Westwood fired eight birdies in his early round at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club after completing the marathon journey from Augusta, Georgia where he finished seventh at the U.S. Masters on Sunday.
Former world number one Westwood, now ranked 36th, is without a win since claiming the 2012 Nordea Masters in Sweden but put himself in position to change that after grabbing a one-shot lead over Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium (66).
"I played well. I didn't make the best of starts bogeying the par-five 10th, the first hole of the day, but fortunately that didn't set the tone for the day. I hit it really well and hit it close a lot," Westwood told reporters.
"I had to be patient because I was hitting good putts and they weren't going in. I holed one from about eight feet on my 16th, 25 feet on the second last hole and a nice 15 footer with a bit of curl on the last.
"It was a good round of golf in tricky conditions. It's obviously very hot and you have to keep hydrated."
Northern Ireland's Michael Hoey was two shots back of Westwood, who won the Malaysian Open in 1997, in third after a 67, with diminutive South African Jbe Kruger (68) in fourth before play was halted because of a weather warning.
Before the stoppage, former British Open champion and 2012 winner Louis Oosthuizen could only manage a level-par 72 after mixing two birdies with two bogeys.
Another former winner, Matteo Manassero of Italy, was three under after 10 holes before the suspension, while defending champion Kiradech Aphibarnrat was two over with eight holes remaining.
The $2.75 million event is co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour with Thailand's Prayad Marksaeng leading the continent's charge with a 69 to sit tied fifth along with Manassero and eight others.
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- Nicolas Colsaerts