Bangkok: Indian hotshot Gaganjeet Bhullar continued his fine form by signing for a five-under-par 66 to grab a share of the halfway lead with young Thai talent Rattanon Wannasrichan at the US$300,000 Thailand Open on Friday.
Starting the day with a three-shot deficit, the 29-year-old Bhullar traded six birdies against one bogey to move atop the leaderboard with overnight co-leader Rattanon, who battled to a 69, on 11-under-par 131 total at the scenic Thai Country Club.
Local prospect Pawin Ingkhapradit returned with the day’s best score of 62 to trail the leading duo by one in third place while compatriot Panuphol Pittayarat, who is playing on his home course this week, posted a bogey-free 69 to sit in fourth on 133.
Indian stalwart Jeev Milkha Singh rolled back the years in style by signing for a flawless 63. He sits three shots off the pace in fifth place alongside a host of players, which includes Ben Leong (64) of Malaysia, Thai star Kiradech Aphibarnrat (68) and Australian Scott Barr (67), who turned 45 years old today.
Reigning Order of Merit champion Scott Hend of Australia posted a 67 to move into a share of 18th place on 136. American David Lipsky, after opening with a 74, bounced back with a 67 to barely make the halfway cut set at one-under-par 141.
The Thailand Open, inaugurated in 1965, is also the first leg of the newly launched Panasonic Swing, which provides a bonus pool across five designated tournaments.
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Rattanon started working with a new coach, by the name of Lervit Boonsombat, at the start of the season. Lervit made some changes to Rattanon’s swing which helped him eliminate his hooks.
The 21-year-old Rattanon is chasing for a maiden win on the Asian Tour. He has notched two top-five results so far this season.
Rattanon represented Thailand during his amateur days and won the team and individual gold medals at the 2011 Southeast Asian Games in Indonesia. He turned professional the following year in 2012.
Rattanon finished 60th on the 2016 Order of Merit to secure the last Asian Tour card on offer for 2017.
Rattanon navigated his way around the course with 26 putts today. He needed only 20 putts in the opening round on Thursday.
Bhullar is a seven-time winner on the Asian Tour.
Bhullar bounced back from a wrist injury he sustained in 2014 by winning the 2016 Shinhan Donghae Open in Korea and clinching the Indonesia Open title for the second time in his career two months later.
Bhullar has only dropped one shot in the first two rounds of the Thailand Open.
Gaganjeet Bhullar (Ind) – Second round 66 (-5), Total 131 (-11)
"I pretty much played the same way like I played yesterday. I gave myself a lot of birdie opportunities. I made six birdies yesterday and six birdies today. I just made one mistake on the eighth hole today and that’s about it. I hit more greens in regulation yesterday and I missed a few today. It wasn’t as windy today. It was pretty calm out there. I had quite a few good birdies. I got off to a good start with a birdie on the first."
"I made a really good one on 15. The pin position was really tough. I drove a seven iron to about 12 to 14 feet. It was a right to left big curler, definitely one of the highlights for me today. When you get off to a good start, it gives you a lot of confidence and momentum going into the round. I just stayed consistent out there. I am happy to be in a good position right now. There are a lot of good players playing this week. There is still a lot more golf to go but I would like to keep myself motivated for the weekend. I started the season quite well. I played well but didn’t score quite well. I had two top-20 finishes. Nothing fantastic but it was a decent start to the season."
Jeev Milkha Singh (Ind) – Second round 63 (-8), Total 134 (-8)
"It has been awhile since I have shot a 63. In fact, I can’t remember when I last shot a 63. When you shoot a score like that, you just hope to build on it. I tried something new this week. I have been struggling with my driver. I started to ground the driver after I won the Scottish Open in 2012. Before that, I used to have it up in the air before hitting the ball. I gave it some thoughts this week and I decided to switch back to how I used to play. To my surprise, I am driving the ball a lot better now. It has given me a lot of confidence. Other than that, I am hitting my irons good and my short game is alright."
"Everything fell in place today. I drove the ball really solid and I holed a lot of putts. I made a good birdie on the second hole today. My ball landed on the slope of the bunker and I didn’t have a shot there. I pitched it to the green and ran it to about four feet and holed that for birdie. I had another good birdie on the difficult par-three sixth hole. I hit a four-iron to just over the pin and holed the putt there. I was three-under after nine and I thought I might as well go all out, enjoy the game and see how low I can get. I was trying to shoot as low as possible and it went my way. I like this course. I have played a lot of tournaments here since early 2000. It’s a fantastic venue and it’s in excellent conditions. I will do the same thing for tomorrow and try to stick to what I have been working on and we will see what comes around."
Scores after round 2 of the Thailand Open being played at the par 71, 7097 Yards Thai CC course (am - denotes amateur):
131 - Gaganjeet BHULLAR (IND) 65-66, Rattanon WANNASRICHAN (THA) 62-69.
132 - Pawin INGKHAPRADIT (THA) 70-62.
133 - Panuphol PITTAYARAT (THA) 64-69.
134 - Keith HORNE (RSA) 67-67, Jazz JANEWATTANANOND (THA) 67-67, Jeev Milkha SINGH (IND) 71-63, Terry PILKADARIS (AUS) 67-67, Ben LEONG (MAS) 70-64, Kiradech APHIBARNRAT (THA) 66-68, Scott BARR (AUS) 67-67, Janne KASKE (FIN) 62-72.
135 - Mitchell SLORACH (SIN) 69-66, Danthai BOONMA (THA) 66-69, Piya SWANGARUNPORN (THA) 69-66, Simon GRIFFITHS (ENG) 69-66, Tirawat KAEWSIRIBANDIT (THA) 68-67.
136 - Worrasorn SUWANPANANG (THA) 72-64, Teemu PUTKONEN (FIN) 69-67, Scott HEND (AUS) 69-67, Chanachok DEJPIRATANAMONGKOL (THA) 68-68, Poom SAKSANSIN (THA) 68-68.
137 - Jarin TODD (USA) 72-65, Thaworn WIRATCHANT (THA) 69-68, Gavin GREEN (MAS) 71-66, Shiv KAPUR (IND) 70-67, Marcus BOTH (AUS) 70-67, Gunn CHAROENKUL (THA) 69-68, Jaturon DUANGPHAICHOOM (THA) 67-70.
138 - Suradit YONGCHAROENCHAI (THA) 71-67, Annop TANGKAMOLPRASERT (THA) 71-67, Puk PRADITTAN (THA) 70-68, Shankar DAS (IND) 71-67, Sihwan KIM (USA) 67-71, John Michael O'TOOLE (USA) 70-68, Micah Lauren SHIN (USA) 68-70, Parathakorn SUYASRI (am, THA) 69-69.
139 - Michael TRAN (VNM) 72-67, Akedanai PONGHATHAIKUL (am, THA) 68-71, Raththee SIRITHANAKUNSAK (THA) 75-64, Yikeun CHANG (KOR) 70-69, Chinnarat PHADUNGSIL (THA) 70-69, Natipong SRITHONG (THA) 70-69, Arjun PRASAD (IND) 70-69, Tawan PHONGPHUN (THA) 68-71, Prayad MARKSAENG (THA) 65-74, LIU Yan-wei (CHN) 69-70, Niall TURNER (IRL) 69-70, Somsak KHAOPRATUM (THA) 73-66.