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February 20, 2004


From:, UK - Feb 20, 2004

By Alex Lowe, PA Sport, Kuala Lumpur

Deaf South Korean Sung-man Lee claimed a share of the lead at the Carlsberg Malaysian Open on Friday and will head into the weekend one-shot clear of Ireland's Paul McGinley.

Lee joined Thailand's Thaworn Wiratchant on top of the leaderboard after managing to do what few have around this testing course and maintained his momentum.

The 24-year-old, who was born deaf and communicates by lip-reading, followed up Thursday's 69 with a four-under-par 68 on Friday.

He and Wiratchant lead by one stroke from McGinley and American Gary Hanrahan, who were in the clubhouse on six-under-par.

"I practised at Saujana for a week last month and I like this course as it is very American-styled," he said through his father.

"My overall game was good and I'm not surprised to be in the lead as I've been playing well."

Lee only took the game up at 16 after communication problems forced him to stop playing baseball, and won 16 amateur events in South Korea before turning professional.

He played on the Nationwide Tour between 2000 and 2003 and led at both the Omaha Classic and Chatanooga Classic last year.

But after losing his card, Lee was encouraged by friend and fellow Korean KJ Choi to play on the Asian Tour and last month won the Qualifying School.

On Friday, he sank six birdies, including an 18-foot putt on the first and chip in on the ninth to help set the early pace.

McGinley remained in the hunt but cursed himself for his own over-aggression which cost him bogeys on the two par-fives either side of the turn.

It was a roller-coaster day for the Irishman who played an impressive front nine and briefly held the outright lead on seven-under after three birdies in four holes.

But he slipped back with those bogeys on 18 and three before a birdie on his 17th secured a halfway score of six-under-par.

"It's not a course you can go out and play aggressively. If you do it will bite you," he said.

"You have really got to plot and plan your way around here and the pin position is so vital to your strategy.

"I lost a lot of ground taking two sixes on the par fives today. That is what hurt me. I probably lost three shots to the field."

"With technology the way it is, on par fives I am jumping at my second shot to get home and it certainly cost me shots today.

"I have been playing the par fives a little bit aggressively, going after the tee shot and after the second shot.

"I made two mistakes today and got punished badly for them. But then I made some good up and downs in the middle. There are a lot of tough shots out there. I didn't play my best today and got away with two-under-par."

Australian Terry Price, who shared the overnight lead, was on course to head the field on eight-under when he twice found the water on the 15th.

He plummeted to finish with a 73, five-under-par, and leave Lee and Wiratchant leading.

"My goal is to win an event in Asia. I was second in the Korean and China Opens last year," said Wiratchant, who has three career victories to his name.

Of the other two overnight leaders, Martin Maritz double-bogeyed the sixth and tumbled back to three-under, while Jamie Elson carded a 74 to enter the weekend on minus four.

Frenchman Thomas Levet, who finished third at the ANZ Championship in Australia last week, was in the clubhouse on five-under-par, along with Price and Thailand's Prayad Marksaeng.

Wales' Stephen Dodd and England's James Hepworth picked up early shots to rise onto minus five.

Play was then suspended at 1548 local time (0748 GMT) after a downpour left the greens flooded.

The rain halted an impressive revival from Colin Montgomerie, who yesterday complained of a headache after dropping five shots in five holes to finish on one-over-par.

But the Scot was back on song today, carding three birdies on the outward nine and a fourth on 12 to make up for his only bogey.

Montgomerie then sank a six-foot putt for eagle on the par five 13th and exactly 18 holes after his collapse began yesterday, with a double-bogey, he had worked himself back to where he was.

Sitting on four-under-par with five holes to play, the 40-year-old was once again harbouring very real designs on finishing among the leaders.

But for the moment they would have to wait as the rain continued to lash down and the thunder roared overhead.

The suspension of play for the day was inevitable, with greens and fairways flooded almost immediately.

The official announcement eventually came at 1707 local time (0907 GMT).

The second round will be completed tomorrow - with play to begin at 0800 (midnight GMT) - and players through to the third round will start from both the first and 10th tees.

© 2004