Rock on unaccustomed roll as big names trail off pace

England's Robert Rock was relishing the prospect of extending a rare stay on top of a European Tour leader board yesterday, after shooting a six-under-par 66 to take pole position in the Maybank Malaysia Open.

Rock's impressive showing in the first round at the Saujana Golf and Country Club's Palm course helped him to finish the day a shot ahead of India's S S P Chowrasia. Argentina's Rafael Echenique, Kane Webber of Australia and the American Edward Loar are tied for third place on four under.

England's Mark Foster finished the day among a group of five players, including the 2002 winner Alistair Forsyth of Scotland, a further shot behind.

Rock said: "This is the first time that I have led after any round so that will do for me. Six under is the lowest round I have had since playing the European Tour. It was nice to walk up on the ninth and see my name at the top of the leader board. It usually comes off quite quickly once it gets on there, so at least it will stay there overnight."

Starting on the back nine, Rock birdied the 11th and 12th, gave back a stroke with his only bogey of the day on the 15th, but birdied the next two to reach the turn at three-under. More birdies followed at the first and fifth before Rock put his eight-iron approach within 12 feet at the ninth and holed the putt to take the lead.

He is also well positioned to beat his previous best performance on the tour, a share of fourth in the 2003 British Masters.

Chowrasia had fired seven birdies and two bogeys in the morning to take the clubhouse lead. The eight-time winner on the Indian Tour is seeking his first victory on the Asian Tour after losing in a play-off to his compatriot Jyoti Randhawa at last year's Indian Open.

"I putted really well and played solid. It's a tough course. It's undulating and you don't have many flat lies around, but it's a good course and I like it," Chowrasia said.

Darren Clarke, Michael Campbell and Lee Westwood will have some work to do as they look to make the cut. Clarke shot a two-over 74 while Campbell and Westwood both carded 75.

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