Taipei, October 2: Two-time Asian Tour winner Rashid Khan of India battled against the gusty wind to grab the halfway lead after signing for a two-under-par 70 at the US$650,000 Mercuries Taiwan Masters on Friday.
The pencil-thin 24-year-old overcame a double-bogey on the first with six birdies against two bogeys to stay one shot ahead of playing partner and overnight leader Danny Chia of Malaysia on six-under-par 138 total at the challenging Taiwan Golf and Country Club’s Tamsui course.
Filipino veteran Antonio Lascuna posted a 71 to settle four shots back in third place with China’s Liang Wen-chong (73), Sri Lankan Mithun Perera (72), Bangladeshi Siddikur Rahman (74) and local hotshot Pan Cheng-tsung (72) at the long-running Asian Tour event.
Despite getting off to a dismal start, Khan kept his head up and bounced back strongly with three straight birdies starting from the fifth. He dropped a shot on ninth before adding three birdies against a bogey on his way home.
“I started really bad. I made a double-bogey on the first hole. I hit it into the bunker and three-putted on the green. It was very disappointing but I didn’t let it affect me. I holed a 15-footer on the next hole for par and gained a little confidence from there.
“The three straight birdies really got my game going. I told my caddy if I can shoot three or four-under par, it will be great. I kept the ball in play on the back nine and I am happy with where I stand, given the tough conditions out there,” said Khan, who ended his round on a sweet note when he sank a six-foot birdie putt on the par-four 18th.
Khan, however, conceded that he would need to rediscover some magic in his putter should he wish to maintain his lead.
“Overall, I feel confident with my game but my short game just wasn’t as good today. I three-putted three times today and my chipping was not good too. I am going to work on my short game so I can have more control on my distance in the next two rounds,” Khan lamented.
Chia, who recently earned his spot in the lucrative CIMB Classic next month, dug deep to mix his card with two birdies against two bogeys.
“There’s nothing bad about my round but it wasn’t good either. It was really windy out there. I feel good hitting every shot but the ball is just flying everywhere. I don’t know if the wind is affecting it or if it’s because I didn’t hit the shot well. I just try to avoid making bogeys,” said the 43-year-old, highest ranked Malaysian in 342nd position on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR).
Having won his third Asian Development Tour (ADT) title on home soil a fortnight ago, Chia hopes to extend his good form as he relishes his prospects playing with Khan for the third day in a row.
“I guess playing conservatively is probably the best option. If I can save par, I try to save par. You will have an advantage if you can read the greens. Putting will be the key too. It was good playing with Rashid today. I think we kind of fit into each other’s games on the course. He played well today.. I think it’s going to be fun playing with him again,” added Chia.
Despite the testing condition with swirling wind speed of up to 40 mph, Lascuna remained calm and composed to cap an encouraging round.
“My putting was good and I drove the ball well. You have to be good off the tee to play well on this course. I thought my game was pretty steady given the tough conditions out there,” said the 44-year-old Filipino, who enjoyed a tied-second finish last year.
“I finished well here last year and that has given me a bit of confidence coming to this week. The way I tackled the course these two days were pretty similar to how I played last year. If I can play like how I did last year, I should have a chance to win this week,” added Lascuna, who is chasing for a maiden Asian Tour title.
Players will be vying for good showings at the Mercuries Taiwan Masters to boost their chances of qualifying for the prestigious CIMB Classic and WGC-HSBC Champions.
As of October 26, the leading four golfers from the Order of Merit will earn starting places in the US$8.5 million HSBC Champions in November while the leading 10 players will qualify for the US$7 million CIMB Classic at the end of October.
Scores after round 2 of the Mercuries Taiwan Masters 2015 being played at the par 72, 6923 Yards Tamsui Course course (am – denotes amateur):
138 – Rashid KHAN (IND) 68-70.
139 – Danny CHIA (MAS) 67-72.
143 – Antonio LASCUNA (PHI) 72-71, LIANG Wen-chong (CHN) 70-73, Siddikur RAHMAN (BAN) 69-74, PAN Cheng-tsung (TPE) 71-72, Mithun PERERA (SRI) 71-72.
144 – Adilson DA SILVA (BRA) 75-69, LIN Wen-tang (TPE) 75-69, Adam GROOM (AUS) 73-71, YEH Wei-tze (TPE) 71-73, CHAN Yih-shin (TPE) 71-73, Unho PARK (AUS) 75-69.
145 – Pariya JUNHASAVASDIKUL (THA) 71-74, LU Wei-chih (TPE) 75-70, Phachara KHONGWATMAI (THA) 69-76.
146 – Miguel TABUENA (PHI) 73-73, LEE Chieh-po (TPE) 73-73, Chinnarat PHADUNGSIL (THA) 74-72, Jazz JANEWATTANANOND (THA) 75-71, HUNG Chien-yao (TPE) 74-72, Sam BRAZEL (AUS) 73-73, LEE Sung (KOR) 74-72, LIU Wei-hou (TPE) 73-73.
147 – Kalle SAMOOJA (FIN) 74-73.
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