Kuala Lumpur: Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat birdied the ninth hole to hold a one-shot edge over second round clubhouse leaders Wu Ashun of China and former Masters winner Charl Schwartzel of South Africa at the energy-sapping Maybank Malaysian Open on Friday. India's Jeev Milkha Singh carded a two-under for a total of 141.
First-round leader Kiradech completed only nine holes of his second round when play was suspended due to fading light at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club following another day of weather disruptions.
The burly Thai, fourth at the Avantha Masters in India last week, stood at 10-under for the USD 2.75 million tournament sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour after making birdies on the third, fourth and ninth holes.
Before the afternoon storm rolled in, self-taught Wu produced a solid four-under-par 68 to tie Schwartzel, who also carded a 68, on nine-under-par 135 after both players laboured to 26 and 27 holes, respectively.
Italy's Edoardo Molinary was a further shot back on eight-under after playing five holes of his second round in two under. A total of 76 players will return on Saturday morning to complete the round.
Liang Wen-chong, China's first Asian Tour number one when he won the Order of Merit in 2007, fired a 68 to move up into contention as the might of Chinese golf came to the fore at the Malaysian Open.
Wu, who is playing on a sponsor's invitation, is enjoying a purple patch. He qualified for his maiden appearance at The Open Championship through the International Final Qualifying - Asia in Thailand earlier this month and put himself in contention to win his first Asian Tour title.
"I like this course and I'm very happy to visit my old Asian Tour friends," said Wu, who finished tied 19th during his last visit to Malaysia in 2010.
Schwartzel completed his first round in the morning with a 67 and then got off to hot start for his second round when he birdied the opening two holes. However, with the high humidity and heat putting a toll on the players, the slender South African dropped shots on six and seven after making mental errors.
"I can't be too hard on myself because it's extraordinarily hot out there. I lost a bit of concentration towards the end and made bad decisions on the sixth and seventh - poor club selections. I was in the middle of the fairway both times and made bogey," said Schwartzel, winner of the Thailand Golf Championship on the Asian Tour last December.
Liang, who finished third at the Avantha Masters, continued his impressive form and believes he needs to stay patient to contend for the Seagram Trophy, which is handed to the winner of the Maybank Malaysian Open.
"I have a big chance again but I need to have more patience. I feel that my form is good. Just need to get in more short putts. I missed some two to three footers yesterday and today. My putting stroke hasn't been too steady," said Liang.
"Wu is a very good player. I think he's got a chance as well. Wu always try very hard. Last year, he has got more confidence as he won in Japan which was good for him."
Scores after round 2 of the Maybank Malaysian Open:
135 - WU Ashun (CHN) 67-68, Charl SCHWARTZEL (RSA) 67-68; 138 - LIANG Wen-chong (CHN) 70-68, Scott JAMIESON (SCO) 66-72, Lee SLATTERY (ENG) 68-70;
139 - Rafa CABRERA-BELLO (ESP) 72-67, Pablo LARRAZABAL (ESP) 69-70, Prom MEESAWAT (THA) 68-71, Alastair FORSYTH (SCO) 69-70, Joonas GRANBERG (FIN) 71-68;
140 - Matteo MANASSERO (ITA) 69-71, Bernd WIESBERGER (AUT) 71-69, Raphael JACQUELIN (FRA) 70-70, Jean GONNET (FRA) 70-70; 141 - Prayad MARKSAENG (THA) 69-72, Gavin GREEN (am, MAS) 73-68, Jeev Milkha SINGH (IND) 71-70, Ignacio GARRIDO (ESP) 70-71; 142 - Alvaro QUIROS (ESP) 75-67, Robert DERKSEN (NED) 72-70; 143 - KIM Gi-whan (KOR) 70-73, SIDDIKUR (BAN) 71-72, Alejandro CANIZARES (ESP) 72-71, Thitiphun CHUAYPRAKONG (THA) 72-71, Jorge CAMPILLO (ESP) 73-70.