New father Chinnarat spearheads local charge at Thailand Golf Championship

Chonburi, Thailand: New father Chinnarat Phadungsil enjoyed another proud moment when he emerged as the leading Thai after carding a three-under-par 69 to trail second round leader Jamie Donaldson of Wales by four shots at the Thailand Golf Championship on Friday.

The 27-year-old Chinnarat, who welcomed his son on his birthday (November 1) last month, fired four birdies against a lone bogey to sit in tied-third position alongside England’s Matthew Fitzpatrick and Sergio Garcia of Spain on nine-under-par 135 total at the Amata Spring Country Club.

Compatriot Panuphol Pittayarat nailed three closing birdies en route to a solid 66 to stay one shot back of Chinnarat in sixth place with Korea’s Byeonghun An, who returned with a commendable 67, at the prestigious US$1 million Asian Tour event.

Chinnarat, who started off the 10th tee, sank two birdies in his opening three holes before dropping a shot on 18th. He recovered swiftly with birdies on the first and seventh holes before reaching home.

“I thought I played as good as I did yesterday. I made a couple of mistakes coming back but it’s alright. I putted well and I hit a couple of good shots out there. Overall, I am happy with how I played,” said the three-time Asian Tour winner but not since 2009.

Placed 66th on the current Order of Merit with only one top-10 recorded so far this season, Chinnarat will need a good result this week to break into top-63 on the final money list and secure his Asian Tour card for 2016.

The Thai, who holds the honour of being the youngest winner on the Asian Tour when he won in 2005 at the age of 17, also gave himself a fighting chance to qualify for the world’s oldest Major next year.

The Thailand Golf Championship is part of The Open Qualifying Series (OQS) where four places will be up for grabs to the leading four players who have not already qualified for the 2016 Open Championship.

“I didn’t have any practice rounds so I am happy to be in the mix heading into the last two rounds. I don’t want to give myself too much pressure. I just want to enjoy the game. I am just riding on my good form this week. Hopefully I can continue to do well over the next two days.

“I have never play in The Open before so I really hope I can be one of the four players to qualify this week. I will try my best but there won’t be any pressure. I think I should have a good chance if I can play like how I did for the first two rounds,” added Chinnarat.

Panuphol, who is still seeking his breakthrough on the Asian Tour, kept to his scoring tempo despite having to battle with the hot and humid weather.

“I played very well. I had a bit of on and off on the first half of my second nine but finished strongly with three straight birdies. It was really humid out there. I had to put some ice in the towel and cool myself down a bit. I just tried to keep my tempo and rhythm in play,” said the 22-year-old Thai.

“It’s always a golfer’s dream to play in a Major, especially The Open. I would be jumping around if I can get one of the spots available! I would be really happy. I will try to keep it the way it is and make something happen over the next two rounds,” added Panuphol.