Rawang: Airil Rizman Zahari took positive strides towards a third Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM) title after extending his lead to four strokes at the halfway point of the Northport Templer Park Classic on Tuesday.
Shrugging off a three-hour delay at the start of the second round this morning, the 34-year-old traded seven birdies against two bogeys to post a second consecutive four-under 68 to take a healthy advantage over Nicholas Fung (71) at Templer Park Country Club.
Wielding a hot putter, Kemarol Baharin flirted momentarily with the course record of 64 set by Aussie Rick Todd in 1995 before settling for a round of seven-under of 65 to storm into sole third. A further two shots behind on level-par were Mohd Iylia Jamil (70) and joint overnight leader Danny Chia, who slipped back with a birdie-less round of four-over 76.
Current Order of Merit leader R. Nachimuthu regained some ground with a three-under 69 for a 36-hole total of four-over 146, alongside Lim Eng Seng, V. Arumugam, Mohammad Rizal Amin and Dinata Abdillah.
Not even a rain-delay could de-rail a confident Airil, who is gunning for back-to-back victories after recording his second win of the season at the Lanjut Classic presented by PNB Commercial before the Ramadan recess.
“Well, it was a long wait but it went well, so I can only say that I am mighty pleased with the way I kept the momentum going with two rounds of 68. The greens were a bit soft this morning and the course was playing a wee bit longer but I hit a lot of fairways and greens in regulation and once I was on the putting surface, my caddie and I were able to judge the pace of my putts very well,” said Airil, who has notched a two-day haul of eight-under 136.
Ranked fourth on the money list after 12 events, the former Asian Tour winner shared that he was delighted with his consistency. “I’m feeling really great with myself, not that I have been hampered by any ailments whatsoever, but just the way I’m back playing with confidence. The one-month break was really refreshing and I am hoping that my good form since the start of the year continues for as long as it can,” he added.
With his putting continuing southwards, Sabahan hope Fung continues to struggle to find his match-winning touch. “I’m missing some crucial putts out there and some of the short ones are just forgettable, including one which was a mere two-footer,” regretted Fung, who mixed two birdies with one bogey.
Better known for his monstrous drives, Kemarol laid praise to a new putter in his bag as he almost matched the course record set 17 years ago. “I’m putting a new flatstick into play this week and while I was still getting used to it yesterday, it turned really hot today,” shared the lanky former international, who also had two chip-in birdies to his credit.
Fourty-nine players, including amateurs Nick Ang and Jeremy Chan, progressed to the third round after meeting the half-way cut that came at 12-over 156.
Leading second round scores
136 – Airil Rizman Zahari (68-68)
140 – Nicholas Fung (69-71)
142 – Kemarol Baharin (77-65)
144 – Mohd Iylia Jamil (74-70), Danny Chia (68-76)
146 – R. Nachimuthu (77-69), Lim Eng Seng 76-70, V. Arumugam (74-72), Mohamad Rizal Amin (73-73), Dinata Abdillah (72-74)
147 – S. Murthy (77-70), Anis Helmi Hassan (75 -72), M. Sasidaran (76-71), Sukree Othman (74-73), Wilson Choo (74-73)