KUALA LUMPUR: England’s Chris Paisley took a one-stroke clubhouse lead in the first round of the Maybank Championship in Malaysia on Thursday as top players fell off the pace.
The world number 80 posted a bogey-free round of 65, gaining a slim advantage over compatriot David Horsey as Sweden’s Henrik Stenson and China’s Li Haotong failed to set the tempo in stop-start conditions.
“It was great and nice to keep the form going,” the 31-year-old Paisley, who is chasing a second European Tour title this year, said at an after-game press conference.
“I just played really solid, hit it well off the tee so gave myself a lot of wedges and short irons into the greens which were really good and gave myself a lot of birdie chances. Couldn’t have gone better.”
Stenson, ranked 12th worldwide, only managed an even par-72 after four bogeys to finish tied-95th.
Li, 22, China’s first men’s golfer to break into the world top 50 last week, ended the day tied-133rd.
Rainy afternoon weather saw play halted for close to two hours, as the 156-strong field failed to gather momentum at the Saujana Golf and Country Club.
Other top finishers included India’s Arjun Atwal, Asia’s captain at the EurAsia Cup who finished tied-fourth at five-under par 67.
Thomas Bjorn, who led Europe to the EurAsia Cup title, meanwhile finished tied-10th after posting a 68.
Another 40 golfers will tee off early Friday morning to finish the first round, before the second round kicks off with more wet weather forecast.
Hopes are high for Li to do well after he triumphed over four-time Major winner Irishman Rory McIlroy at the Dubai Desert Classic last week to surge to 32 on the world rankings.
Defending champion Fabrizio Zanotti also lurked within contention after the Paraguayan finished the day tied-10 with a 68.