Golf: Panuphol Pittayarat stays top at Laguna after carding 68 in round two

Panuphol Pittayarat tees off at hole 17 at The Championship at Laguna National on Thursday. For the second straight day, Thai upstart Panuphol Pittayarat stood alone atop the leaderboard at The Championship at Laguna National. -- ST FILE PHOTO:
Panuphol Pittayarat tees off at hole 17 at The Championship at Laguna National on Thursday. For the second straight day, Thai upstart Panuphol Pittayarat stood alone atop the leaderboard at The Championship at Laguna National. -- ST FILE PHOTO: DESMOND LIM

FOR the second straight day, Thai upstart Panuphol Pittayarat stood alone atop the leaderboard at The Championship at Laguna National.

The Bangkok native carded a four-under-par 68 on Friday for a two-round total of 131 and a one-stroke edge over a chasing pack that included Australian hard-hitter Scott Hend (65) and Chile's Felipe Aguilar (67).

The 21-year-old Pittayarat, who was nicknamed "Coconut" by his parents, said: "It's nice to be putting myself in a good position heading into the last two rounds. I'd rather stay up here than to be chasing the lead actually."

However, it was not a good day for Singapore No. 1 Mardan Mamat (71), who missed the cut by two shots. Quincy Quek (74) and Lam Chih Bing (67) were the only locals from a six-strong contingent to make it into weekend play at the $1.89 million event, which is co-sanctioned by the Asian and European Tours.

Lam, who is tied 34th with Quek, said: "I spent 90 minutes on the range working on my irons so that certainly helped my play today. But I've got to putt better to keep in touch with the leaders."

Defending champion Brett Rumford (67) from Australia shares 24th place with in-form Indian Anirban Lahiri (70). The favourable conditions - soft greens with little wind - have players predicting a winning score of up to 28-under on the Masters course come Sunday.