Michael Hoey two off Lee Westwood’s Malaysian lead

Northern Irishman shot a 67 in Kuala Lumpur to keep former champion in his sights

Michael Hoey of Northern Ireland in action during round one of the 2014 Maybank Malaysian Open at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club in Malaysia. Photograph:  Ian Walton/Getty Images

Michael Hoey of Northern Ireland in action during round one of the 2014 Maybank Malaysian Open at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club in Malaysia. Photograph: Ian Walton/Getty Images


Lee Westwood shook off the disappointment of another missed major opportunity with a superb opening round in the Maybank Malaysian Open on Thursday.

Westwood made the long trip to Kuala Lumpur straight after finishing seventh in the US Masters at the weekend, his 64th major championship without a win.

The 40-year-old was just three shots off the lead going into the final round at Augusta National before his chances effectively disappeared with a bogey on the third and double bogey on the fourth.

However, the world number 36 was still buoyed by recording his best finish of the season and proved his confidence was not misplaced with a seven-under-par 65 to take the clubhouse lead.

Westwood’s Ryder Cup team-mate Nicolas Colsaerts was a shot behind after carding eight birdies and two bogeys in his 66, while Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey was two shots back after his 67 was matched by Portugal’s Ricardo Santos.

“A lot of putts went in, that was the highlight,” said Hoey. “I holed a 50-footer on the 13th up the hill. It was good chipping and putting all the way, so I’m really happy.

“It’s weird because my grips hadn’t set properly and I didn’t have a lot of confidence before I went out. The grips were moving slightly so I had to hold down the grip. So it just shows you in golf if you have low expectations you can play well.”

Things did not go so well Shane Lowry, who carded an 80 to lie on eight over par, six adrift of Simon Thornton (74), while Damien McGrane was six over through 15.

Westwood was “pleased to get off to a good start” and “build some momentum”.

He said: “I played well in Houston the week before the Masters and used that momentum going into the Masters. I played well last week in finishing seventh and I was happy to carry that on today.”

Starting from the 10th, Westwood’s round got off to a slow start with a bogey on the 539-yard par five, but that would be his only dropped shot of the day. Birdies on the 12th, 14th and 16th took the former world number one to the turn in 34 and a front nine of 31, including birdies at four of his last five holes, took Westwood to the top of the leaderboard.

“I didn’t make the best of starts but fortunately that didn’t set the tone for the day,” added Westwood, who won the Malaysian Open in 1997 before it became co-sanctioned with the European Tour and Asian Tour and has recorded 12 of his 40 worldwide victories in Asia.

“I hit it really well and hit it close a lot. I had to be patient because I was hitting good putts and they weren’t going in. I holed one from about eight feet on my 16th, 25 feet on the second-last hole and a nice 15-footer with a bit of curl on the last. So it was a good round of golf in tricky conditions.

“It’s obviously very hot and you have to keep hydrated. The course is soft so it’s playing its longest, and the greens are firm. It’s testament to how good the construction of the greens are when you consider the rain we’ve had over the past couple of days. They are still releasing out, which was hard to get your head around.”

South African Jbe Kruger, who won on the Sunshine Tour last week, and Julien Quesne of France carded four-under 68s.

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