KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- World No. 3 Luke Donald insisted jet lag wasn’t a factor after he struggled to an opening 2-over-par 74 in the opening round of the Maybank Malaysian Open on Thursday.
Donald only arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday after finishing fourth in the defense of his Tampa Bay Championship on the PGA Tour – 12 time zones away – a result that had him looking forward with optimism to the Masters next month.
The 35-year-old was adamant that the big time difference wouldn’t be a problem, but was he nevertheless far from his best in the sweltering conditions, which saw two players retire ill before play was abandoned for the day in the late afternoon due to thunderstorms.
Tournament officials will now hope to get the event back on track over the next two days, with an early finish planned for Sunday to allow the country's prime minister to attend the prize-giving ceremony before heading to the Formula 1 Malaysian Grand Prix.
Starting from the 10th, Donald dropped three shots in a row from the 11th and, after chipping in for birdie from short of the first green, ran up a double-bogey 6 on the second after pitching into a greenside bunker.
He then missed good birdie chances on the next two holes before holing from six feet on the fifth, while a closing birdie from similar range on the ninth at least boosted his hopes of making the halfway cut on his tournament debut.
"Today the game was quite tough for me," Donald said. "It's one of those courses where if you are a little bit off it can get you. I did not play the hard holes very well, and when I did have opportunities I couldn't take them on the greens.
"It was one of those frustrating rounds where I got very little momentum," he explained. "It was a nice birdie on the last, so hopefully I can use that as a little bit of a kickstart for tomorrow's round.
"I gave it my all on every shot and there's a low one out there. This course can produce some low scores and hopefully I can have mine tomorrow, that's what I need to get back into the mix for this tournament," he added. "I slept pretty well the last two nights and felt pretty good, it was just a case of not being quite on today."
Donald found himself nine shots off the clubhouse lead held by Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat, whose 65 continued the excellent form of last week when he was fourth in the Avantha Masters in India.
Italy's Edoardo Molinari, Denmark's Anders Hansen and France's Gregory Bourdy were a shot behind after rounds of 66, while Scotland's Scott Jamieson was 6 under through 10 holes and pre-tournament favorite Charl Schwartzel 4 under after 11 before play was suspended.
Molinari, who changed coaches in December after missing three months following wrist surgery, has not made a halfway cut in five events this season, but carded eight birdies and two bogeys in his round.
"It was a good round of golf finally," said Molinari, who is now coached by Sean Foley, who works with Tiger Woods and Justin Rose among others. "Sean is making big changes but I needed them because the way I played last year especially I didn't like it.
"I like what Sean says, I have a lot more knowledge about what I'm doing on the course and as soon as I miss a shot I know how to fix it," he added. "Sean speaks a lot of sense about golf and right now he is definitely the most knowledgeable coach in golf."