night that he would donate his irons and golf bag to charity if he missed the cut. Hend will still donate his equipment to title sponsor Maybank’s charity of choice on Sunday.
Bernd Wiesberger (Aut), Second Round 63 (-9), Total 132 (-12)
I really tried to cut down on the shots. I felt a bit beside myself to be honest, I just kept it going, I felt like I was on a good run and I felt comfortable pretty much the whole day after my bogey on four. I hit really good shots and I just felt calm out there. It felt kind of natural, I hit pretty good shots and really only holed two long ones which were the last birdie of the nine on 15 and about a 20-footer on 11.
Apart from that I just hit them pretty close and felt like I had a good idea of what the ball was going to do on the green today again which was nice. It was nice to birdie the last. I felt like it was a good finish to what was a great round. I obviously felt a bit disappointed on 16 and 17 to let it slip a bit but all in all it was amazing out there and really good fun. The guys (Carlos Pigem and Kiradech Aphibarnrat) kept me at ease and let me just do my thing and it was good chemistry out there.
Danny Willett (Eng), Second Round 67 (-5), Total 133 (-11)
I played really good yesterday and it was a little bit scrappy today, but there was a storm brewing a few hours ago and the wind was flicking around so it was tough to get the club right so I scored nicely this afternoon. I holed a couple of nice putts when I needed to. I missed a couple of good chances too but if someone told me at the start of the say five under I would have bitten their hand off.
K.T. Kim (Kor) – Second Round 68 (-4), Total 136 (-8)
I’m putting better. Everything is pretty good but putting has been good. Last year, for the last six months, I didn’t putt good. So I changed my putting style in December. Last time, I addressed with the putter on the heel but I have now made the putter a bit flatter to the ground. I’m also trying to putt from low to high to get the ball to roll better from off the face. It feels much better.
If I can play another three or four under round, I’ll be happy and will have a chance to win. I hope to win an European Tour title but we’ve got two rounds to go. It’s not easy. There are many good players on the leaderboard but I’ll give it a try.
Shubhankar Sharma (Ind) – Second round 68 (-4), 136 (-8)
Really pleased. Played pretty solid. Got the start I wanted and made four birdies on the back nine (his opening nine) and kept it going on the front. Pretty happy. Had a few chances for birdies but couldn’t convert. I think I played pretty solid. I only missed three greens on the front nine and made good up and downs. Pretty pleased and just want to continue doing the same. It’s great to finish well. It’ll be good if I can just do the same thing this weekend.
Scores after round 2 of the Maybank Championship being played at the par 72, 7186 Yards Saujana GCC course (am – denotes amateur):
132 – Bernd WIESBERGER (AUT) 69-63.
133 – Danny WILLETT (ENG) 66-67.
135 – David LIPSKY (USA) 68-67, Mike LORENZO-VERA (FRA) 70-65.
136 – Shubhankar SHARMA (IND) 68-68, K.T. KIM (KOR) 68-68.
137 – Marcel SIEM (GER) 66-71, Sam BRAZEL (AUS) 66-71, Shiv KAPUR (IND) 70-67, Anirban LAHIRI (IND) 69-68, Matteo MANASSERO (ITA) 71-66, Alexander LEVY (FRA) 69-68, James MORRISON (ENG) 70-67.
138 – Gaganjeet BHULLAR (IND) 66-72, Siddikur RAHMAN (BAN) 69-69, Robert ROCK (ENG) 71-67, Romain WATTEL (FRA) 68-70, Marc WARREN (SCO) 63-75.
139 – Prom MEESAWAT (THA) 69-70, Lee WESTWOOD (ENG) 73-66, Thongchai JAIDEE (THA) 71-68, Lucas BJERREGAARD (DEN) 69-70, Pablo LARRAZABAL (ESP) 72-67, Panuphol PITTAYARAT (THA) 70-69, Fabrizio ZANOTTI (PAR) 70-69, Niall TURNER (IRL) 68-71, Gavin GREEN (MAS) 68-71, Gregory HAVRET (FRA) 69-70.