Pattaya, Thailand, December 8: Thai hotshot Pannakorn Uthaipas kept up his chase for a second Asian Develoment Tour (ADT) victory when he charged into the halfway lead with a four-under-par 68 at the Thongchai Jaidee Foundation on Friday.
The 27-year-old Pannakorn, who started the round two shots back, fired one eagle and four birdies against two bogeys to grab a one-shot lead on nine-under-par 135 total at the Siam Country Club’s Waterside course.
Overnight leader Kiradech Aphibarnrat, highest-ranked Thai in 60th place on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR), battled to a 71 to take second place on his own at the ฿4 million (approximately US$120,000) ADT event.
A host of five players, including two-time ADT winner Oscar Zetterwall (67) of Sweden, American duo Daniel Im (68) and John Catlin (68), shared third place on 138 in what is the penultimate event of the 2017 ADT season.
ADT Order of Merit leader Masaru Takahashi of Japan posted a 72 to trail by eight shots in tied-26th place while defending champion Chapchai Nirat of Thailand returned with a 69 to stay a further shot back in tied-33rd position.
Pannakorn got off to a superb start as he capped a front nine 31 thanks to three birdies and a lucky eagle-two on the fourth.
An errant tee shot on the fourth saw his ball hit the cart path before bouncing back onto the fairway. The happy-go-lucky Thai went on to hole his second shot with a pitching wedge from 135 yards.
“I had a great start to the round. I was really lucky to make that eagle on fourth. I hit a bad short off the tee but thankfully the ball bounced back onto the fairway and I holed out from there,” said Pannakorn, ranked second on the current ADT Order of Merit.
“I hit some good approach shots today. A few good drives as well but I missed a lot of short putts for birdies. The windy was picking up a little compared to yesterday. I’m looking forward to playing with Kiradech tomorrow. He’s a good friend of mine but I think it’s the first time we are playing together in a tournament.
“I am happy to be in a good position right now. I will continue to focus on my game and keep my eyes on my goal and that is to win the ADT Order of Merit. I will do my best,” added Pannakorn, whose breakthrough victory came in Chinese Taipei earlier in June.
Kiradech, who continues to struggle with a sore back, lamented his lacklustre performance but took it in his stride as he remains in contention to end a two-year title drought and put himself closer to breaking into top-50 on the OWGR.
“I am still struggling with a stiff back. I am still not hitting it good. I had some easy chips today but I didn’t manage to make up and down which resulted in bogeys. My putting was average too,” said Kiradech, 2013 Asian Tour Order of Merit champion.
“It was windy and it was tough out there. Having said that, I am pleased with where I stand. I hope to play some good golf over the weekend and get the job done on Sunday,” added the 28-year-old Kiradech, who had won the inaugural edition of the tournament in 2015.
A total of 53 players, including one amateur, survived the halfway cut set at one-over-par 145 at the Thongchai Jaidee Foundation, which is celebrating its third consecutive edition on the ADT this week.
With the Thongchai Jaidee Foundation being the penultimate event of the 2017 ADT season, players will have everything to play for as they continue to battle for the ADT Order of Merit crown as well as the five Asian Tour cards on offer for the 2018 season.
The leading five players on the final ADT Order of Merit at the end of the season will earn playing rights on the region’s premier Tour for 2018.
For more information on the ADT, please visit www.asiandevelopmenttour.com.
Leading second round scores:
135 – Pannakorn Uthaipas (Tha) 67-68
136 – Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha) 65-71
138 – Oscar Zetterwall (Swe) 71-67, Daniel Im (Usa) 70-68, John Catlin (Usa) 70-68, Seungjae Maeng (USA) 68-70, Choo Tze Huang (Sgp) 69-69
143 – Masaru Takahashi (Jpn) 71-72
144 – Chapchai Nirat (Tha) 75-69
About Asian Development Tour
The Asian Development Tour was launched in 2010 with the aim of creating a career pathway for professional golfers in Asia. Sanctioned by the Asian Tour, the Asian Development Tour will ultimately create a new playing platform for emerging stars from across Asia and around the world. Through the Asian Tour Qualifying School, players will qualify for the Asian Development Tour and enjoy the opportunity to hone their games and talent through a secondary circuit in Asia. Designed in the same structure as the Web.com Tour in America and European Challenge Tour, the Asian Development Tour is a stepping stone to the Asian Tour and the exciting world of international golf. The Asian Development Tour has been structured to ensure the best opportunities for its members. The leading five players on the Asian Development Tour will earn coveted Asian Tour cards for the following season, ensuring a proper career pathway for aspiring professionals. All ADT events receive Official World Golf Ranking points.