Sentosa, Singapore, January 19: Thailand’s Chapchai Nirat put his recent slump in form firmly behind him with a magnificent second-round 64 at the SMBC Singapore Open on Friday to seize the clubhouse lead on seven-under-par 135.
Chapchai lost his Asian Tour card last season and only made this week’s field because of his career money earnings, but all that was forgotten as he put in a performance reminiscent of some of his past successes.
The 34-year-old has a penchant for low scoring, evident from his stunning 32-under-par over 72 holes at the SAIL Open in India in 2009. He leads countryman Tirawat Kaewsiribandit (70) and South Africa’s Shaun Norris (67) by a shot at Sentosa Golf Club.
In-form Shiv Kapur of India, a three-time winner on the Asian Tour last year including the Royal Cup in late December, lies a further shot adrift after a 67. Kapur carded seven birdies but rued a couple of missed par putts in an up and down round. American Jarin Todd shot 66 to join Kapur on 137.
Chapchai, who has enjoyed some of the finest moments of his career at the Singapore Open, grabbed most of the attention in the morning session with his bogey-free round
He switched on the afterburners from the start with four straight birdies and then after a run of pars picked up shots at the 14th, 17th and 18th.
In his rookie season in 2005, Chapchai announced his arrival on the scene by taking the first round lead in the Singapore Open and three years later led a star-studded field going into the final round before finishing in a tied-seventh.
He has won four times on the Asian Tour but his form has dipped in recent years.
Tirawat, who finished tied 11th alongside Sergio Garcia in last year’s SMBC Singapore Open, played steady golf with just two birdies and a single bogey to stay well in the hunt.
Norris, a winner on the Japan Tour last year, had two birdies in 12 holes before jumping up the leaderboard by sinking a 10-foot eagle putt at the par-five fourth (his 13th hole of the second round).
South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen, a past winner of the Open Championship, and Gaganjeet Bhullar of India, who were in a six-way tie for the lead after the first round, fell back after matching 72s.
World number 16 Pat Perez of the United States added a 72 to his opening 70 and currently sits just above the cut line on even par.