Golf: Flawless 64 nets Chapchai Nirat SMBC Singapore Open halfway lead, weather causes more delays

Chapchai Nirat of Thailand putting during round one of the Singapore Open golf tournament at Sentosa Golf Club on Jan 19. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - Chapchai Nirat beat out the rain and competition at the SMBC Singapore Open on Friday (Jan 19), shooting a seven-under 64 in the morning session to seize the halfway lead at seven-under 135.

The Thai's blemish-free round of seven birdies was good enough for the clubhouse lead, as rain disrupted play in the afternoon with half the 156-player field yet to complete their rounds.

Said Chapchai, who set the Asian Tour record for lowest four-day total (32-under) at the SAIL Open in 2009: "To finish the round with seven-under-par was beyond my expectation. Coming into this tournament I didn't set any targets because I have been trying to fix my swing with my coach and just wanted to get used to the new swing."

The four-time winner on the Asian Tour has been looking to put a torrid 2017 campaign behind him, when he finished 106th in the Asian Tour's Order of Merit with meagre earnings of US$16,050 (S$21,175). He lost his tour card as a result.

"I am so happy and excited to be on top of the leaderboard. I haven't felt this way on the golf course for so long, at least three years," said the 34-year-old, whose last Asian Tour win was at the Selangor Masters in 2014.

"For the next two days, I will do the same like today and not think too much about the result."

South African Shaun Norris also played well on the Sentosa Golf Club's Serapong course and lies a stroke behind Chapchai, shooting a 67 and is on 136.

"It's my first cut made here in Singapore and I've learnt a lot over the last couple of years getting to know the course so I'm pretty happy," said the 35-year-old, who is playing his third Singapore Open.

"I was trying to play the course too aggressively and this isn't a course you can do that on. You can't overpower it or anything so today I started playing smarter golf, sometimes just taking the par and leaving it at that."

First-round leaders Tirawat Kaewsiribandit, Sergio Garcia and Kurt Kitayama are also on six-under, but the latter two have yet to complete their rounds.

Choo Tze Huang led the way for the locals with a 69 and is on 139 for the tournament. Amateur Gregory Foo is on four-under, but only played eight holes before play was suspended.

Play resumes for the US$1 million (S$1.3 million) event at 7.40am on Saturday, with the third round slated to begin after noon.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.