Asia Money-Grab Events Update: McIlroy Extends Lead in Shanghai, Overton Goes Low in Malaysia
By Stephanie Wei under Asian Tour

McIlroy eyes golf's biggest payout

After opening with a bogey-free, eight-under 64, Rory McIlroy shot a three-under 69 to take a two-shot lead at the Shanghai Masters at the midway mark. McIlroy struggled a bit on the front nine, finding the water hazard off the tee on the par-4 ninth to post a double-bogey, but he regrouped and carded four birdies on the back nine, including the 18th.

“I liked the birdie on 18, and had a good back nine,” McIlroy said. “To shoot four birdies kept me going after the double bogey.”

20-year-old Seung-yul Noh is currently Rory’s closest contender after the South Korean shot a blistering 63. He began the day tied for 18th, but surged up the leaderboard to put him in a good position going into the weekend.

“I had hurt my ankle and not been able to practice too much and also not be able to swing as hard as I would like,” Noh said. “I just decided to be careful with how I played. I putted well and chose good options, which obviously helped my score.”

There are 30 players vying for the biggest payout in golf, with $2 million going to the winner. The check for last place amounts to $25,000 and the top players are all receiving appearance fees. The Shanghai Masters is an unsanctioned event that is run by IMG, so there are no world ranking points.

Lee Westwood said he expected one of the tours to sanction it. Question is, does China want that to happen? John Daly praised China for going an independent route.

“With a small field like we have here, and I think I may get in trouble for saying this, but I’m kind of glad it’s not sanctioned by the European or PGA tours,” said Daly.

“It shows that China is doing something on their own. They’re saying, ‘Hey, we may not need the PGA Tour or European Tour, no disrespect.”’

Meanwhile, the inaugural Shanghai Masters has overshadowed the other limited field event in Asia — the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic Malaysia — which probably hasn’t thrilled the title sponsor.

A jet-lagged Jeff Overton, who was last-minute addition to replace David Duval, has shown signs of regaining his form in the last few weeks. Overton fired a course-record nine-under 63 for a share of the lead with Fredrik Jacobson with a 36-hole total of 13-under.

Overton had an almost disaster when his clubs doesn’t show up until late Wednesday, but credits a recent switch to the improvement in his game.

“I changed golf clubs a couple of weeks ago and my ball-striking has improved so much. Today everything clicked,” said Overton.

Now if he could only curb those temper tantrums…

(AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)