Thailand’s rising young star Phachara Khongwatmai stormed to the top of the leaderboard at the halfway stage of the Maybank Championship, carding a second round 65 to jointly occupy pole position on 11-under-par with unheralded Italian Nino Bertasio.
The 18-year-old Phachara nailed seven birdies including five in a row from the 11th hole in a flawless round at Saujana Golf & Country Club.
“I’m very happy with my score. My plan is to shoot under-par every day and play against the course. It is only two rounds so the tournament is not over yet. I want to focus day by day and hole by hole,” said Phachara, who won two points out of a possible three for Team Asia in January’s EurAsia Cup at Glenmarie.
“It has been a long time since I’ve been bogey-free. I putted very well because I didn’t hit the ball close to the hole.” he added.
English veteran Lee Westwood had set the early pace after a stunning 62 gave him the clubhouse lead on 10-under-par . The 44-year-old chalked up 11 birdies against just one dropped shot to continue his love affair with Saujana’s Palm Course, where he won the first of his two Malaysian Open titles in 1997.
Japan’s Yuta Ikeda, Scotland’s Marc Warren and first round leader Chris Paisley of England are also on 10-under-par as the tournament moves into the weekend.
The local challenge was led by 2017 Asian Tour No 1 Gavin Green, who shot a second round 69 to lie on seven-under-par.
“It is always nice to be within striking distance with two more rounds to go. Anything can happen. I’m going to keep to the same game plan which seems to be working well … attack the par fives and play it smart,” said Green.
Three other Malaysians made the cut which came at four-under-par after a day of low scoring – Amir Nazrin (-6), Ben Leong (-5) and Nicholas Fung (-4).
Leading Round 2 Scores:
133 (-11) – Phachara KHONGWATMAI (THA) 68-65, Nino BERTASIO (ITA) 68-65
134 (-10) – Lee WESTWOOD (ENG) 72-62, Yuta IKEDA (JPN) 70-64, Marc WARREN (SCO) 68-66, Chris PAISLEY (ENG) 65-69
135 (-9) – Stephen GALLACHER (SCO) 70-65, Daisuke KATAOKA (JPN) 68-67, Hideto TANIHARA (JPN) 71-64, Dylan FRITTELLI (RSA) 69-66, David LIPSKY (USA) 67-68, Maximilian KIEFFER (GER) 69-66, Jorge CAMPILLO (ESP) 69-66