The word “erratic” doesn’t apply when trying to describe Michael Hoey, winner of three European Tour events in the last 10 months.
Students of chaos theory would have a field day analysing the Belfast man’s form, which took another wild turn in Malaysia yesterday in his first outing since his victory in last month’s Trophee Hassan II.
Hoey closed with a pair of 65’s in Morrocco to win his fourth European Tour event just three weeks ago. But the 33-year old could only manage a six over par 78 in the first round of the Maybank Malaysian Open that left him 146th in the 156-man field and 14 strokes behind South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel, whose 64 gave him a one shot lead over Jeev Milkha Singh and two to spare over playing partner and Masters runner-up Louis Oosthuizen.
Hoey is only predicatable in the heat of battle, where he invariably comes through under pressure to win. But he frequently struggles off the tee and in hitting just one fairway yesterday, he mixed four birdies with four bogeys and three double bogeys at at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.
Dubliner Peter Lawrie, the only other Irish player in the event, is also struggling to make the cut after driving the ball poorly by his standards en route to a one-over par 73.
Ranked 125th in the Race to Dubai standings following four missed cuts from his first seven starts of the season, Lawrie went out in level par with bogeys at the first and eighth cancelled out by birdies at the par-five third and fifth holes.
But while he birdied the par-five 10th to get into the red, three bogeys in a row from the 12th undid his good work, though he did manage to rescue something at the finish with a birdie three at the 16th.
Schwartzel, meanwhile, confessed that he was able to feed off the form of pal Oosthuizen despite suffering from jetlag following their 30-hour flight from from Augusta to Kuala Lumpur.
The 2011 Masters champion had nine birdies and just one bogey in his 64 as Oosthuizen shot a superb 66 in his first round since he was denied a green jacket by Bubba Watson’s wondershot at Augusta on Sunday night.
“Louis and I got off to a good fast start at the beginning and it is always nice when there are a couple of you in the group playing well and pulling each other a long a bit,” Schwartzel said. “Louis is playing so well right that it is impressive to watch and helped me on.
“I felt surprisingly good today. I got a good night’s sleep and woke up this morning before the alarm. The tiredness seems to catch me more in the afternoon than the morning so it felt pretty good. I’ll go back this afternoon and get some rest.
“Hopefully we can do the same again tomorrow. It is a long way to go and there are a lot of birdie opportunities out there but if I can keep playing the way I did today then I should have a chance on Sunday.”
Tied for third with India’s Jyoti Randhawa and American Jason Knutzon, Oosthuizen had an eagle, six birdies and two bogeys on his card and confessed that his putting made the difference.
“It was a long haul getting here,” Oosthuizen said. “I think me and Charl knew the first round, concentration levels won’t be great, but we did well.
“I knew the swing was still good. It was just adapting to the weather and the green speed, but I putted beautifully again today and hope to keep it going for the week.
“I feel like I’m swinging well. I think a lot of times, we’re used to a lot of travel and we adapt quickly. We knew there was always going to be one tough round which is normally the first one and luckily for us, it was early in the morning. We can have a nice rest now.
“We played well. Charl played really well, he could have shot ten or 11 under if he wanted to. It is great to see him play well, it was nice playing together when you’re playing well.”