Slamming Lam

Fri 19 Dec 2008

Slamming Lam


Bangkok, December 19: Singaporean Lam Chih Bing powered into a two-stroke halfway lead at the US$750,000 Volvo Masters of Asia on Friday to give himself a shot at winning his maiden Asian Tour title.

The in-form Lam carded a six-under-par 66 at a sun-kissed Thai Country Club to lead from Thailand's Chapchai Nirat (66), Filipino Antonio Lascuna (67) and Australian duo Mitchell Brown (67) and Marcus Both (68).

Chinese Taipei's Lin Wen-tang, second on the Order of Merit, battled to a 70 to stay three shots off the pace alongside Chawalit Plaphol of Thailand (67) while title holder Prayad Marksaeng revived his challenge with a best-of-the-week 65 to lie a further stroke back in the Asian Tour's season-ending tournament.

Since earning his full Tour card for 2009 following a tied 18th place at the cash-rich Barclays Singapore Open last month, Lam has played some of his best golf and also finished runner-up in Cambodia last weekend.

"Just being here this week, I've already achieved my goal for the year. I'm very happy to be here and whatever happens will be a bonus," said Lam, who holds a two-day total of nine-under-par 135.

Lam was often regarded as an underachiever despite his enormous talent but a switch to the short putter two months ago and fatherhood seem to have revived his flagging career.

He played in the last group of the final round in Singapore alongside world number three Phil Mickelson and despite falling off the leaderboard, he said the experience was priceless.

"I've made more putts. The first week that I switched back to the short putter was at an Asean Tour event and I won it. Then at the following week, I played well in the Barclays Singapore Open and started playing well ever since," said Lam.

"After Singapore, knowing that I've kept my card, it's become so much easier to play out here. It was a big monkey off my back. I can pretty much freewheel it now. I didn't get it done on the last day in Singapore but to know that I could actually match some of the best players in the world gave me a lot of confidence."

Big-hitting Chapchai will also be eager to prove his doubters wrong at the Volvo Masters of Asia, which is restricted to the top-65 players on the Asian Tour, as he had led into the final round in Singapore before falling off the leaderboard.

"It is a mental game. I learnt a lot from Singapore. Right now, my game is okay - I am in good form. And hopefully I can control my mind and my emotions better than I did in Singapore," said the Thai.

Like Lam, Chapchai switched back to an old putter for the second round and it rewarded him with seven birdies. "The putter has a softer face - I stopped using it two months ago. It helped me today," added the two-time Asian Tour winner.

Both was relishing the opportunity of challenging for the Volvo Masters of Asia again as he was also in contention here three years ago. "This is a great tournament. We have the best of the best here and it is good to measure yourself against the other guys," said Both, whose lone victory in the region was at the 2004 Sanya Open in China.

"I was in contention here three years ago. It is one of those courses that fits my eye. But you have to execute as well and I have not been doing that well in the last couple of years. I hit two bad tee shots on nine and 18 and was punished for them with a double bogey and a bogey. I am going to have to hit some pretty good numbers on the weekend to win."

Defending champion Prayad revived his title hopes with a sparkling round that included an eagle and five birdies. The Thai star, winner of three events in Japan this year, had opened his campaign with a disappointing 74 on Thursday but hit top form to stay within striking distance of Lam.

"I was not too worried about shooting a 74 yesterday. I knew I would be out early this morning and I thought I could play well. That is how it turned out," said Prayad, who needs a good week here to cement his position in the world's top-50 and earn a place in the US Masters.

India's Jeev Milkha Singh, who has already secured the Asian Tour's Order of Merit title, improved with a 70 after struggling to a 76 in the opening round while Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand, who is chasing a third straight victory, added a 74 to his opening 73.

Leading second round scores

135 - Lam Chih Bing (SIN) 69-66
137 - Chapchai Nirat (THA) 71-66, Mitchell Brown (AUS) 70-67, Antonio Lascuna (PHI) 70-67, Marcus Both (AUS) 69-68
138 - Chawalit Plaphol (THA) 71-67, Lin Wen-tang (TPE) 68-70
139 - Prayad Marksaeng (THA) 74-65
140 - Simon Griffiths (ENG) 72-68, Kim Kyung-tae (KOR) 72-68, Rhys Davies (WAL) 72-68, Gaurav Ghei (IND) 70-70, Hendrik Buhrmann (RSA) 69-71, Neven Basic (AUS) 66-74, Adam Blyth (AUS) 68-72
141 - Rick Kulacz (AUS) 72-69
142 - Mark Brown (NZL) 72-70, Thaworn Wiratchant (THA) 71-71, Danny Chia (MAS) 71-71, Andrew Dodt (AUS) 70-72
About the Asian Tour
As the official sanctioning body for professional golf in Asia, the Asian Tour leads the development of golf across the region, enhancing the careers of its members while maintaining a commitment to the integrity of the game. The Asian Tour, through its membership of the International Federation of PGA Tours, is the only recognised pan-Asian professional golf tour in Asia.  This unique feature positions the Asian Tour at the pinnacle of professional golf in Asia; providing its events with Official World Ranking status. Tour Partners include Carlsberg (Official Beer), ESPN Star Sports (Official Regional TV Broadcaster), Pin High (Official Apparel Partner), Ricoh (Official Office Solutions Provider), Sofitel (Official Hotel), TIME and FORTUNE (Corporate Partner) and Srixon (Official Ball). Sentosa, Singapore's premier island resort getaway, is the Home of the Asian Tour.