Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – One week after his unsuccessful title defense at the Masters, Charl Schwartzel fired an eight-under 64 to take the first-round lead of the Malaysian Open.
Fresh from a 30-hour odyssey that took him from Augusta National to Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club, Schwartzel owns a one-stroke lead over Jeev Milkha Singh.
Schwartzel narrowly missed out on the chance to present his close friend Louis Oosthuizen with the green jacket, but Oosthuizen lost a playoff to Bubba Watson.
On Thursday, Oosthuizen rebounded from the disappointment at Augusta National to shoot a six-under 66 and share third place with Jyoti Randhawa and Jason Knutzon.
"Any tournament you finish well, you always get confidence out of it," said Oosthuizen, who won the 2010 British Open championship. "I've been playing well for quite a while now and came in here trying to win this event."
Oosthuizen played with Schwartzel in Thursday's first round and they started on the 10th tee. Both got off to great starts, which is especially surprising considering last week and the trip to Kuala Lumpur.
"It was a long haul getting here," said Oosthuizen, who birdied his first two holes on Thursday. "I think me and Charl knew the first round, concentration levels won't be great, but we did well."
Schwartzel birdied three of his first five holes until a bogey at the 15th temporarily derailed him. He got one more birdie on his opening nine, a three at the par-four 17th, but Schwartzel made his move on the second nine.
"Louis and I got off to a good fast start at the beginning and it is always nice when there are a couple of you in the group playing well and pulling each other a long a bit," said Schwartzel.
After a three-foot birdie at the first, Schwartzel parred the second, then went on a great run.
The South African birdied three in a row and four in a five-hole span from the third. Schwartzel was eight-under and parred his last two holes for the first- round lead.
"I felt surprisingly good today. I got a good night's sleep and woke up this morning before the alarm," said Schwartzel. "The tiredness seems to catch me more in the afternoon than the morning so it felt pretty good. I'll go back this afternoon and get some rest.
"Hopefully we can do the same again tomorrow. It is a long way to go and there are a lot of birdie opportunities out there but if I can keep playing the way I did today then I should have a chance on Sunday."
Antonio Lascuna, Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Stephen Gallacher are knotted in sixth place at five-under 67.
Soren Kjeldsen, Joonas Granberg, Romain Wattel, Prom Meesawat, Ricardo Gonzalez and Gaurav Ghei share ninth place at four-under-par 68.
Defending champion Matteo Manassero and world No. 7 Martin Kaymer headline a group tied for 29th after both carded opening rounds of two-under-par 70.
NOTES: Schwartzel hasn't won since his Masters victory slightly over a year ago...This kicks off a three-week stint in Asia for the European Tour.