Nusajaya, Johor, Malaysia, December 15: Sweden’s Daniel Chopra found himself back on familiar ground when he posted a six-under-par 66 to take the second round lead at the weather-interrupted US$2 million Iskandar Johor Open on Saturday.
Three-time Asian Tour winner Chapchai Nirat of Thailand signed for a 67 to pile the pressure on Chopra while Filipino Antonio Lascuna is tied- third with India’s S.S.P. Chowrasia, Australia’s Unho Park and Korean-American David Lipsky at the Asian Tour’s season-ending event.
“The multiple disruptions that were caused by the weather throughout the week made it a challenge for the tournament to be completed over 72 holes. As such, we have taken the decision to reduce the tournament to 54 holes,” said Wanchai Meechai, Asian Tour’s Tournament Director for the Iskandar Johor Open.
The third and final round will commence at 7.30am on Sunday.
Chopra, who won his first professional title at the 1993 Johor Open and was pipped to the title by Joost Luiten of the Netherlands last year, was delighted to take pole position with his two-day total of 10-under-par 134 at the Horizon Hills Golf and Country Club.
Chopra did not start his second round on Friday but the two-time PGA Tour winner quickly made up for lost time by marking his flawless card with six birdies when he returned in the morning.
He was especially delighted that he managed to complete his round right at the dot when the sirens blew for a play suspension at 1.45pm that lasted nearly three hours.
“I’m very lucky to be able to putt out on the last. I’ll get another afternoon off and watch it rain. It was almost similar on the first day where we were the last group to finish. I was on the good side of the draw this time but I’ve been on the bad side before. It all evens out but it is definitely an advantage,” said Chopra.
Chapchai will be hoping his new born baby boy will provide him with the impetus to translate two top-10s into a win this season.
“I want a good result for my new born son, who we welcomed in our family last week. It doesn’t matter if I win or not but I want to play well for him. It has been quite a while since I saw my name on top the leaderboard,” said Chapchai who has nicknamed his son, ‘Jedi’.
“I don’t know if I can win or not but you never know because I might get lucky and the shots start dropping. More importantly I will try and play well for my son,” said Chapchai.
Lascuna will be bidding to go one better after he claimed his second runner-up finish in six seasons on the Asian Tour in September this year.
The 41-year-old has been knocking on the winner’s door on several occasions and a victory at the season-ending event will provide the befitting finale for all his hard work this year.
“My putting was good and my driving was smooth. The course is playing long for me because of the wet conditions but overall I’m happy with my scores,” said Lascuna.
Like Lascuna, who had to endure several near-misses for a win throughout his career, Park is also seeking his long-awaited victory on the Asian Tour
Park did not get off to the start he had wanted and was relieved that he was able to make a strong comeback with three birdies in his homeward-nine.
“I got off to a bit of a shaky start as I was three-over through five holes but I stuck to my game plan and thankfully I made a few good putts which has kept me in contention,” said Park, who opened strongly with a 65.
Meanwhile Chowrasia was pleased that he is beginning to rediscover the form that led him to the two Asian Tour titles.
“I played very good because I was bogey free. I missed a few putts but I’m still happy with how I’m playing. I was struggling with my swing and putting previously but I think I’m back on track. I worked a bit on my swing and putting and now it is better,” said the 34-year-old Indian.
Australia’s Marcus Fraser remained on course to become the first Australian to win the Asian Tour Order of Merit after he returned with a 68 to lead Thailand’s Thaworn Wiratchant by two shots.
Fraser needs to finish ahead of Thaworn and earn more than US$25,000 from the Thai.
The Iskandar Johor Open is presented by Iskandar Waterfront Holdings Sdn Bhd, which is a government-linked company specifically incorporated to take on the role of master developer of prime waterfront properties in Johor Bahru.
Leading scores after round 2 of the Iskandar Johor Open being played at the par 72, 6941 Yards Horizon Hills GCC course (a- denotes amateur):
134 – Daniel CHOPRA (SWE) 68-66.
135 – Chapchai NIRAT (THA) 68-67.
136 – Antonio LASCUNA (PHI) 68-68, Unho PARK (AUS) 65-71, S.S.P. CHOWRASIA (IND) 67-69, David LIPSKY (USA) 63-73.
137 – Scott BARR (AUS) 72-65, Thongchai JAIDEE (THA) 66-71, Sergio GARCIA (ESP) 68-69, Felipe AGUILAR (CHI) 67-70, Angelo QUE (PHI) 67-70, Shiv KAPUR (IND) 67-70.
138 – Marcus FRASER (AUS) 70-68.
140 – Thaworn WIRATCHANT (THA) 71-69