Schwartzel slumps in Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur - Rory McIlroy stormed back from his US Masters heartache with "probably" his longest ever drive Thursday as Sweden's Alexander Noren lit up the Malaysian Open with a dazzling eight-under-par 64.
Live scoring: Malaysian Open
McIlroy said he was completely recovered from Sunday's agonising collapse at Augusta after hitting 69 to be five shots off Noren, whose astonishing nine birdies against one bogey gave him early control in sweltering Kuala Lumpur.
But jet-lagged US Masters champion Charl Schwartzel stumbled to one-over 73 as he came down to earth with a bump after Sunday's heroics, when he birdied the last four holes to claim a memorable victory.
Italian hotshot Matteo Manassero, 17, lay two shots back from Noren with 66 at par-72 Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club, with India's Jeev Milkha Singh among three players sharing third spot on five-under 67.
British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen carded a solid 69 to be in contention and world number one Martin Kaymer closed the day on 70, as leader Noren admitted even he was taken by surprise by his birdie blitz.
"I was really nervous going into this round, I don't know why," said the Swede.
"I starting off holing a nice putt on 10, 11 and 12 and thought, 'what's going on?' My putter was great today. After that my driver was steady then it was all about getting it close enough."
McIlroy said his tee-shot on the par-five fifth went "at least" 400 yards after a kind bounce off a cart-path. It was just the boost the Northern Irishman needed after throwing away a four-shot lead on the Masters' final day.
"You don't say this too often, but I was actually too close to the green on a par five," he said of the monster drive. "It must have went at least 400 yards.
"I was lucky, it hit off the cart-path and it could have went out of bounds, but it stayed in bounds for me and it set up an easy birdie."
The 21-year-old was playing the course for the first time after his clubs went missing en route from Augusta, meaning he was unable to practise on Wednesday. But he said Sunday's meltdown was already a distant memory.
"What happened last week is completely behind me now," McIlroy said. "I think there were more people upset about that round than I was. I'm fine.
"It's one bad round. I'll live and I'm getting on with it and happy to be here and happy to shoot a decent first round."
Earlier, a sleepy Schwartzel looked a shadow of the man who dramatically claimed the fabled green jacket just four days earlier as he bogeyed the second and third en route to one-over-par 73.
"Yeah -- the fact that I didn't fall asleep," said Schwartzel, 26, when asked if he could take any positives from his round.
"I hit good putts but I didn't find the pace on these greens. The only good thing is I didn't put myself right out of it. I made two-under-par on the back nine, which is moving in the right direction."
He said there were "no excuses" despite extreme jet-lag and also losing his clubs in transit before they finally arrived late on Wednesday.
"I didn't sleep much. It's difficult, 12 hours of change. I'm just feeling like I don't know what out there," he said. "I'm really struggling to focus, my golf swing is tight. My body's not responding right now.
"It would have been nice to be here a day earlier to prepare a little bit better. But I didn't put myself completely out of it today."
Italy's Manassero revelled in the tropical conditions as he reeled off six birdies in his first nine holes -- including four in a row.
Manassero, who became the European Tour's youngest winner last year, is aiming to wrest the trophy from South Korea's Noh Seung-Yul, 19, who shot a disappointing 73.
"I holed a few nice 20-footers and was unlucky with my putts on six and seven which lipped out," said Manassero, who turns 18 next week.
Play was suspended due to lightning at around 19:00 in the $2.5-million tournament, with four groups of players still on the course.
Scores from round one of the $2.5 million Malaysian Open at par-72 Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club on Thursday:
Play was suspended due to lightning with six players yet to complete their rounds and later called off for the day.
64 - Alexander Noren (SWE)
66 - Matteo Manassero (ITA)
67 - Jeev Milkha Singh (IND), Darren Beck (AUS), Stephen Gallacher (SCO)
68 - Jamie Donaldson (WAL), Siddikur (BAN), Felipe Aguilar (CHI)
69 - Marcus Fraser (AUS), Chris Rodgers (ENG), Louis Oosthuizen (RSA), Chawalit Plaphol (THA), Scott Barr (AUS), Daniel Gaunt (AUS), Kwanchai Tannin (THA), Rory McIlroy (NIR), James Morrison (ENG), David Drysdale (SCO), Alejandro Canizares (ESP), Brett Rumford (AUS)
70 - Liang Wenchong (CHN), Lin Wen-tang (TPE), Ben Leong (MAS), Baek Seuk-Hyun (KOR), Jason Knutzon (USA), Robert Rock (ENG), Martin Kaymer (GER), Soren Hansen (DEN), Simon Dyson (ENG), Chan Yih-shin (TPE), Nicolas Colsaerts (BEL), Peter Lawrie (IRL), Pablo Larrazabal (ESP), Chan Soon Tuck (MAS)
73 - Charl Schwartzel (RSA), Noh Seung-Yul (KOR), Thongchai Jaidee (THA)
74 - Nick Dougherty (ENG)