Thai duo top halfway leaderboard in Kulim

Kulim [KEDAH]: A blistering back nine saw Thailand’s Poom Saksansin move into a tie for the halfway lead at the Jimei Korea Kulim Championship on Thursday.

The 23-year-old put on a flawless putting display, draining seven birdies for an impressive 65 to join compatriot and overnight leader Gunn Charoenkul on nine-under 135 at the Kulim Golf & Country Resort.

Charoenkul, a four-time ASEAN PGA Tour winner, signed for a three-under 69 to stay in the hunt for his first victory since 2014.

The pair lead by a single stroke from Malaysia’s Ben Leong, who rose up the leaderboard with a solid five-under 67 for sole possession of third.

Locals Abel Tam and Low Khai Jei returned with matching 67s of their own to remain within striking distance in the US$150,000 tournament.

They were bunched alongside countrymen Arie Irawan (72), Korea’s Deaeok Jeong (69), Jay Bayron of the Philippines as well as the Thai duo of Kwanchai Tannin (68) and Donlaphatchai Niyomchon (68) on six-under 138.

Saksansin, a former SEA Games double gold medallist, did little wrong with his flatstick on the day and even chipped in from 75 feet on the 16th for good measure.

“I was pretty luck today. I was just trying to make the cut but I think I did better than I expected. I drained some unbelievable long birdies on the back nine and quite delighted with my performance today,” shared the Bangkok native.

Despite struggling with an erratic driver, Charoenkul kept himself very much in the frame with five birdies, including a 40-foot curler on the 14th. His only blemish of the day came on the par-four second, when he needed three attempts to clear a greenside bunker.

“I was spraying the ball all over but nailed some crucial putts. I’m getting a better understanding of the course and especially, which greens I can be a little more aggressive on.

“Overall, pretty happy with my game today – it’s as good as I have played in almost a year and hopefully, it all comes together this week with a win,” added Charoenkul.

Leong, who started on the 10th tee, came alive on his inward nine with a birdie barrage, including three successive gains to close out the round.

“I just stayed patient out there. Quite pleased with the way I struck the ball and gave myself a lot of chances on the easier front nine, which I converted into birdies. Had a strong finish, which is always good and hopefully, I can make it count over the next few rounds,” said Leong, a one-time ASEAN PGA Tour winner.

A total of 59 players, including one amateur, made the halfway cut, which fell at even-par 144.

Leading second round scores (Par-72)

135 – Gunn CHAROENKUL (THA) 66-69, Poom SAKSANSIN (THA) 70-65
136 – Ben LEONG (MAS) 69-67
137 – Pasavee LERTVILAI (THA) 69-68
138 – Abel TAM (MAS) 71-67, Kwanchai TANNIN (THA) 70-68, Donlaphatchai NIYOMCHON (THA) 70-68, LOW Khai Jei (MAS) 71-67, Deaeok JEONG (KOR) 69-69, Arie IRAWAN (MAS) 66-72, Jay BAYRON (PHI) 73-65, Ronnachai JAMNONG (THA) 67-71
139 – Ratchapol JANTAVARA (THA) 70-69, Rattanon WANNASRICHAN (THA) 75-64, Nattapong PUTTA (THA) 67-72, Pijit PETCHKASEM (THA) 69-70, Raththee SIRITHANAKUNSUK (THA) 66-73, Iylia JAMIL (MAS) 70-69, Jhonnel ABABA (PHI) 71-68, Rory HIE (INA) 72-67