Happy Lee Leads in the Mountain

Fri 17 Dec 2010

Happy Lee Leads in the Mountain

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Hua Hin, Thailand, December 17: Korea’s Lee Sung surged into a two-shot halfway lead at the US$600,000 Black Mountain Masters on Friday and expressed his delight of being able to hear the applause from the galleries for the first time in his life.
Three weeks after having an implant surgically put into his right ear to help him hear after being born deaf, the 30-year-old lighted up the Asian Tour’s season finale with a stunning eight-under-par 64 at the magnificent Black Mountain Golf Club.
Thai youngster Namchoak Tantipokakul, fighting for his Tour card, lipped out for eagle on his last to also sign for a 64 to trail the Korean leader, who heads the elite field on 14-under-par 130.
Another Thai newcomer Piya Swangarunporn shot a 65 to lie four back in third place, followed by countryman Kiradech Aphibarnrat who returned a 66 on an unseasonal cool day in the coastal resort town.
Reigning Asian Tour Order of Merit champion Thongchai Jaidee, bidding for a second straight victory after winning in Cambodia, failed to ignite a charge, shooting a 69 to lie tied ninth and seven shots back.
Lee said he feels like a new man after his hearing implant. “I feel happy after the operation. I can hear the ball’s impact, which helps a lot when I’m chipping. I can also hear the applause from the crowds which is good,” said the Korean, whose lone Asian Tour victory was three years ago in Thailand.
“The operation has changed my life. I’m enjoying my golf. I’ll try to shoot another 64 tomorrow,” added Lee, who holed three lengthy putts on his outward nine.
Fighting to break into the top-61 of the rankings to earn his card for 2011, the 23-year-old Namchoak brilliantly battled into contention with a nine birdie round which he nearly ended on a high note but his eagle putt lipped out at the last.
He has lost five kilograms since August and said carrying less weight has helped. “The key this week is that I’m ready to play. To play in so many events, you need to be fit. This course is not an easy walk and it’s tiring but I feel confident,” said Namchoak, who tipped the scales previously at 103 kilograms.
“I’ve been confident with the driver all week. When you drive well here, you have an easier shot into the green. I’m using a new putter as well which is two inches shorter and it feels good on these greens. I’m not thinking about the top-61 position. I want to try and win.”
The strength of Thai golf was again on full display with 27-year-old Piya slipping into contention with a seven-birdie round. “I have to admit I’m surprised to see my name on the leaderboard. This is the first time and I’m feeling excited.”
Play was delayed by 30 minutes this morning following blustery winds and rain which joint overnight leader Daisuke Maruyama of Japan was amongst the early starters to bear the brunt of it. Indonesia’s Rory Hie was the lone player who did not finish round two and will return early Saturday to complete his last hole.
Maruyama dropped an early bogey before recovering with a 71 to lie six back in tied fourth place with American Matthew Rosenfeld, countryman Tetsuji Hiratsuka and Hua Hin native Prayad Marksaeng, who braved the pain in his wrists to stay in contention.
“Conditions were tough, so this is a good score. When we started the round in the morning, there were big winds and it was hard,” said Maruyama, who finished 15th on the Japan Tour moneylist this year and a two-time Asian Tour winner.
Prayad, runner-up in Black Mountain last season, needed intense physiotherapy to tee up in the tournament and was delighted to keep his throng of fans happy with his 66.
“There is a bit of pain, especially in the morning but I just try to keep the wrist loose by doing exercises. I have a lot of fans following me so I want to keep playing well,” said the six-time Asian Tour winner.
He enjoyed a dash of luck when his approach into the par five 13th landed in the water hazard but skipped onto dry land before chipping in from 50 yards for an unlikely eagle. “I got lucky. I also holed long putts from 45 feet and 30 feet at the 16th and third holes which was very nice.”
Other sponsors of the event include Tourism Authority of Thailand (Presenting Sponsor), Turkish Airlines (Official Airline) Panasonic (Official A/V), Omega (Official Timekeeper), Hyatt Regency Hua Hin (Official Hotel) where the players and sponsors will be staying and DHL (Official Logistics Provider).
The tournament is also supported by Singha, Canon, Srixon, Inetol, Fenix, Makers Mark and Wolfblass.
The Black Mountain Masters will be broadcast live for four hours each day over four rounds on the Tour’s global television platform which reaches over 40 countries worldwide.
Broadcast partners of the Asian Tour include Skysports in the United Kingdom, FoxSports in Australia, Guangdong Golf Channel and CCTV in China, PCCW in Hong Kong, ABS-CBN in the Philippines, StarHub in Singapore, Sportscast in Chinese Taipei, SportTV in Portugal, Fox International in the Middle East, Canal+ in Spain, Iko Balkan in Balkans, ESPN Star Sports in India, Indovision in Indonesia, Astro in Malaysia, JGolf in Korea, Viasat in Scandinavia and True Vision in Thailand.