Clarke makes first European Tour cut for 18 months
 Ryder Cup Captain Darren Clarke pictured at the Darren Clarke Foundation Champions of Champions Weekend at Portmarnock Golf Club in 2015. Picture by  Pat Cashman

Ryder Cup Captain Darren Clarke pictured at the Darren Clarke Foundation Champions of Champions Weekend at Portmarnock Golf Club in 2015. Picture by Pat Cashman

Darren Clarke birdied the 18th to make his first European Tour cut for 18 months in the Maybank Championship in Kuala Lumpur.

But it could still be a case of out of the frying pan into the fire for the former Open champion as there will be a secondary cut to just the top 72 and ties on Saturday after 81 players finished on four-under-par or better.

It's the biggest weekend field on the European Tour since 85 players made the cut in the BMW International Open last year - the same week the secondary cut rule was introduced to cover events where 78 or more finish inside the top 65 and ties.

Despite that Clarke was understandably pleased to add a bogey-free 68 to his opening 72 and be employed for the weekend in a European Tour event for the first time since he finished tied 30th in The Open at Royal Troon 565 days ago.

"Happy with that! Looking forward to the weekend," tweeted Clarke, whose only successes recently came with three top-30 finishes on the third tier Mena Tour at the end of last year and is looking forward to joining the PGA Tour Champions when he turns 50 in August 14.

 Lee Westwood of England on the 16th tee during the second round of the Maybank Championship Malaysia at Saujana Golf and Country Club on February 2, 2018 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Lee Westwood of England on the 16th tee during the second round of the Maybank Championship Malaysia at Saujana Golf and Country Club on February 2, 2018 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Thai teenager Phachara Khongwatmai (18) and Italy's Nino Bertasio shot 65s to lead by a stroke on 11-under-par from Chris Paisley, Marc Warren, Yuka Ikeda and Lee Westwood, who posted a stunning, 10-under 62 at the Saujana Golf and Country Club.
 
“Until the eighth hole, my 17th, I hadn’t holed anything over five feet," said Westwood. "Tee to green it was brilliant, one bogey and 11 birdies, and now in contention."

Khongwatmai made an impressive debut in the EurAsia Cup last month, winning twice in foursomes alongside Hideto Tanihara against Paul Dunne and Alex Noren.

"I’m very happy with my score," he said. "My plan is to shoot under-par every day and play against the course. I don’t want to think ahead or compare my score to another player. It is only two rounds so the tournament is not over yet. I want to focus day by day and hole by hole."

Maybank Championship, Saujana Golf and Country Club (Par 72)

Detailed scores

133 P Khongwatmai (Tha) 68 65, N Bertasio (Ita) 68 65, 

134 C Paisley (Eng) 65 69, Y Ikeda (Jpn) 70 64, M Warren (Sco) 68 66, L Westwood (Eng) 72 62, 

135 H Tanihara (Jpn) 71 64, J Campillo (Esp) 69 66, D Kataoka (Jpn) 68 67, M Kieffer (Ger) 69 66, S Gallacher (Sco) 70 65, D Lipsky (USA) 67 68, D Frittelli (RSA) 69 66, 

136 D Boonma (Tha) 70 66, A Dodt (Aus) 71 65, T Jaidee (Tha) 69 67, D Horsey (Eng) 66 70, S Lee (Kor) 67 69, S Kjeldsen (Den) 69 67, T Bjørn (Den) 68 68, R Karlsson (Swe) 68 68, P Marksaeng (Tha) 71 65, R Fox (Nzl) 68 68, T Detry (Bel) 68 68, 

137 M Pavon (Fra) 70 67, C Shih-Chang (Tpe) 68 69, S Kapur (Ind) 70 67, K Joshi (Ind) 67 70, A Sullivan (Eng) 71 66, F Zanotti (Par) 68 69, S Jamieson (Sco) 68 69, G Green (Mas) 68 69, B Henson (USA) 69 68, A Lascuna (Phi) 69 68, M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra) 66 71, A Levy (Fra) 67 70, 

138 S Yates (Sco) 72 66, A Atwal (Ind) 67 71, J Randhawa (Ind) 67 71, P Pittayarat (Tha) 72 66, M Tran (Vie) 73 65, M Manassero (Ita) 70 68, J Smith (Eng) 70 68, E Pepperell (Eng) 69 69, J Colomo (Esp) 71 67, C Hanson (Eng) 68 70, A Johnston (Eng) 67 71, Y Miyazato (Jpn) 71 67, J Pagunsan (Phi) 68 70, A Nazrin (Mas) 70 68, 

139 M Southgate (Eng) 73 66, P Peterson (USA) 69 70, G Bhullar (Ind) 68 71, S Sharma (Ind) 70 69, J Janewattananond (Tha) 68 71, H Stenson (Swe) 72 67, B Hebert (Fra) 69 70, B Leong (Mas) 69 70, S Vincent (Zim) 71 68, K Horne (RSA) 71 68, R Ramsay (Sco) 71 68, K Aphibarnrat (Tha) 69 70, 

140 C Pigem (Esp) 69 71, G Storm (Eng) 72 68, J Wang (Kor) 70 70, A Otaegui (Esp) 69 71, R Wannasrichan (Tha) 70 70, N Fung (Mas) 71 69, D Clarke (Nir) 72 68, P Larrazábal (Esp) 70 70, R Ishikawa (Jpn) 74 66, P Meesawat (Tha) 74 66, J Luiten (Ned) 72 68, S Kim (USA) 71 69, T Wiratchant (Tha) 70 70, J Norris (Aus) 71 69, S Chawrasia (Ind) 69 71, D Im (USA) 69 71, R Wattel (Fra) 67 73, M Siem (Ger) 69 71, A Connelly (Can) 71 69, 

CUT

141 H Porteous (RSA) 70 71, S Hend (Aus) 75 66, M Tabuena (Phi) 69 72, A Da Silva (Bra) 69 72, H Chien-Yao (Tpe) 70 71, J Veerman (USA) 71 70, J Scrivener (Aus) 71 70, N Srithong (Tha) 74 67, J Todd (USA) 72 69, L Bjerregaard (Den) 72 69, B Xiao (Chn) 68 73, 

142 B Wiesberger (Aut) 71 71, T Olesen (Den) 73 69, T Kaewsiribandit (Tha) 68 74, Y Song (Kor) 73 69, A Vongvanij (Tha) 72 70, G Bourdy (Fra) 69 73, L Wenchong (Chn) 70 72, B Stone (RSA) 72 70, L Slattery (Eng) 72 70, M Shin (USA) 71 71, C O'Toole (USA) 70 72, A Björk (Swe) 71 71, P Saksansin (Tha) 74 68, 

143 J Kruger (RSA) 71 72, D Burmester (RSA) 72 71, M Wafiyuddin (Mas) 69 74, L Wei-Chih (Tpe) 70 73, S Othman (Mas) 74 69, Q Quek (Sin) 73 70, A Quiros (Esp) 73 70, T Pilkadaris (Aus) 72 71, M Fraser (Aus) 72 71, 

144 D Chia (Mas) 73 71, J Higginbottom (Aus) 75 69, R Paratore (Ita) 72 72, R Rock (Eng) 72 72, S Norris (RSA) 72 72, R Hie (Ina) 75 69, T Sinnott (Aus) 70 74, C S (Ind) 74 70, D Willett (Eng) 74 70, R Khan (Ind) 72 72, 

145 P Waring (Eng) 73 72, P Tangkamolprasert (Tha) 72 73, N Elvira (Esp) 73 72, R Lee (Can) 74 71, A Sandhu (Ind) 74 71, J Lagergren (Swe) 73 72, A Irawan (Mas) 73 72, L Haotong (Chn) 74 71, 

146 E Molinari (Ita) 73 73, N Lin (Mya) 74 72, S Brazel (Aus) 70 76, R Gangjee (Ind) 73 73, O Fisher (Eng) 73 73, A Que (Phi) 73 73, 

147 J Quiban (Phi) 71 76, C Kumar (Ind) 75 72, M Wallace (Eng) 74 73, M Sasidaran (Mas) 72 75, S Rahman (Ban) 71 76, L Yuxin (Chn) 72 75, 

148 K Baharin (Mas) 71 77, R Nachimuthu (Mas) 73 75, Y Chang (Kor) 75 73, 

149 G Kim (Kor) 73 76, 

151 A Zahari (Mas) 76 75, L Weber (Fra) 75 76, G Green (am) (Mas) 79 72, 

152 K Kheng Hwai (Mas) 75 77, 

153 S Ariffin (Mas) 75 78, W Ormsby (Aus) 78 75, 

RET S Yongcharoenchai (Tha) 78 RT, J Elson (Eng) RT