Dhaka: Thailand’s Thitiphun Chuayprakong produced a bogey-free round of five-under-par 66 to soar into the lead after the halfway stage of the US$300,000 Bashundhara Bangladesh Open on Thursday.
The 23-year-old Thai, who opened his campaign with a 65, highlighted his round with five birdies to grab a two-shot lead over Korea’s Soomin Lee on 11-under-par 131 total at the Kurmitola Golf Club.
Overnight co-leader Lee settled for second place following a 69 while Indian trio Chikkarangappa S. (66), Shubhankar Sharma (68) and five-time Asian Tour winner Gaganjeet Bhullar (67) took third place on 134 with Scott Vincent of Zimbabwe (66) and Sutijet Kooratanapisan (67) of Thailand.
Md Abdul Matin and Shakhawat Sohel emerged as the highest placed local players in tied-10th position on 136 following respective rounds of 68 and 66 in the second edition of the Bashundhara Bangladesh Open.
Thitiphun, searching for a first Asian Tour win, was delighted to rediscover some of his best form as he negotiated around the course with only 25 putts.
His highlights of the day came on the par-three sixth where he sank a 30-footer birdie putt and on the 11 where he chipped in for birdie from 60 feet.
“I am feeling very excited to be on top of the leaderboard now. I have played well for a long time but I still feel comfortable with my game. Hopefully I can stay this week till the end of the week.
“I will just keep doing the same for the next two rounds. I will try not to think too much about my scores. I will stick to my game plan and try to do my best out there,” Thitiphun said.
Lee was disappointed not to emulate his opening round magic but took it in his stride as he is still in a favourable position heading into the next two rounds.
“I started from the 10 and made my first birdie of the day on 12 where I sank a 25-footer putt. That got my game going. I told myself to keep trying to hit good shots like how I did yesterday but it didn’t happen which was disappointing. Overall, my game was good although my iron-play wasn’t as sharp as yesterday,” said Lee, who traded five birdies against two bogeys.
“I still have two more rounds to go. I just want to enjoy myself. Knowing that I’ve played well on this course before definitely gives me a bit of confidence. Hopefully I can remain consistent for the next two rounds,” added Lee, who is playing in his second year on the Asian Tour.
Chikkarangappa had a slow start to the round where he nailed only one birdie against eight pars to turn in 34. He dropped a shot on 10 but bounced back gallantly with a birdie-birdie-eagle starting from 12 before closing with a 25-footer birdie putt on 18.
“I played alright on the front nine. I stumbled with a bogey on 10 and I didn’t hit a good drive on 11 but the turning point came on the 12. I holed a 15-footer for birdie and made a second straight birdie on 13 before chipping in for eagle from just off the green on 14,” said the 22-year-old Indian.
“I am just going to stick to my game for the next two rounds. I have been in contention before and I just want to stick through it. It’s all about being patient, staying calm and relax. I just want to enjoy myself out there,” Chikkarangappa added.
A total of 70 players made the halfway cut set at one-over-par 143 at the Bashundhara Bangladesh Open.
With the Olympic Games looming in July where golf will be reintroduced as a medal sport, the Bashundhara Bangladesh Open will be a good opportunity for players in the region to earn their spots in Rio de Janeiro with the Official World Golf Ranking points on offer.