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October 24, 2009

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Rai leads Choi at Iskandar Johor

INDIA'S Himmat Rai shot a five-under 67 yesterday to take the lead after two rounds of the Iskandar Johor Open in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, as organizers reduced the tournament to a 54-hole event due to ongoing bad weather.

Yesterday's play was suspended due to lightning with 24 players yet to complete their second round. This followed a long delay to Thursday's opening round, prompting organizers to cut back the event. Rai was likely to retain his second-round lead, as those yet to complete the round were well off his score.

South Korea's K J Choi and Darren Beck of Australia both closed the gap to a stroke by hitting eight-under 64s on Thursday.

Seeking his first win on the Asian Tour, Rai fired an eagle on his second hole when his chip found the hole from 10 yards. He posted four more birdies against one bogey before taking a one-stroke lead.

"It is really satisfying because I have been practicing hard. My game-plan with my caddie worked out well for us and I am glad to be on top of the leaderboard," the 22-year-old said.

Choi posted a blemish-free round highlighted by eight birdies. "The key was my iron shots as I hit a lot of shots to about three to five feet from the pin. I kept the rhythm going and it was great because the more birdies I made, the more confident I felt," he said.

In Castellon, Spain, Martin Kaymer announced his return from a go-karting injury by joining Sergio Garcia on top of the Castellon Masters first-round leaderboard yesterday.

The 24-year-old German carded an eight-under 63 in his first tournament back from nine weeks out of action after breaking two toes in a karting accident.

Kaymer, who is still limping from the injury, played six holes of a round disrupted by high winds on Thursday. He holed a 40-foot putt to join tournament host and defending champion Garcia for a one-shot lead. Garcia had set the target the previous day.

"I didn't come here with any expectation to do this," a delighted Kaymer said after picking up four shots over the six holes. "I expected something like around par."

Australian Robert Allenby, who came to Spain to ensure he qualifies for the European Tour's Dubai World Championship, was one stroke off the lead overnight with seven holes to play and stayed the same. He shares third place with Swede Michael Jonzon.

In Scottsdale, Arizona, Australian Nick O'Hern covered the last nine holes in a blistering seven-under 28 to charge one shot clear in Thursday's first round of the Open.

Best known for twice beating Tiger Woods at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, left-hander O'Hern reeled off eight birdies and a lone bogey after the turn to card a sizzling seven-under 63.

With his approach play and putting in red-hot form, he made the most of ideal scoring conditions to end a sunny day in the Arizona desert in control of the tournament.

"Nothing was really happening," O'Hern told reporters. "I was hitting the ball pretty good but just not making anything.

"Then I just got on a roll. I birdied 10 and 11 with short birdie putts, holed a 60-footer on 12 and things just kind of went from there."

Americans Heath Slocum and Bob Heintz opened with 64s while South African Rory Sabbatini, Briton Greg Owen and D A Points and Ricky Fowler of the US returned 65s.

Canadian left-hander Mike Weir, the 2007 champion, and American major winner Justin Leonard were among a large group on 66.


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