Han Seung Su could hear the cheers from the crowd yesterday, as he was putting the finishing touches on a second round that gave him the clubhouse lead of the SMBC Singapore Open.
The yells of encouragement were not for him, but Spanish star Sergio Garcia on the adjacent 18th fairway. Still, Han strolled serenely to the scoring tent in front of the ninth green, having already made his own statement.
Ranked 506th in the world, the unheralded 30-year-old fired a four-under 67 and his nine-under 133 score gave him sole control of the US$1 million (S$1.4 million) tournament.
He was two strokes clear of world No. 7 Adam Scott, who also shot 67 to go along with his opening 68. Malaysian Gavin Green was also at seven-under, but had not finished his final three holes. He was one of 26 players with uncompleted rounds due to fading light when play was suspended at 7.21pm.
Despite a strong amateur career - winning the 2006 Porter Cup, whose past winners include Major champions Phil Mickelson and Ben Crenshaw - Han has never won a professional event and until last year, had never recorded a top-10 finish in his career. He managed five top-10 finishes last season and was 47th on the Japan Tour's Order of Merit.
ROUND 2 (26 players yet to complete)
133 Han Seung Su (USA)
135 Adam Scott (Aus)
136 Quincy Quek (Sgp), Angelo Que (Phi)
137 Hideto Tanihara, Satoshi Kodaira, Daisuke Maruyama (Jpn), Song Young Han (Kor), Panuphol Pittayarat, Pavit Tangkamolprasert (Tha), Gaganjeet Bhullar (Ind), Miguel Tabuena (Phi), Jbe Kruger (Rsa), Scott Barr (Aus)
138 Nicholas Fung (Mas), Phachara Khongwatmai (Tha)
Second round resumes at 7.30am. Third round scheduled to start not before 9.15am.
The South Korean-born American said: "It's just the mindset. I try not to put any pressure on myself anymore. Before, I had a good junior career and in college too, and when I turned pro, I thought it'd be like a piece of cake, like you just go on the PGA Tour and start winning right away. But it wasn't and I went all over the world grinding and stuff."
His play over 36 holes at the Serapong course has been anything but a struggle, with nine birdies and an eagle offset by two bogeys.
Being cast in the role of underdog also suited Han, who has never held the half-way lead of a tournament at this level. He said: "Sometimes you just get used to that feeling (of being under the radar), when you're in a position like this (top of the leaderboard), it's a bit new.
"I know what position I'm in, but still it doesn't really matter, but I'm just trying to stay in the moment and just enjoy it."
Three-time Singapore Open winner Scott was also pleased with his turnaround after an ugly triple-bogey eight on the 537m, par-five 7th hole on Thursday. He has missed just one fairway in the 29 holes since.
He said: "I think I've got a really low score in me and there's no reason why I can't break the record (his winning score of 17-under in 2010). I would love to put some distance between myself and the rest of the field and sneak away with this over the weekend."
A further stroke back in joint-fourth on 137 was Singaporean Quincy Quek (68) and Angelo Que (69) of the Philippines while defending champion Song Young Han (69) was in a big group tied for sixth on 137.
Garcia signed for a 68 and was joint-23rd on 139. Said the world No. 15, who birdied two of his final three holes: "I hit some iffy shots today and didn't feel that comfortable. But still managed to give myself some good birdie chances... I felt I hit some good putts coming in and hopefully I can put two good scores on the weekend."
The cut is projected to be one-over 143 and those likely to miss out include four-time Major champion Ernie Els, world No. 34 Yuta Ikeda (both were on 144) of Japan, Singapore No. 1 Mardan Mamat (149) and 2008 Singapore Open winner Jeev Milkha Singh (150).
SMBC SINGAPORE OPEN
Day 3: StarHub Ch112/205 & 76.25MHz, 12pm