Chinnarat and Kim share halfway lead at Handa Faldo Cambodian Classic

Siem Reap: Thailand’s Chinnarat Phadungsil was hot with his irons as he shared the halfway lead with an equally inspired Kim Hyung-sung of Korea at the inaugural HANDA FALDO Cambodian Classic on Thursday.

The 23-year-old Chinnarat, who is a three-time Asian Tour winner, snared nine birdies against a lone bogey to smash the one-day old course record with an eight-under-par 64 at the impressive Angkor Golf Resort.

Featuring in his first event of the year, Kim, 31, was also in brilliant form, shooting five straight birdies on his front nine and then holing out a sensational eagle on 16 from 30 yards. He followed up with another birdie on 17 but the Korean was denied the outright lead after dropping a bogey on his last hole for a 65 and 11-under-par 133 total.

Tall Irishman Niall Turner battled hot and humid conditions in the US$300,000 Asian Tour event during a flawless 67 which left him one shot back of the leading duo. He has not dropped a shot in 36 holes.

The stocky Chinnarat put himself in prime position to end a three-year winless run with a powerful performance. Such was his solid iron play that he hit 17 greens in regulation.

“My irons were very good. I didn’t have long putts as I hit many shots close,” said Chinnarat, who holds the record of being the youngest winner on the Asian Tour at the age of 17 years and five days.

The talented Thai is also reaping the rewards of work done on his putting, needing only 27 putts to negotiate the greens. “In the last two events in India, my putting wasn’t good. I went back to Thailand and worked on it and I’m getting more confident with my putting. It’s basic stuff like keeping my head and putter head still during the stroke. It’s working,” he said.

Kim attended lessons at the Butch Harmon Academy in Vegas in January to fix his swing which had been hampered by a shoulder injury last season. With added distance to his game, the highlight of his round was holing out on the par five 16th hole.

“Swing is feeling nice, feels good,” said Kim, a three-time winner on the Korean circuit.

“Eagled the 16th hole which was good. I was about 30 yards short of the green and then hit a flop shot into the hole. Unbelievable. Lucky.

“I had a shoulder injury last year and because of that my shoulder turn has not been too good. We worked on it which has allowed me to hit draw shots. I’ve gained some 20 yards with my driver and about one club length with the iron shots. I feel good about my game,” he added.

The 28-year-old Turner struggled in the stifling heat but managed to fire five birdies to stay on the leaders’ coattail. “Front nine, maybe it was the hottest I’ve experienced in Asia,” said the Irishman, who is in his second year in Asia.

“There was no wind and it was just breathless out there. Humidity was off the charts and I was glad the winds picked up a bit on the back nine. It was hot.”

With his great length with the driver, where he averages over 300 yards, Turner birdied three of the four par fives. It was his putter though which saved the day for him. “Putted well. Made a lot of good par saves on the last six or seven holes,“ said Turner.

Overnight leader Baek Seuk-hyun was amongst those tied in fourth place, four strokes behind, after a 71. Filipino Elmer Salvador (69), Indian newcomer Ajeetesh Sandhu (68) and Thailand’s Thanyakon Khrongpha (66) also played their way into contention on 137.

Filipino Jay Bayron fired the tournament’s first hole-in-one at the par three ninth with a four iron en route to a 67. It was the first ace in his pro career.

The halfway cut was set at one-under-par 143, with 68 players progressing into the final two rounds.

Scores after round 2 of the Handa Faldo Cambodian Classic being played at the par 72, 7279 Yards Angkor Golf Resort course (a- denotes amateur):

133 - Chinnarat PHADUNGSIL (THA) 69-64, KIM Hyung-sung (KOR) 68-65.
134 - Niall TURNER (IRL) 67-67.
137 - BAEK Seuk-hyun (KOR) 66-71, Thanyakon KHRONGPHA (THA) 71-66, Elmer SALVADOR (PHI) 68-69, Ajeetesh SANDHU (IND) 69-68.
138 - Zaw MOE (MYN) 70-68, Chawalit PLAPHOL (THA) 68-70, Shaaban HUSSIN (MAS) 69-69.
139 - Guy WOODMAN (ENG) 70-69, Atthaphon PRATHUMMANEE (THA) 68-71, Rattanon WANNASRICHAN (THA) 68-71, Dodge KEMMER (USA) 70-69, Pablo HERRERIA (ESP) 71-68.
140 - KIM Gi-whan (KOR) 69-71, Namchok TANTIPOKHAKUL (THA) 69-71, Jonathan MOORE (USA) 69-71, Berry HENSON (USA) 68-72, Anthony KANG (USA) 73-67, Rick KULACZ (AUS) 72-68, Prom MEESAWAT (THA) 70-70, Ben LEONG (MAS) 69-71, Kiradech APHIBARNRAT (THA) 71-69, Kwanchai TANNIN (THA) 72-68, Sam CYR (USA) 70-70.