Kuala Lumpur, February 2: Thai teenager Phachara Khongwatmai charged into contention at the halfway stage of the US$3 million Maybank Championship after shooting a sparkling seven-under-par 65 on Friday.
The 18-year-old, whose name Phachara means ‘diamond’ in Thai, marked his card with seven birdies as he shared the lead with Italy’s Nino Bertasio (65) on 11-under-par 133 on a low scoring day at the Saujana Golf and Country Club.
A red-hot Lee Westwood of England fired 11 birdies against one bogey for a stunning 62 to lie a shot back in third place alongside Japanese star Yuta Ikeda (64), Marc Warren (66) and overnight leader Chris Paisley (69) at the event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour.
The sweet-swinging Phachara posted two birdies in his outward nine and enjoyed a superb run when he made five straight birdies from the 11th hole thanks to a hot putter. He was joined by Bertasio, who was in the last group of the day, at the top of the leaderboard when the Italian returned with eight birdies against one blemish.
Westwood continued his affinity with Asia where he has won nine times including the Malaysian Open in 1997 at Saujana. He is in position again to win at the course where he was a former touring professional from 1996 to 1999.
Ikeda, the world number 43, fired eight birdies to stay in the hunt to secure a first victory outside of Japan where he has won 19 times.
The halfway cut was set at four-under-par 140 with a total of 81 players making the weekend rounds.
Did you know?
- Phachara credited a hot putter in a round of seven birdies. He totaled 27 putts and his highlight of his round was making five straight birdies from the 11th hole.
- This is the first time he has co-led in an event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour.
- This is Phachara’s second 65 in the tournament. He opened with a 65 in last year’s Maybank Championship but eventually finished in tied 20th place.
- He enjoyed a superb 2017 season where he finished second thrice. In the season-ending Indonesian Masters, he shot a 21-under and lost by eight shots to Justin Rose.
- Phachara was part of Team Asia in the EurAsia Cup three weeks ago. He contributed two points and only lost in the Singles match against Bernd Wiesberger.
- Phachara is searching for a first victory on the Asian Tour and European Tour. He holds the record as the youngest amateur player at the age of 14 to win a professional tournament. He is also the youngest player at 15 to win on the Asian Development Tour (ADT).
- He has played in The Open twice in 2016 and 2017.
- Phachara’s name in Thai translates to ‘Diamond’. He is also known as ‘Thai Diamond’ in Thailand.
- Bertasio is aiming for a first career victory. He traded eight birdies against one bogey to charge into the share of the lead.
- Westwood shot the low round in the tournament’s three year history. It is his second lowest score in Asia following a 60 at the 2011 Thailand Golf Championship which he won.
- He played solidly from tee-to-green, missing only one fairway, one green-in-regulation and totaled 26 putts.
- The Englishman became the world’s number one golfer when he won the 2012 Indonesian Masters.
- Ikeda is a 19-time winner in Japan. He is searching for his first victory outside of his country this week.
- This is the first time Ikeda is playing at the Maybank Championship.
- He made his debut appearance at the EurAsia Cup three weeks ago where he contributed three points and remains unbeaten.
Phachara Khongwatmai (Tha) – Second Round 65 (-7), Total 133 (-11)
I’m very happy with my score. My plan is to shoot under-par every day and play against the course. I don’t want to think ahead or compare my score to another player. It is only two rounds so the tournament is not over yet. I want to focus day by day and hole by hole.
I learnt a lot at the EurAsia Cup. My partner Hideto Tanihara taught me a lot and he calmed me down because I was very nervous.
It has been a long time since I’ve been bogey-free. I putted very well because I didn’t hit the ball close to the hole. Overall putting was the key. Honestly I didn’t realise I had five birdies in a row. I was just focussed on each hole.
Nino Bertasio (Ita) Second Round 65 (-7), Total 133 (-11)
It was very easy to be honest. I’ve been playing the par fives so a couple of birdies here and there, on the par fours and par threes and here I am at 11 under. It is actually quite easy to make bogeys here. The greens are quite tricky, and I think I only missed three greens, so I made it quite easy to be honest. I have been having fun on the golf course and playing well, so I’m looking forward to it.
Lee Westwood (Eng) – Second Round 65 (-7), Total 134 (-10)
I played alright the first three weeks of the year, I mean I missed the first two cuts but I sort of got in my own way mentally, not sure the reason for that but today I just freewheeled really and had fun out there.
Until the eighth hole, my 17th, I hadn’t holed anything over five feet. Tee to green it was brilliant, one bogey and 11 birdies, and now in contention.
It was enjoyable, there were a lot of birdies going in out there. It’s nice to be in contention and to know this golf course well. I won the Malaysian Open here 21 years ago now, and I’ve won this tournament and was touring pro for this course, so I’ve probably played it more than most and I know where to hit it.
I hit it close a lot and a pretty pain free round. Gave myself a lot of birdie chances, so it was a really good ball striking round and I holed out well as well. I was pleased with the way today went and hopefully we can build on that more.
Yuta Ikeda (Jpn) – Second Round 64 (-8), Total 134 (-10)
I’m very happy. I played very well with eight birdies and no bogeys. There was a huge crowd of Japan and Malaysian fans so I like coming here to play golf.
My short game and putting were very good but I really kept things simple. It is very important to find the fairways here to give yourself a chance to reach your target. If it was a more difficult hole, I would just aim for the centre of the green, make a two putt and leave with a par. If I’m lucky I would have a birdie.
I played the same yesterday but I had more birdie chance today so it was very good. I struggled on the greens (on Thursday) because it was so tricky. I couldn’t judge the lines on the greens. Now I’m in a good position and I’m glad to finish 36 holes.
Scores after round 2 of the Maybank Championship being played at the par 72, 7135 Yards Saujana GCC course (am – denotes amateur):
133 – Phachara KHONGWATMAI (THA) 68-65, Nino BERTASIO (ITA) 68-65.
134 – Lee WESTWOOD (ENG) 72-62, Yuta IKEDA (JPN) 70-64, Marc WARREN (SCO) 68-66, Chris PAISLEY (ENG) 65-69.
135 – Stephen GALLACHER (SCO) 70-65, Daisuke KATAOKA (JPN) 68-67, Hideto TANIHARA (JPN) 71-64, Dylan FRITTELLI (RSA) 69-66, David LIPSKY (USA) 67-68, Maximilian KIEFFER (GER) 69-66, Jorge CAMPILLO (ESP) 69-66.
136 – Andrew DODT (AUS) 71-65, David HORSEY (ENG) 66-70, Ryan FOX (NZL) 68-68, Danthai BOONMA (THA) 70-66, Robert KARLSSON (SWE) 68-68, Thomas DETRY (BEL) 68-68, Thomas BJORN (DEN) 68-68, Thongchai JAIDEE (THA) 69-67, Prayad MARKSAENG (THA) 71-65, Soren KJELDSEN (DEN) 69-67, Soomin LEE (KOR) 67-69.
137 – Alexander LEVY (FRA) 67-70, Gavin GREEN (MAS) 68-69, Fabrizio ZANOTTI (PAR) 68-69, Mike LORENZO-VERA (FRA) 66-71, Andy SULLIVAN (ENG) 71-66, Khalin JOSHI (IND) 67-70, Scott JAMIESON (SCO) 68-69, CHAN Shih-chang (TPE) 68-69, Matthieu PAVON (FRA) 70-67, Shiv KAPUR (IND) 70-67, Antonio LASCUNA (PHI) 69-68, Berry HENSON (USA) 69-68.
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