Golf: Malaysian Green in a class of his own after second straight 65 at International Series S'pore

Malaysia's Gavin Green holds a three-shot lead with a 14-under 130 total. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - Seven birdies on Thursday (Aug 11). Seven birdies on Friday. And no bogeys after 36 holes.

With that kind of competence, confidence and consistency Gavin Green tamed the difficult Tanah Merah Country Club's Tampines course on both days and was in buoyant mood for the weekend.

With a 14-under 130 total, he holds a three-shot lead over Phachara Khongwatmai (66) and four over South Korean Yoseop Seo (six straight birdies among eight in his 65) and India's Veer Ahlawat (eight birdies and a bogey in his 65).

Suffering badly from Covid-19 six weeks ago in the United States, the widely-travelled Kuala-Lumpur-born Green lost taste and smell. But although he still feels the effects of the illness, he has not lost the hunger for honours.

Feeling very upbeat about his game so far, the friendly 28-year-old said: "Obviously my (ball) striking has been pretty good on this golf course. You have to keep it in play, you can't miss too many shots.

"There are few holes you can bail out, but for the most part you can't. You have to place your approach shots on certain parts of the green because they are so slopy.

"And even when you are on the green, it's a tough two-putt. I made a few putts from the five-to-10-feet range."

His game plan for the weekend?

"I am not looking at leaderboards, I am just doing my thing. I will go with a gameplan and it is important to make the putts from the five-to-10-feet range," replied the 1.83m Malaysian No. 1.

However Phachara, the youngest winner of a professional tournament with his Singha Hua Hin Open title in 2013 at the age of 14, poses some threat with his superior all-round play.

Backed by 10 professional wins, the slim 1.83m Thai is a master at the short game, especially his chipping from close range. If his putting had been sound he would have been closer to Green.

Phachara said: "Today, I had good iron shots but missed a couple of putts. It's important for me to play well for the chance to play in more LIV Golf events. Generally, I am happy with my game and will stick with my game plan for the weekend."

Pre-tournament favourite Patrick Reed bounced back from his patchy 73 with a 68. The 2018 US Masters winner and world No. 46 bagged four birdies without a bogey and was tied-36th on 141.

The American said: "I just put the ball in position on a lot of holes, especially early on but I didn't make any putts. I felt for the most part my ball striking was okay, until the last two holes where it was a little loose off the tee."

On his mindset, he affirmed: "I kind of went out the same as I went out yesterday. Today, on nine with the wind direction I could almost get close to the green. I put it in the one spot where you couldn't, that right bunker off the tee. Stuff like that, a couple of careless mistakes.

"But, all in all, I'm hitting my irons decent and giving myself a lot of good looks. I just need the putter to wake up."

Looking ahead, he said: "I need to shoot a really low one tomorrow. I need to capitalise on a couple of par-fives. There is no reason why I can't shoot a mid-to-low 60s round and have a chance to hopefully shoot another mid-to-low 60s."

Like Reed, India's Gaganjeet Bhullar survived the pressure by fighting back to make the cut with a 69, but South Korea's Kim B-o, the runner-up on the Asian Tour's Order of Merit, shot another 73 to miss the cut.

Overnight leader Scott Vincent of Zimbabwe, who opened with a 64, dropped to joint-eighth with a 73 that included two birdies and three bogeys. He is on 137.

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