Chapchai Nirat, Chong stand tall at Avantha Masters

Chapchai-Nirat-fires-a-66-after-the-second-round-of-the-Avantha-MastersGreater Noida, India: Thailand’s Chapchai Nirat and China’s Liang Wen-chong ensured a strong Asian presence atop the leaderboard when they carded matching six-under-par 66s to share pole position at the €1.8 million (approximately US$2.3 million) Avantha Masters on Friday.

Current Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Chawalit Plaphol of Thailand also keep the Thai flag flying high when he signed for a 68 to share third place alongside Scotland’s David Drysdale, England’s Tommy Fleetwood and Finland’s Joonas Granberg.

The quartet stayed two shots back of the duo who had compiled a two-day total of 12-under-par 132 to lead at the Jaypee Greens Golf Course.

Although Thailand’s Chinnarat Phadungsil could not match his first round heroics where he opened with an astonishing 61, the three-time Asian Tour winner still managed to stay close to the leaders by taking a share of seventh place on 135 total with six other players that include India’s Rahil Gangjee, Australia’s Scott Hend and Brazil’s Adilson Da Silva from the Asian Tour.

Chapchai was delighted that his booming drives played a key role in putting him into contention as the Jaypee Greens Golf Course’s 7,347 yards, par-72 layout is considered the longest course in India.

“I played very well indeed. This is a very long course and I managed to hit the balls long the last two days. I also managed to hole several long putts as well and luck did play a part in getting me into my position today,” said the three-time Asian Tour winner.

Thailand is represented by 14 of their finest players at the Avantha Masters and as they continue to dominate the Indian showpiece with eight of them making the cut, Chapchai believes anyone of them can eventually emerge victorious this week.

“We’ve got many good players from Thailand as you can tell from the leaderboard. Chawalit just won his fourth Asian Tour title in Myanmar and we saw what Chinnarat can do yesterday. Most of us are long hitters and this course favours us,” said Chapchai.

Liang showed why he is still one of China’s best players when he found himself back on familiar ground atop the leaderboard at the Avantha Master which istri-sanctioned by the Asian Tour, European Tour and Professional Golf Tour of India (PGTI).

“I had a good break with my family and I feel all recharged now. I’ve learnt to stay patient and my playing experience from all over the world has taught me well,” said Liang.

Liang, who was the first mainland Chinese to win the Asian Tour Order of Merit in 2007, marked his card with eight birdies against two bogeys and was in commanding form, especially in his short game.

“This is a very long course and I managed to hit the balls long the last two days. I also managed to hole several long putts as well and luck did play a part in getting me to my position today,” said Liang.

Gangjee was the best performing Indian after he returned with a flawless 66.

The 34-year-old’s lone success on the Asian Tour was in 2004 and he believes that if he continues to stay relaxed over the weekend, it could spell the end of his nine years barren run.

“I am feeling relaxed and hitting the ball well, so let’s see how it goes over the weekend,” said Gangjee.

“I’ve hit it close on both days. I converted a few more putts today as compared to round one. I sank a dramatic 50-footer for birdie on the third where the ball hit the hole, jumped out and fell in. There were no destructive shots today,” added the Indian.

The cut was set at three-under with 74 players making it into the weekend rounds.

Scores after round 2 of the Avantha Masters being played at the par 72, 7347 Yards Jaypee Greens course (a- denotes amateur):

132 - Chapchai NIRAT (THA) 66-66, LIANG Wen-chong (CHN) 66-66.
134 - Chawalit PLAPHOL (THA) 66-68, David DRYSDALE (SCO) 67-67, Tommy FLEETWOOD (ENG) 69-65, Joonas GRANBERG (FIN) 67-67.
135 - Chinnarat PHADUNGSIL (THA) 61-74, Rahil GANGJEE (IND) 69-66, Scott HEND (AUS) 67-68, Abhijit CHADHA (IND) 66-69, Jaakko MAKITALO (FIN) 67-68, Julien QUESNE (FRA) 69-66, Adilson DA SILVA (BRA) 70-65.
136 - Thomas AIKEN (RSA) 67-69, Rikard KARLBERG (SWE) 67-69, Maximilian KIEFFER (GER) 68-68, BAEK Seuk-hyun (KOR) 68-68, Pablo LARRAZABAL (ESP) 68-68, Kiradech APHIBARNRAT (THA) 68-68.
137 - Mark FOSTER (ENG) 70-67, Brett RUMFORD (AUS) 68-69, Jeev Milkha SINGH (IND) 69-68, Victor DUBUISSON (FRA) 69-68, Peter WHITEFORD (SCO) 68-69, Gaganjeet BHULLAR (IND) 68-69, Anirban LAHIRI (IND) 68-69.

Selected scores

139 - Mardan MAMAT (SIN) 68-71
141 - Thongchai JAIDEE (THA) 70-71, Prom MEESAWAT (THA) 68-73