Marc Warren and Stephen Gallacher both stormed into contention in the Maybank Championship after joining a low-scoring spree led by Lee Westwood in the second round in Malaysia.
As Edinburgh-based Westwood took pride of place with a 10-under-par 62 at Saujana Golf & Country Club in Kuala Lumpur, Warren and Gallacher both produced their best rounds so far this season.
Warren, who tied for 20th in this event two years ago after opening with a 63, carded seven birdies as he signed for a six-under-par 66 to sit alongside Westwood on 10-under, one shot behind Thailand’s Phachara Khongwatmai (65) and Italian Nino Bertasio (65).
Overnight leader Chris Paisley (69) and Japan’s Yuta Ikeda (64) are also just one off the pace while Gallacher, who finished 15th in that same event in 2016, is a further shot back after he opened his second round with an eagle then added seven birdies in firing a 65.
Adding to a good day’s work by the Scottish contingent, Scott Jamieson backed up his opening 68 with a 69 to sit joint-25th while Thai-based Simon Yates (66 for six-under) and Richie Ramsay (68 for five-under) also comfortably made the cut.
Warren, who bowed out early in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai, was among 40 players who had to return this morning to complete their opening rounds after a weather delay yesterday. The 36-year-old resumed on four-under and closed with three pars before wasting no time in moving up a gear in his second round.
He birdied the first and fifth and, after dropping a shot on the sixth, rattled off a hat-trick of gains to turn in 32. Back in the sort of form that saw him finish last season with a flourish, the three-time European Tour winner then birdied the 14th and 18th coming home to earn a share of the lead.
“It was good,” said Warren of his effort. “I’m really pleased overall. On this golf course if you only have one bogey (in two days) your game is going to be pretty solid and I feel every aspect is pretty good, so looking forward to the weekend.”
Gallacher, who made the cut in both those UAE events despite struggling with his driver, also had an early-morning return and opened with a 70. He then got off to the perfect start in the second round with that opening eagle and kept his foot to the floor to make it a good morning’s work.
“I’m delighted with the way I played,” he said. “For my eagle, I took chance from a bunker by hitting a 4-iron, knocking it to around 20 feet and holed the putt. That set the tone for the day. I played lovely, holing a few putts when I needed to, and I’m delighted to get up there and give msyelf a chance over the weekend.”
Khongwatmai, a 19-year-old who played in the EurAsia Cup last month, made his score by reeling off five birdies in a row from the 11th before being joined at the top of the leaderboard late in the day by Bertasio as he signed for eight birdies.
Westwood won the Malaysian Open on this same course 20 years ago before reclaiming that title by seven shots in 2014. In total, he has recorded nine victories in Asia in his glittering career.
The Englishman started his second round just inside the top 100 but bagged 11 birdies as he catapulted himself up the leaderboard on the back of a blistering effort. It came out of the blue after he’d suffered early exits in the desert double-header over the past fortnight.
“I missed the first two cuts but I sort of got in my own way mentally, not sure the reason for that but today I just freewheeled really and had fun out there,” said the former world No 1 but who has not tasted victory since 2015 and is currently not exempt for the Masters, an event where he finished second in 2010 and 2016.
China’s Haotong Li, last week’s winner in Dubai, missed the cut by five shots after rounds of 74 and 71 but 2016 Open champion Henrik Stenson made it to the weekend on five-under after a battling 67.
Elsewhere, it was a disappointing day for Edinburgh-based Beth Allen and the three players flying the Saltire in the Oates Vic Open.
Allen shared the overnight lead after an opening 67 at 13th Beach Golf Club near Melbourne but slipped to joint-15th after a second-round 78.
As home player Minjee Lee stormed three shots clear of the field after posting a 67 to sit on 10-under, tartan trio Kylie Henry, Carly Booth and Michele Thomson all missed the cut.
Henry, who had started the joint-fourth following a first-day 70, slumped to an 80 to miss out by two shots on seven-over.
Booth (73-79) fell one short while Thomson finished on nine-over after rounds of 77-78.