Grief-Stricken Presnell Leads Myanmar Open

Yangon, February 13: Australian rookie Alistair Presnell grabbed the halfway lead in the US$200,000 Myanmar Open today where he hopes to win the title to honour his late father.

On a tough scoring day, the 23-year-old Presnell, playing in his maiden professional tournament in Asia, battled to a one-under-par 71 in the second round at Yangon Golf Club for a one-shot advantage over local hope Aung Win, who carded the day’s joint best of 69, and American Andrew Pitts.

Former champion Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand, overnight leader Mo Joong-kyung of Korea, Australian duo Unho Park and David Gleeson and Japan’s Yoshinobu Tsukuda are lurking a further shot back.

Presnell secured his Tour card from Qualifying School in Malaysia last month but has been battling personal anguish since then following his father’s death. His 56-year-old father Ray died in his sleep due to a heart problem in Melbourne on the night after arriving home from caddying duties at the Qualifying School where Presnell secured his Asian Tour card by finishing tied eighth.

“Dad has been a huge influence. He caddied for me for two weeks in Qualifying School and I’m sure he’d be happy to see me doing well here,” said Presnell, who has a two-day total of five-under-par 139.

“It still affects me at times and I had to pull out from the Thailand Open a few weeks ago to be with my mum. But it’s probably better for me to come out and play.”

The young Aussie plans to attack at the weekend in hope of securing his first victory and dedicating it to his father, whom he said helped him get started in golf. “I’m going to give it a crack. The par fives here are reachable but obviously being my first time out to Asia, the playing conditions are so much different,” said Presnell, who represented Victoria state during his amateur days.

Presnell’s biggest threat appears to be Myanmar’s Win, who has challenged for the title for the last two years. Win toured the front nine in 37 but performed brilliantly with four birdies on the back nine as he achieved his target of shooting a 69 following Thursday??s 71. No local player has won the Myanmar Open since its inception in 1996.

“My aim is to win this title,” said Win, who was tied third last year and equal sixth in 2002. “I didn’t start well but my concentration on the back nine was very good as I shut the crowd out. I started rolling in putts and that boosted my confidence. Yesterday I was four-under on the back nine and I’m happy to match that today.”

Playing in front of a large gallery, the slightly built Win bogeyed the fifth but rolled in a monster 30-foot birdie putt on the par three 11th, the hole which he aced on Thursday to get back on track. Birdies on 12 and 14 from inside seven feet saw him move up the leaderboard before he produced a masterclass at 18 by hitting a wedge to four feet of the pin for a closing birdie.

Pitts, the 2001 Taiwan Open winner, enjoyed a superb finish in his round of 71, shooting a birdie and chipping in for an eagle three in two of his last three holes. “That was nice. I hit an eight iron to two feet on 16 and chipped it in at the next hole for eagle,” he said.

Thailand’s Thongchai, Asia’s number in 2001, carded a 72 after struggling to adapt to the sun-baked greens and three-putted on four occasions. His round included five birdies, three bogeys and one double bogey at the seventh when he found water from off the tee.

“In the morning, the greens were a bit slow and I struggled to find my feel. I’m still in a good position and on this course, I’m confident of shooting good scores at the weekend. I’m playing good but I’ll need to improve on my putting,” said the former soldier, winner here in 2002 and runner-up last season.

Overnight leader Mo stumbled to a 74 but he could have easily maintained his lead if not for a disastrous triple bogey at 18. His troubles started when his drive caught a tree branch and the ball got lost in the woods.

“I didn’t expect that seven. I was doing all right at one under with one hole to play but got really unlucky when my tee shot hit the smallest of branches and got lost,” said Mo.

A total of 76 players made the cut at 149. Amongst the players who missed out by one shot were defending champion Lin Keng-chi of Taiwan and India’s Jeev Milkha Singh.

Leading second round scores
139 – Alistair Presnell (AUS) 68-71
140 – Andrew Pitts (USA) 69-71, Aung Win (MYN) 71-69
141 – Mo Joong-kyung (KOR) 67-74, Unho Park (AUS) 70-71, Thongchai Jaidee (THA) 69-72, David Gleeson (AUS) 72-69, Yoshinobu Tsukada (JPN) 71-70
142 – Akinori Tani (JPN) 69-73, Anthony Kang (USA) 72-70, Lin Wen-tang (TPE) 73-69, Glenn Joyner (AUS) 72-70
143 – Thaworn Wiratchant (THA) 71-72, Mike Cunning (USA) 72-71, Prayad Marksaeng (THA) 69-74
144 – James Stewart (HKG) 72-72, Ashok Kumar (IND) 70-74, Mardan Mamat (SIN) 73-71, Chen Tsang-te (TPE) 75-69, Lin Wen-ko (TPE) 69-75, Greg Hanrahan (USA) 72-72
145 – Kenichi Ryu (JPN) 71-74, Rahil Gangjee (IND) 70-75, Danny Zarate (PHI) 76-69, Rick Gibson (CAN) 68-77, Frankie Minoza (PHI) 72-73, Charlie Wi (KOR) 71-74, Lu Wen-teh (TPE) 75-70, Richard Moir (AUS) 74-71

About the Myanmar Open:
The Myanmar Open is celebrating its ninth year in 2004. Event sponsors include Rothmans of Pall Mall Myanmar Pte. Limited, co-sponsor Myanmar Airways International, Sedona Hotel Yangon, the official hotel of the Myanmar Open, Wilson, the official ball, and Grand Slam (Munsingwear), Inetol (Headwear Company), Canon (Accel International Co. Ltd.), Maruman (Kaung Myat Co. Ltd), Dagon Beer (Dagon Brewery Company Limited), MIMS LOGISTICS, Max Myanmar Co. Ltd., United Paints Group (UPG) and Alpine Purified Drinking Water (Loi Hein Co. Ltd.) as official suppliers.

For further information, please contact Chuah Choo Chiang at the Myanmar Open Media Centre at +951 636199.