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.