The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports


Alexander Noren leads Malaysian Open by 2 strokes

Posted: 14 Apr 2011 05:10 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - Alexander Noren shot an 8-under 64 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead in the weather-affected first round of the Malaysian Open.

Masters champion Charl Schwartzel (73) struggled with his game after only arriving in the country a day earlier, while Rory McIlroy (69) was only three shots behind Noren in a tie for ninth.

Schwartzel carded a 39 on the front nine at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.

"I didn't sleep very well," Schwartzel said. "I'm struggling to focus. The golf swing is tight ... I was swinging so good last week and the weeks before that. The body isn't responding right now, but it will come."

Most competitors finished the first round, but some will have to wait until Friday morning because adverse weather forced play to be stopped.

Noren started on the back nine and birdied the 10th, 11th and 12th holes before a bogey on No. 14. The Swede got back on track with two more birdies on the 16th and 17th.

The 2009 European Masters champion started his second nine with more birdies at the first, third and fifth holes and closed out his round with a birdie on No. 9.

"I had two weeks off and I worked a lot harder on my game," Noren said. "I felt lucky at times when they kept rolling in but you have to have that sometimes."

Italian teenager Matteo Manassero, who finished his round with four straight birides, was two behind at 66. Manassero turns 18 next week and said it would be a "nice way to celebrate" by winning in Malaysia.

"It will be good to get to a major age," said Manassero, who became the European Tour's youngest winner when he captured the Castello Masters Costa Azahar last year. "I played well and holed a few nice 20-footers. I like the grainy greens. I feel like I can hit every putt solid and it gives me confidence putting."

Jeev Milkha Singh of India and Darren Beck of Australia were a further stroke behind at 67 in a tie for third, while British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen (69), top-ranked Martin Kaymer (70) and defending champion Noh Seung-yul (73) trailed.

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Webber not panicked by Vettel form

Posted: 14 Apr 2011 04:31 AM PDT

SHANGHAI (AP): Red Bull driver Mark Webber insists he is not panicked by the dominant performances of his teammate and Formula One championship rival Sebastian Vettel at the start of the 2011 campaign.

Vettel won both the first two races of the season, with Webber finishing fifth and fourth, putting pressure on the Australian to improve his performances.

"If you're much, much younger, you'd be panicking, but I'm not panicking at all;

I've been around the block," Webber said Thursday ahead of this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix.

Webber bristled at suggestions he was being made a distinct second best by Vettel, and that it would be difficult to keep up his spirits when Vettel was so dominant,

"He's not just beating me, he's beating everyone," Webber said. "No one will turn up then, might as well stay at home."

Webber felt he performed well to get fourth in Malaysia, given his KERS power-boost system did not work all race, dropping him back to ninth after one lap.

"Malaysia was close between us. Tough first lap, that's what happens.

"People always make the natural comparison between you and your teammate, and Seb is driving really, really well and is on top of a lot of things at the moment.

"It could be a lot worse than it is at the moment. I am still performing pretty well I believe, and also we're learning a lot too."

Vettel is aiming to become the first driver since Michael Schumacher in 2004 to win the first three races of a season, but Webber warned that "nothing lasts forever."

While Webber was not prepared to throw in the towel, Ferrari's Fernando Alonso said Vettel was close to unbeatable at this stage.

"Clearly I would like to always be fighting for the win, but at the moment one car, Vettel's Red Bull, seems to be out of reach," Alonso said on the Ferrari website.

Alonso said the engineers had fixed the malfunctioning rear wing from Malaysia, which prevented the Spaniard making a routine passing move on McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and instead forced him into a risky overtaking move that broke the Ferrari's front wing.

While that problem had been solved, Alonso forecast that this weekend's race will be more about hoping for opportunities rather than being in a position to take charge of the grand prix.

"Our aim in this grand prix will be similar to the one in Malaysia, which means to make the best of qualifying and try to exploit any opportunity that comes our way during the race," Alonso said.

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