The True Thailand Classic presented by Black Mountain is poised for a thrilling finish with Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez leading the way and big-hitting Kiradech Aphibarnrat trailing closely.
The 51-year-old Jimenez shot a superb six-under-par 66, marred only by a bogey on his last hole, to lead by one-shot over Kiradech, the 2013 Asian Tour Order of Merit champion, at the Black Mountain Golf Club.
Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand made his move by carding a 66 to share third place with Australia’s Scott Hend and Richard T. Lee of Canada at the US$2 million event, which is the richest tournament in Thailand.
Thailand’s Panuphol Pittayarat created the early headlines when he became the proud new owner of a luxury townhouse at Black Mountain worth 12 million Thai baht, courtesy of his hole-in-one at the par-three 14th.
After missing the cut at the Asian Tour’s season-opening event in Malaysia last week, Kiradech returned with all guns blazing to charge into contention for his first win on home soil.
The two-time Asian Tour winner, who totalled 10-under-par 134 said, “I’ve been striking the ball well. I did not make too many mistakes and that’s a huge boost to my confidence”
The Thai, who played alongside Jimenez in his opening two rounds, holds the Spaniard in high regard and is wary of the 51-year-old as the weekend rounds approach.
“It’s not easy to beat an old guy like him. He hits the ball very far and is striking it very well. He’s a world-class player in my eyes,” said Kiradech.
Jimenez defied the effects of flu to take his place at the top. Known for his love for cigars and wine, the Spaniard put in another vintage performance at the scenic Black Mountain course.
“I’m very happy. I’m disappointed to make bogey on the last but overall I played very solid and made a lot of birdies. You’re always happy when you’re under-par and the more under-par you are, the happier you are,” Jimenez laughed.
Thongchai in contention, Karlberg recovers with a 65
Home favourite Thongchai Jaidee charged into contention with a superb six-under-par 66 while Rikard Karlberg put in an assured performance in the second round of the True Thailand Classic presented by Black Mountain.
Black Mountain sponsored player Thongchai was in his element when he fired seven birdies to sit in tied third position on nine-under-par 135 to trail the halfway stage leader Miguel Angel Jimenez by two shots.
Meanwhile Karlberg, who owns a villa at Black Mountain, fired an amazing 65 to make a huge move on the leaderboard to tied 10th place. He is currently four shots back off the pace.
The popular Thongchai, a three-time Asian Tour number one, did not disappoint the galleries as he improved on his opening 69 with a 66 that was highlighted by seven birdies and one bogey.
“I’m very happy with my score today. I’ll try my best to show the local fans the quality of the Thai players especially at an event on home soil,” said Thongchai.
Thongchai knows he has to work on his short game to haul himself into contention for his 14th win on the region’s premier Tour.
“I missed about four to five short putts today. I didn’t putt that well and I need to improve on my putting. It’s not that far behind but anything can happen in the next two days. Miguel putted very well today. I did say at the beginning whoever putts well this week can win,” he explained.